Department's appeals model does not need restructuring, but numerous recommendations made - review
A review of the Department of Agriculture's appeals model has recommended that it does not need a restructuring, but does make a number of other recommendations.
The Committee found that Appeals Officers are not bound by their ‘attachment’ to the Department in the determination of appeal outcomes and on this basis, therefore a fundamental restructuring of the appeals model is not warranted.
Today's report found that the evidence would suggest that Appeals Officers do act independently of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. There are, however, mechanisms where the operation of the Appeals Office can provide for greater transparency and ways to increase the perception that the Appeals Office is independent from the Department.
It is noted that in the context of the Department processing approximately 350,000 applications for payment from farmers annually, the number of appeals made by claimants is extremely low – at 0.18pc.
It said this illustrates a level of satisfaction by the majority of farmers with the service that is provided by the Department in processing applications for payment.
However, the Committee considers that the level of appeals is also impacted by an element of a lack of awareness among the farming public of the review and appeal processes open to farmers, who are dissatisfied with the decisions made in their cases.
It also found that the Department’s review process is not uniform across all scheme areas and said that there is scope for standardisation of processes and for providing a much clearer explanation to farmers as to the pathway through the review and appeal mechanisms.
It recommended the introduction of an independent Agriculture Appeals Review Panel, where reviews of the decisions of Appeals Officers are sought, will considerably strengthen its procedures and underpin public confidence in the operation of the Office.