A damning report on Wales’ Rural Development Programme (RDP) by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) has sparked concerns, after it found Welsh Government granted £68m in funding without ‘robust justification’.
The WAO report ‘Ensuring Value for Money from Rural Development Grants Made Without Competition’ (June 30), revealed key aspects of the design and oversight of the Welsh Government’s RD fund were not effective to ensure £53 million of grant awards would deliver value for money.
WAO also found that the Welsh Government had adopted an approach of granting funds to known individuals or organisations without competition.
Responding, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts said: “Welsh farmers pay the highest percentage of money possible into the RDP pot through the pillar transfer, totalling around £40 million a year, whereas in most EU countries and regions, farmers pay a tiny fraction of this figure.
“When it was announced in 2013 that Wales would have the maximum 15 per cent pillar transfer rate – the highest in the EU – we were promised an RDP that would deliver transformational change.
“Having since paid a total of around £230 million, our industry deserved far better from the RDP, and the concerns that we had raised repeatedly since 2013 over the RDP should have been acted on sooner.”
Calling for a full independent review of the RDP, NFU Cymru president John Davies echoed this and said the latest WAO report confirmed Welsh farmers had been placed at a ‘competitive disadvantage’.
He added: “[This] comes as a result of the pillar transfer decision through Welsh Government’s failure to implement an effective RDP programme for farmers, the slow rate of spend and now, we see, through not taking adequate steps to ensure value for money.”