David McNarry MLA, UKIP Leader in Northern Ireland, has exposed the level of fines imposed by the EU on DARD as £47 million.
“I asked the Agriculture Minister how much her Department has paid in fines and financial penalties levied by the European Union since 2008. The answer frankly flabbergasted me. It showed clearly that we need to get out of the EU as soon as possible. The Minister told me that ‘financial corrections imposed on my Department by the European Union since 2008 amount to €78 million. However, the actual financial cost to my Department is lower, at €59 million, due to the fact that the recovery of overpaid moneys to claimants is taken into account by the Commission.’ That amount – €59 million – equates to £47 million in fines. That is a totally unacceptable level of maladministration. If the Sinn Fein Minister is happy with that, UKIP certainly is not. It is more proof – if proof were needed – that this country needs to get out of the EU as soon as possible.”
“There is a great deal of deliberate and misleading untruth around the importance of the EU to farmers. First, EU money is not EU money – it is our money given to the EU. We make a huge contribution to the EU, costing us over £50 million a day. People need to catch on here. If we left the EU – we would have much more money available to give farmers and others because of the size of this EU contribution.”
Mr. McNarry added:
“It is also a gross untruth to say that we could not trust Westminster to give as much to farmers. Last year, when the EU cut its capital programmes from £69 million to £34 million, it was the Treasury in London that made up the difference. Remember, It was the EU that made the cut.
“This latest revelation about DARDs fines paid to the EU shows yet again Sinn Fein’s cavalier attitude to taxpayers money – to your money.”
EU Fines and Financial Penalties Tue 23 Feb 2016
3. Mr McNarry asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development how much her Department has paid in fines and financial penalties levied by the European Union since 2008. (AQO 9710/11-16)
Mrs O’Neill: Financial corrections imposed on my Department by the European Union since 2008 amount to €78 million. However, the actual financial cost to my Department is lower, at €59 million, due to the fact that the recovery of overpaid moneys to claimants is taken into account by the Commission. The total amount of disallowance should be considered in the context of the funding that we receive from the CAP. During the period from 2007 to 2013, we received €2·2 billion under pillar 1 and a further €329 million under pillar 2 before any matched funding. Over the 2014-2020 budget period, pillar 1 payments to our farmers will amount to €2·3 billion. In addition, €228 million of EU funds will be devoted to our rural development programme, resulting in a total planned expenditure under the CAP of €2·53 billion.
Mr McNarry: I am somewhat astounded — actually, flabbergasted — by the amounts. These are fines and penalties. The Minister said little about the reasons or whether there had been repetitive failures. Given that she might elaborate on that, can she also tell us what, in fact, she is doing to stop future fines and penalties of this nature?
Mrs O’Neill: Yes, I think we have done a considerable body of work. If you remember — I have said this to the House on numerous occasions in the past — the reasons for disallowance at different times, particularly in how Europe conducted its audits a number of years later and then applied things retrospectively, has led to challenges. However, year-on-year I can certainly point to improvements and have been able to bring that disallowance down. I do not have a breakdown of the figures, but I am happy to provide it to you. We have certainly been able to make a significant difference in the amounts of disallowance that have been applied.
As I said, I have talked up the amounts that we receive year-on-year here in single farm payments and the rural development programme, and we continue to have a programme in place that will lead us up to 2020 and will see €2·53 billion coming into the local economy. I think we can all be very clear that the farming community needs that and the wider rural community needs it, as it is investment in basic services, rural business and rural tourism. All those factors will benefit us immensely, and the wider rural community will benefit immensely from the contribution of €2·53 billion in planned spend from the EU budget.