EU oversight must not result in farm payment delays


Oversight of Irish farm payments by auditors from the EU must not result in delays for farmers, according to East Galway TD Paul Connaughton.
‘We all understand the need to ensure that farm payments are properly processed and that there are proper oversight mechanisms in place, but such oversight must never result in extended delays for farmers.
‘I believe that a requirement by EU auditors that payment systems in relation to payments such as AEOS are computerised is resulting in huge delays for a number of farmers. In years gone by, if a farm payment was being held up because of a small penalty claim, that could be processed manually and the payment issued. However, now that EU auditors are increasingly insisting that all payments must be processed by computer, farmers caught up in this predicament are forced to wait months while computer software systems are put in place so that these payments can be made.
‘It’s high time to stand up to these auditors. This is an unreasonable request if it results in months of delays for farmers. I have been contacted by many farmers in County Galway who are waiting on AEOS payments from 2013 and who have no idea when they will be paid. Computer software is currently being installed and tested, but that is of little comfort to farmers with large feed bills to pay from 2013.
‘Surely, increased oversight of manually processed payments could be put in place, which would satisfy the auditors and allow farmers in this predicament to be paid in a timely fashion. The payment of penalty claims has been a problem for many years and I believe that the full focus of the Department of Agriculture must be on ensuring that farmers are paid in a timely fashion. That can and should be done in a manner that complies with proper oversight and which satisfies auditors.
‘I imagine if these same auditors were waiting on their salary from 2013, they would be fairly voluble in their complaints. If they contacted their salary section only to be told that a new software programme was being installed and no one could tell when they would be paid, I imagine there would be swift action.
‘It is not fair that Irish farmers are facing very significant delays because of what is often a miniscule penalty. When auditors make requests that will result in significant hardship for Irish farmers, these must be challenged and a common sense approach must be used.’