Some HRK 30 million in pasture subsidies halted after audit revealed subsidized land without livestock

Autor:

24.10.2018.

Goran Šebelić / HANZA MEDIA

Illustration

What were the three controversial plots whose owners had to return EU money for pasture maintenance? They were mentioned by Neven Mates, a Croatian member of the European Court of Auditors, who recently gave a lecture at the Public Finance Institute on the Court's latest annual report.

On the occasion, Mates mentioned a Croatian example, cited as wrong in the report, of an agricultural holding that had received compensation payment for mountain areas.

Applications submitted

— The Court examined a sample of three plots that the user designated as pastures — Mates said. — On one of them, there were no signs of agricultural activity, or grazing. That plot was thus deemed ineligible for the compensation. The other two were not deemed quite suitable for the registered purposes either, being covered with "dense forest and shrubs". The Court noted that the Croatian Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development (PAAFRD) had itself identified similar problems and subsequently initiated the proceedings to recover the funds. Based on the sample it was studying, the Court estimated the fault in the case at 91%.

The Ministry of Agriculture states that the mission of the European Court of Auditors in Croatia, conducted from 21 to 25 November 2016, referred to the revision of expenditures from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and confirmed the results of the control made by the PAAFRD.

— The court examined a sample of three plots that a user of fund user had reported as pastures, and none of them were found to have any signs of agricultural activity, specifically grazing — states the Ministry. — The PAAFRD carried out a control of the declared pastures of the agricultural property in question, which resulted in the retrieval of the funds granted for 2015. At the time of the control, the plots were covered by trees, shrubs, karst rock and dry grass. Parts were impassable. There was no livestock on any of the plots. There was no sign of grazing. In consequence, the beneficiary was ordered to repay the received funds for the year 2015 in the amount of HRK 725,575.04. The same beneficiary did not receive support for 2016, as it had been established that no part of the area of 348 hectares of pastures referred to in the application was eligible.

The Paying Agency has sent us the overall pasture control results for the past two years. Based on the applications submitted for 2016, it performed checks over a total of 4.838 agricultural properties that had applied for subsidy for a total of 15,919 hectares of pastures, karst pastures and meadows. The on-the-spot checks found that 15.292 hectares of the total area were eligible for support, and 627 hectares were not.

Subsidies

Checks included 118 farms in 17 counties that had applied for subsidy for 22,278 hectares of pastures, karst pastures and meadows. Of the total area referred to in the applications, 16,240 hectares were found to be eligible for support, and as much as 6,038 hectares failed to pass muster. Last month, the agency surveyed 5,824 farms applying for subsidy for a total of 41,467 hectares of pastures, karst pastures and meadows, and found that 35,920 hectares were eligible and 5,547 hectares were not.

Controls included 42 farms in 11 counties, which applied for subsidy for  a total of 10,791 hectares. Of the total area referred to, 3,017 hectares was eligible land, while as much as 7,774 hectares was deemed unacceptable. Thus, in just two years, the Agency reviewed 10,815 holdings with 90,455 hectares of farmland, and rejected applications for 8,412 hectares. If the average value of the grant is about HRK 3,000 per hectare, the Agency prevented the unsubstantiated payment of about HRK 25 million.

This, however, is the average level of subsidy. Ecologically sound pastures can receive as much as HRK 6,000 kuna, so that the actual amount saved is probably over 30 million.

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version