Misspent CAP millions to return to EC coffers

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Common agricultural policy, European union

The EU has adopted a decision to recover a total of €285.3m
misspent by member states under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP),
the latest indication of tightening controls over farm spending.

The decision is the 24th​ since the 1995 reform of the system for recovery of money unduly spent on farm payouts. The millions will be returned to the European Community budget, since it was spent on as a result of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules. Under the CAP, it is down to member states to pay out and check expenditure, and to the Commission to check that they are making correct use of their funds. "The clearance procedure is a vital process in ensuring that taxpayers' money is used properly and that incorrectly spent amounts are recovered,"​ said Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development. "We have made enormous progress over recent years in improving controls and I am determined that these efforts will continue in the future."​ The CAP has been viewed by some as a monumental waste of money, and part of the problem has been that it is extremely complex to implement. But EC enterprise and industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen said last October that the EC recognised the need for change, and insisted that the CAP has always been capable of modernising. "Our objective is to eliminate excessive bureaucracy in the Common Agricultural Policy,"​ he said. " We are striving to have modern and simple European legislation and we will only achieve this if the Common Agricultural Policy is also on board."​ The EC has proposed simplifying the CAP by replacing 21 Common Market Organisations (CMOs) with a single CMO. The move is a major step in the ongoing process of streamlining and simplifying the CAP for the benefit of companies handling agricultural products. Amongst the member states to be charged under yesterday's decision are Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, which are to pay €77.6m, €53.7m, and €48.5m respectively for non-respect of payment deadlines. Greece is to pay €35.8m because its land parcel identification system implemented to manage direct payments was found to be not operational to the required standard. The Netherlands is charged with €26.7m because of insufficient substitution controls in its export refund scheme. France is to pay two sums: €8.7m due to deficient technical and accounting systems concerning the 30-month slaughter scheme; and €7.5m for weaknesses in its control system for subsidised interest loans and secondary controls concerning Rural Development Programmes expenditure.

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