My Department has received more than 122,000 applications this year from farmers under the basic payment scheme, BPS, which is fully funded by the European Union and is worth in excess of €1.2 billion annually. There are no delays in the issuing of payments to applicants with clear applications under this scheme.
The Deputy will be aware that advance payments under the BPS commenced on schedule on 16 October, which is the earliest possible payment date allowed under EU regulations, and balancing payments will commence as scheduled early next month. Ireland remains to the forefront of member states in relation to the early payment of BPS moneys.
EU regulations governing the administration of the basic payment scheme and the various other area-based schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including ground or remote sensing inspections where applicable, are fully completed to ensure eligibility with the scheme's requirements before any payment issues. Such checks aim to ensure that payments do not issue on ineligible areas or features, that only eligible applicants are paid and that an applicant does not receive an undue payment that would require subsequent recovery by my Department.
Cases that do not pass the administrative validation process go into error and cannot be paid pending a resolution of the error concerned. These errors can include over-claims, dual claims, commonage errors and incomplete application forms. My Department enters into correspondence, mainly through the issuing of query letters to farmers, in order to resolve these error cases.
The EU regulations prescribe the minimum number of inspections that must take place annually. These inspections can be undertaken by means of field visits on the ground or by means of remote sensing using up-to-date satellite imagery. The regulations further prescribe that for inspection cases, the process must be fully completed before any payments can issue. Where an application is selected for inspection under any of the area-based schemes, the outcome of that inspection applies to all schemes for which the applicant has applied.
Approximately 8,000 applications are subject to an inspection in 2019 under the various area-based schemes. As of 25 November, my Department had received inspection results for more than 93% of these inspections, of which 92% had been advanced to payment stage. The balance of these cases falls into a number of categories, namely, where applicants have been notified of the inspection outcome where an area over-declaration has been identified and a response is awaited, and where applicants have chosen to submit comments on notified inspection outcomes. These cases are being examined with a view to final processing. The remaining outstanding inspection results are being finalised and will then be advanced promptly through the final stages of processing.
Some 7,700 of the overall number of inspection cases are eligible applicants under the 2019 basic payment scheme. To date, some 6,500 of these cases have received the advance BPS payment. The balance of these cases falls into the various categories I have already outlined.
I am pleased to confirm that to date, more than 119,100, or more than 97.5%, of eligible applicants have now been paid €786 million in advance BPS and greening payments. The second instalment of BPS payments will commence on 2 December.
I assure the Deputy that my Department continues to finalise cases, including ground and remote sensing inspection cases, daily, to ensure that BPS payments are issued as quickly as possible.