Bulgarian Agriculture Fund Warns about Loss of EU Subsidies of EUR 1B
Bulgaria's State Fund Agriculture (SFA) has warned that EU subsidies of EUR 1 B are at risk.
The SFA expressed concern that a total of EUR 489 193 972 under the Rural Development Program and a total of EUR 559 224 435 in direct subsidies were at risk due to the lack of a certifying authority and inspections by that body.
SFA Executive Director Miroslav Nikolov drew attention to the worrying facts in a letter to Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, Deputy Prime Minister Zinaida Zlatanova and Agriculture Minister Dimitar Grekov, according to reports of Trud daily.
The sum of EUR 1 B mentioned in the letter was paid in the period October 2012 – October 2013 and Bulgaria was subsequently reimbursed for the expenses by the European Commission.
However, follow-up audits of the Directorate-General Agriculture of the EC detected irregularities in the public procurement deals under the program and in the farm payments.
The EC ordered the SFA to conduct probes by June 30 and to have them confirmed by a certifying authority or it would deduct a part of the funding or the entire sum from upcoming EU subsidy payments.
The SFA complied with the EC recommendations and conducted the inspections but it had no certifying authority to uphold them.
Violeta Alexandrova, Deputy Director of the SFA, informed that the selection of a certifying authority did not fall within the competence of the SFA.
The SFA suggested in its letter that the EC be asked to extend the deadline and to provide an opportunity for the urgent provision of a certifying authority.
Deloitte Audit acted as certifying authority by January 2014 but their contract expired and the Agriculture Ministry failed to elect a new certifying authority due to an appeal of the public procurement procedure.
Asked to comment on the matter, Grekov admitted that he had been aware of the concerns but he had never heard about such a letter from the SFA.
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