Commission looks into foot-and-mouth payments

The European Commission’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, is currently reviewing the system of compensation payments made to British farmers. The moves follow a report by the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office, which criticises the UK’s compensation system as excessive and fundamentally flawed. The EU is expected to pay up to 60 percent of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cost for compensating farmers.

The veterinary report was received by the British government two months ago, but has only come to light now. The report criticised payments to farmers that were significantly higher than the guideline rates. It questioned the procedure that allowed farmers to choose the value of their lost livestock from a ministry list. EU inspectors were highly critical of illegal animal movement and went as far to suggest that infected animal were deliberately moved to infect health livestock. They also questioned the authenticity of slaughterhouse records.

A spokesperson from DG Health and Consumer Protection hinted that compensation could be held back if the EU finds that they have paid too much, as the payments are made in instalments. The UK has already asked for 800 million euro.

 

The Commission provides compensation, up to 60 percent, towards the costs of animals destroyed and disinfection under an Emergency Veterinary Fund. A total of 41 million euro is available towards such compensation in 2001. Any claims arising from the current FMD outbreak would likely to be re-imbursed only in 2002 and subsequent years. There are indications already that the potential costs of the current outbreak greatly exceed the existing budgetary provisions for compensation.

 

The Food and Veterinary Office report was passed on to OLAF as a routine measure. OLAF has a mandate to investigate any abuses stemming from the misuse of EU funds, but no formal investigation has been launched. If an investigation is launched and evidence of criminal conduct is uncovered, it will turn the case over to British prosecutors.

 

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