Farmers received €50 million too much in direct payments from 2008 to 2012, inclusive, according to a Department of Agriculture investigation.
However, the EU Commission has proposed a 2% flat rate financial correction for Ireland of €181.5m, arising from its audits of payments from 2008 to 2012.
The Commission and the Department are discussing the matter, with a view to reaching an agreed settlement, which is expected in the next month to six weeks, according to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
He said, “We have gone through a tortuous process of assessing 900,000 land parcels across Ireland to ascertain what the appropriate level of reimbursement to the Commission should be.
“The issue is not so much whether that was by mistake or whether it was deliberate. The Commission looks at this from an audit perspective and asks what public money was spent that should not have been spent, because it did not qualify, how much should it get back, and what fines should be imposed to go with that.”
“Our calculations are that this figure should be approximately €50m. We will have to look at how that gets paid. Some of it will be paid back by farmers and some may well be paid by the Department over a period of time. We first need to conclude with the Commission what is the figure. The Commission strongly disagrees with that figure, because otherwise it would not be asking for €181m.”
“Where farmers have a small amount to repay, we have taken that from their single farm payment to get those farmers out of the problem area.
“There is a relatively small percentage of farmers who have an issue here and we will try to deal with them in a way that manages cash flow and that certainly does not put farmers out of business.”
Over €9 billion was paid to farmers in Ireland in the direct payment schemes from 2008 to 2012, said the Minister, in his reply to a Dail question from Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved