Ombudsman upholds forestry contractor case after farmer pulls out of contract

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Ombudsman has ruled in favour of a forestry contractor in his case against the Forestry service over an unpaid premium.

The contractor planted a forest on behalf of a farmer and had a five year contract to maintain the forest.

In return he was to receive the forest premium from the Forest Service. The agreement could only be revoked if both parties agreed.

However, the year after the forest had been planted, the farmer told the Forest Service that he had maintained the forest himself and that the agreement had been revoked.

The Forest Service paid the premium to the farmer.

The complainant was unaware of this until he contacted the Forest Service to seek payment of the premium.

He considered that the Forest Service should honour the agreement and seek repayment from the farmer.

In his examination of the case the Ombudsman said the contractor had a contract which could only be revoked with his agreement.

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He said the Forest Service should have sought written evidence that such agreement had been received prior to payment issuing to the farmer.

Without such evidence the Ombudsman considered that payment to the farmer should have been withheld pending receipt of confirmation of the agreed revocation.

However he accepted that it was primarily a civil matter between both parties.

The Forest Service argued that it had paid the premium in good faith on the basis that the farmer had said that the contractor had been notified of the revocation and that he had maintained the forest himself.

It also said that it has since changed its procedures to require farmers to provide written evidence that contractors have agreed to the revocation of agreements before payment issues.

In his ruling the Ombudsman said while the complaint was upheld because the Forest Service had not acted correctly in managing the situation.

However, the Ombudsman did not find that payment should have issued to the complainant.

This was because the farmer was required to certify that the maintenance work had been carried out satisfactorily and it was unlikely that would happen in this instance.

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