Man refunded almost €4,000 by Department after dispute over forestry grant

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A man who complained to the Ombudsman about the Forest Service’s decision to raise an overclaim in relation to a forestry grant has been refunded.

Eighteen years after the original grant application, the man sold some of the land for which the grant was paid to the ESB for the construction of power lines.

The Department recalculated the amount payable to the man for the remaining area under a new digitised method for measuring land.

Using this new method, the Department calculated that the man had over claimed the amount of land eligible for the grant in his original application.

This gave rise to an overpayment which the Department recouped back to the date of the original claim and charged interest by way of netting (withholding payments due) until the debt was repaid in full.

The Ombudsman established that the reduction in eligible land had not been calculated properly as the Department had not adjusted it to properly take account of the area of the plantation removed by the ESB.

The Department agreed to review its decision and revised it in line with the Ombudsman’s examination.

The man was refunded the sum of €3824.41 recouped by the Department.

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In a separate case a woman complained to the Ombudsman about the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s decision to impose penalties on her for not complying with the terms and conditions of the REPS scheme following its inspection of her farm.

The Department told the woman she was penalised because her records were not kept as prescribed due to the woman’s herd number being dormant.

In an oral appeal before the Agriculture Appeals Office the woman had provided documentation which showed that a different division within the Department used her herd number in its correspondence with her which the woman argued was evidence that the herd number was active, but her appeal was disallowed.

The core issue in this complaint was that one arm of the Department deemed the herd number active but the REPS division had considered it inactive which led to the financial penalties.

The Department accepted that the herd number was active but this led to only a partial refund as the Department maintained that the woman did not send it some paperwork, specifically a Form G in advance of moving livestock owned by others to graze on to the woman’s land.

However a Form G is only required where cattle are being moved to a holding which does not have an active herd number. As the Department had already accepted that the woman had an active herd number, the Ombudsman asked the Department to review its partial refund.

The Department agreed to review its decision and revised it in line with the Ombudsman’s examination. The woman was refunded the full amount of the original penalty of €1,722.30.

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