State’s fish catch watchdog overpays salaries by €730,000

The state watchdog which monitors fish catches is repaying €730,000 in overpaid salaries according to a newly published report, which also shows more than 3,500 checks and inspections were conducted.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) annual report for 2016 has been laid before the Oireachtas and shows there were 1,905 fisheries control inspections, 1,250 naval service boardings, and 85 foreshore licence assessments carried out that yeast.

There were 21,818 landings in 2016, involving 276,233 tonnes of catch worth almost €372m — a 4% increase in overall value compared with the figure for 2015.

Pelagic species accounted for 63% of all fish landed and of that, 84% were from Irish vessels. Irish boats also accounted for 90% of the shellfish brought into Irish poets in 2016.

A total of 3,543 fisheries controls were undertaken in 2016 with inspections on landing accounted for half of those.

Due to the largest volume of landings being Irish vessels, just 7% of those landings were subject to inspection.

As for naval service operations, there were three detentions, with Irish vessels boarded most often, but with a higher proportion of boardings on vessels flying under other flags. Two other vessels were detained by the SFPA, with some cases completed before the courts.

There were 23 food incidents in 2016 but the report outlines high levels of compliance with required standards. SFPA chair Susan Steele said a component of the monitoring programme for shellfish safety, the National Microbiological Monitoring and Classification Programme, concluded that the out of range results detected during 2016 was the lowest number on record.

“The low levels of non- compliance being found across all sectors of the industry are testament to the real efforts of the majority of fishermen, fish farmers and fish processors to work within the law,” she said in her foreword to the report.

In signing off on the 2016 financial statements on December 22 last, Seamus McCarthy of the Comptroller and Auditor General said: “Note 8 to the financial statements discloses that the Authority has identified salary overpayments estimated at €730,000 which arose following a direction received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in regard to the implementation of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013. The Authority is engaging in a process to recover these overpayments.”

According to a section of the 2016 annual report detailing salary overpayments: “In 2013, following instruction, from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, certain allowances were not included in the application of pay adjustments under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 and the Haddington Road Agreement. They were initially considered as not being fixed periodic allowances as these payments were reliant on the type or amount of work performed in accordance with variable operational requirements.”

“A provision for recovery of retrospective salary overpayments has been included in receivables for the year ended 31 December 2016. The Authority is engaging in a process to recover these overpayments.”


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