Dáil debates

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

3:50 pm

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the number of LEADER projects of proposed grant level in excess of €150,000 awaiting approval in his Department broken down on a monthly basis of lodging with his Department for approval; the reason for the delay in approving these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12700/13]

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Funding of €314 million is available under the rural development programme 2007-13 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. There are 35 local action groups, LAGs, contracted on my Department’s behalf to deliver the rural development programme throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers on the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

Projects that request funding of €150,000 or more are required to seek final approval from my Department. The assessment of these higher value projects usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant local development company. It frequently necessitates the provision of further documentation or clarifications. It may also, in some instances, result in modifications to the project proposed to ensure best value for money and compliance with all the necessary regulations, both national and European, governing the activities funded under the programme.

The policy in my Department is to work with the local development companies to ensure the projects submitted are fully compliant and can be approved rather than to refuse approval for funding. It can, therefore, take some time to come to a final conclusion. My Department will continue to work with the relevant LAGs to make a full assessment of the eligibility of these projects and will advise the LAGs once all queries have been addressed satisfactorily. My Department has 42 projects at various stages of assessment and I propose to circulate a table in respect of these in the Official Report. Some 36 of the projects in hand have been received in the period since October 2012, including 21 since the start of the year.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

LAG
Date Received
Grant aid requested
Status
Ballyhoura Development Ltd 10/10/2012 €500,000.00 Under Assessment
Carlow County Development Partnership Lt d 25/06/2012 €480,000.00 Under Assessment
Cill Dara Ar Aghaidh Teo 22/01/2013 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Cill Dara Ar Aghaidh Teo 01/03/2013 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Clare Local Development 18/01/2013 €230,000.00 Awaiting Info
Clare Local Development 18/01/2013 €200,000.00 Awaiting Info
Donegal Local Development Co Ltd 21/12/2012 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Fingal LEADER Partnership Co 30/10/2012 €493,385.02 Awaiting Info
Fingal LEADER Partnership Co 21/12/2012 €494,938.81 Awaiting Info
Forum Connemara 23/08/2012 €431,887.50 Under Assessment
Forum Connemara 11/02/2013 €324,766.19 Under Assessment
Galway Rural Development 25/01/2013 €239,949.46 Under Assessment
Galway Rural Development 25/01/2013 €156,914.04 Under Assessment
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 12/11/2012 €200,000.00 Awaiting Info
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 05/11/2012 €428,868.75 Awaiting Info
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 04/12/2012 €300,000.00 Awaiting Info
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 16/01/2013 €268,125.00 Under Assessment
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 16/01/2013 €497,212.87 Under Assessment
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 16/01/2013 €225,000.00 Under Assessment
Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 16/01/2013 €255,384.18 Under Assessment
Leitrim Integrated Development Co Ltd 20/02/2013 €376,641.00 Under Assessment
Leitrim Integrated Development Co Ltd 25/02/2013 €318,130.01 Under Assessment
Louth LEADER Partnership 24/11/2011 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Mayo North East LEADER Partnership 03/10/2012 €194,725.50 Under Assessment
Mayo North East LEADER Partnership 03/11/2011 €196,386.75 Under Assessment
Meath Partnership 21/12/2012 €246,940.38 Under Assessment
North Tipperary LEADER Partnership 18/01/2013 €199,993.63 Under Assessment
North Tipperary LEADER Partnership 16/07/2012 €407,675.25 Awaiting Info
Roscommon Integrated Development Company 05/03/2013 €155,880.00 Under Assessment
Roscommon Integrated Development Company 27/02/2013 €196,925.00 Under Assessment
Roscommon Integrated Development Company 15/02/2013 €172,793.75 Awaiting Info
SECAD 28/11/2012 €500,000.00 Awaiting Info
South Kerry Development Ltd. 21/12/2012 €500,000.00 Awaiting Info
South Kerry Development Ltd. 25/01/2013 €168,392.50 Under Assessment
South Kerry Development Ltd. 25/02/2013 €194,538.96 Under Assessment
South West Mayo Development 21/12/2012 €500,000.00 Under Assessment
South West Mayo Development 21/12/2012 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Waterford Leader Partnership 05/11/2012 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Waterford Leader Partnership 01/02 /2013 €200,000 .00 Awaiting Info
West Limerick Resources Ltd 21/12/2012 €196,313.77 Under Assessment
West Limerick Resources Ltd 26/02/2013 €200,000.00 Under Assessment
Co Wicklow Partnership 08/08/2012 €303,000.00 Awaiting Assessment

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Minister telling me there were seven applications received before October 2012?

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Of those under assessment, yes.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Minister not surprised that so many queries are arising in respect of projects above the level of €150,000? Total responsibility for approving projects under the level of €150,000 rests with the local action groups which seem to be able to do so with competence. Why does the Minister think so many problems arise with larger projects examined using the exact same process? Why is there a need to delay these projects for up to ten months before approval is granted? Will the Minister provide an explanation as it seems projects under the level of €150,000 can be approved without difficulty?

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I would like to think it is simple to approve every project, but that is not true of any project, whether under or over the level of €150,000. They must meet certain criteria and are subject to an EU audit. The larger the project, the greater the degree of care and the attention paid by the local action group. Larger projects often require the assistance of the Department in order to meet the obligations, rules and criteria laid down.

I hope the Deputy would agree that co-operation between the local development companies and the Department is quite good on these matters, and that the work of the local action groups, LAGs, in assisting the Department continues to be quite fruitful in getting these projects over the line in order to meet EU requirements. Otherwise, as applies in a number of cases, there would be open spot-check inspections by the European Commission for the purpose of ascertaining whether the rural development programme is adhering to the original criteria. Unfortunately, there are some cases in that category currently, and some of them are under pressure to meet the original criteria. I do not want that to happen in any major projects involving over €150,000.

4:00 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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As the Minister is aware, if we take two projects, one costing €140,000 and the other costing €160,000, a LAG can approve the former project without requiring Department approval, while the latter will require Department approval, even though there is not a great deal of difference in the costs involved. In one case the Department trusts the LAG to approve it but in the other case it can take up to seven months to obtain approval. Will the Minister agree that there are a large number of complaints from LAGs about the delays in approving projects over €150,000, and that the applications are lying around the Department and are not being processed? There is an urgency now, in view of the incredibly low spend that has been achieved under the rural development programme, in getting on with this job, approving projects and allowing companies to facilitate the applicants in proceeding with these projects. As the Minister is aware, for all non-community projects, the total maximum amount that can be approved is €200,000. Will the Minister tell me what is the magic difference between €150,000 and €200,000 that makes the approval process so slow and complicated for projects over €150,000, when all projects from zero to €150,000 can be approved solely by LAGs with no reference to the Department?

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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That is the programme the Deputy put in place when in government.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I know, but we were turning them out fast; that is the difference.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy did things differently.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We did it much differently.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Members to settle down.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We were efficient.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has only one minute remaining to reply.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy was very good; he was excellent. That is why the country is in the state it is in.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We were very efficient in the Department.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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We have 42 projects.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Many people would tell the Minister that. It was a very well run Department.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has the floor.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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If things had been so good, I would have inherited very few problems.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Unfortunately, when they took out the community and rural development functions-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has the final reply.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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-----they destroyed a very tight, well-run Department.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Deputy to have respect for the person in possession.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I am glad he is in the Chair.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Minister will have to up his game.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The process is one that the Deputy put in place and that cannot be changed until the end of this programme period, which is the end of this year. I am considering all those issues in the context of reform, including the high level administration that the Deputy put into the system.