Is There Any Accountability in the Department? Luke Ming Flanagan
Is there any accountability within the Department of Agriculture, from the Minister down through his officials, in respect of the shambolic debacle that is the implementation of the GLAS scheme? These are the main topics of question on the mind of MEP Luke Ming Flanagan.
Mr. Flanagan suggests now is the time for an independent review, of the way the GLAS scheme has been introduced and implemented. Luke Ming Flanagan says that it cannot be allowed to become the norm that this level of inefficiency within the scheme is tolerated. He suggests this inefficiency involves the accepting of “lame excuses and weasel words in place of delivery of payments within a reasonable timeframe”.
Ming continues by stating that “Any quick trawl of farming websites and blogs will reveal the litany of broken promises and missed deadlines in respect of payment dates” he then goes on to suggest that this underlines the “indifferent attitude of department personnel to the farmer, secure in the knowledge that there will be no repercussion for them irrespective of their performance.”
Irelands primary scheme under GLAS is the Green Low carbon Agri environment scheme, 2013-2020. This scheme, aimed at protecting and enhancing the environment, was announced by the Minister for Agriculture at the time Simon Coveney back in 2014. Mr Flanagan then informs us that, after three years on the scheme, no farmer has yet received a full year’s payment. 85% of annual payments is all that has been paid out to date with some farmers yet to receive any sort of payment.
This lead Luke Ming to question whether farmers should be paid interest on the money owed to them and whether the money should have been paid out a long time ago, earning interest for the government and therefore offering an incentive for the delay in paying out.
The scheme, Luke Ming says, has been “bogged down by poor decision making” which he feels is due to the “overly complicated structure within it”.
These problems, he says, were already highlighted by farmers, especially those working High Nature Value land. Mr. Flanagan says however that the Department insisted at the time that the scheme be put in place, without taking farmers advice and concerns on board.
The departments insistence on the implementation of this scheme has resulted in the above mentioned long payment delays and has therefore lead to severe cash flow difficulties amongst farmers. These farmers he says who comply with the scheme and carry out the required actions, are the ones incurring substantial costs.
Flanagan finished up by suggesting that it is “grossly unfair” to put all the onus on farmers to comply with regulations and application dates involved with the scheme.
He finishes up by saying “This in turn can have a significant knock effect for farmers some of which are being contacted by banks and financial institutions looking for payments on loans that are now in arrears due to the delay in payments. This can affect a farmer’s credit rating and undermine their ability to borrow for investments in the future."