Northern Ireland

'Poorly planned' scheme 'cost taxpayers millions'

The land at Crossnacreevy was found to be worth a fraction of its valuation
Image caption The land at Crossnacreevy was found to be worth a fraction of its valuation

A government scheme set up to reduce slurry and manure pollution in rivers and lakes was poor value for money, a Stormont committee has said.

The Public Accounts Committee said the Department of Agriculture scheme was poorly planned and badly managed.

The result was that it cost millions of pounds more than necessary.

Slurry tanks cost an extra £49m. £89m more was leveraged from the Department of Finance by offering to sell the plant testing station at Crossnacreevy.

The committee was astonished to find an informal valuation of £200m for the land was accepted without any questions being asked. The site was later valued at just £2.3m.

Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee Paul Maskey said the Farm Nutrient Scheme was poorly planned and badly managed.

"It cost millions of pounds more than necessary," Mr Maskey said.

"For example, widespread use of underground slurry storage tanks, which were a more expensive option than free standing ones, cost the taxpayers an additional £49m.

Image caption Paul Maskey said the scheme was poorly planned and badly managed

"To make matters worse, the department is unable to demonstrate the extent to which the £121m of public money spent on this scheme has actually contributed to improving water quality. The committee can only conclude that the scheme has provided poor value for money."

PAC has made a number of key recommendations for designing future schemes to ensure that lessons are learned from its review.

"In the future, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Department must ensure that adequate systems are in place to properly administer future grant schemes, so that best value for money is secured," Mr Maskey said.

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