Speaking at a special hearing with the European Court of Auditors in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Carthy said:
“The report presented to the Committee shines a light on the very slow implementation of the Rural Development Programme.
“A common theme with many EU funding programmes, the report specifically mentions the lengthy application process for many schemes that means that funding is pushed back through the budget period, causing a knock-on effect on the quality of projects delivered.
“While the report focussed mainly on the overall programme itself and not the individual Member State projects, I pressed Janusz Wojciechowski from the Court of Auditors on the need for a specific report into the massive backlog of funding in Ireland which is depriving rural areas.
“Delays in spending mean an accumulation of money at the end of the funding period, resulting in a higher risk of spending on undeliverable or untargeted areas. It also means that funds may be re-absorbed into the next programme period without ever reaching the communities they are intended to help.
“The stark results show that at the beginning of 2017 90% of the EAFRD financial plan was unspent.
“In Ireland the latest figures show that while 429 projects have been approved by the LAGs for LEADER funding worth €10.5m, only €157,444 of this has been drawn down. This is frighteningly low considering we are 3 years into the funding period and it is an issue that my colleague MEP, Liadh Ní Riada, has been consistently highlighting in the Budgets committee.
“The entire brand and philosophy of the Rural Development scheme is in jeopardy, and vital rural projects are being deprived of funding as a result.
“I am pleased that Mr Wojciechowski has agreed to look into the specific issues related to Ireland regarding LEADER and will be following up on this issue to ensure the Court is aware of the depth of the situation”.