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Saturday 21 July 2018

Farmer refunded €27,000 penalty after failing to notify Department of land ownership change

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

A farmer received a refund after a €27,550 penalty was imposed on him in relation to a Rural Environmental Protections Scheme (REPS) payment.

The farmer was one of 3,000 to complain to the Ombudsman about public services, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Kildare farmer made a complaint when the Department sought to recover €27,550 from him in relation to a Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS 4) payment. This scheme is designed to reward farmers for farming in an environmentally friendly manner.

One of the conditions of the scheme is to notify the Department of any changes to land ownership. In 2012 he changed ownership of lands and failed to notify the relevant section of the Department.

The Department asked the man to return a payment of €27,550 which he had received under the scheme which he did. The Department also cancelled the last two stages of the contract with the man.

Examination

The Department acknowledged the man’s application had not been processed in accordance with Local Office procedure and that he had not received all the information to which he was entitled.

The Local Office had failed to issue an ‘Adjusted Plan’ letter. This letter outlines the consequences of not submitting an adjusted plan to inform the Department of a change of land ownership. The Local Office had also failed to notify him of the termination of his contract.

The Department acknowledged it failed to follow Local Office procedure and reissued the payment of €27,550 which the man had returned to the Department. The Department also processed the last two stages of his contract. This resulted in him receiving €13,651 for the last two stages of his contract.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall received 3,021 complaints about providers of public services last year.  The Ombudsman’s annual report for 2017 was published today and shows that the sectors that were the most complained about in 2017 were:

  • Government Departments/Offices 953 complaints 
  • Local Authorities 852 complaints
  • Health and social care sector 608 complaints

The Ombudsman received 87 complaints about the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine including complaints about the Agri-Environment Options Scheme, Basic Payments scheme and the REPS scheme.

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