In line with the Local Government reform process and Putting People First it is envisaged that there will be closer alignment with Local Government for the LEADER elements of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme (RDP). However, the composition of the Local Action Group (LAG) will be in line with the Regulations which require that the LAG comprises of representatives of public and private local socio-economic interests. The Regulations also require that, at the decision making level, ‘neither public authorities, nor any single interest group represents more than 49% of the voting rights’. Accordingly, the decision making will not be dominated by the local authorities or any single interest group.
The LEADER element of the RDP will be delivered using a Community led Local Development approach through the design and implementation of Local Development Strategies submitted by LAGs. It is envisaged that a call for proposals for Local Development Strategies will be issued in the second half of 2014 and in this context any entity that fulfils the eligibility criteria will be eligible to express an interest in making a submission to deliver the LEADER elements of the RDP.
It is a requirement of the regulatory framework that the LAG, the entity that submits the Local Development Strategy, will also be the entity that implements the local development strategy; this was also the case for the current programming period. In this context any entity, including the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) that submits a local development strategy, fulfils the necessary criteria as outlined in the selection process and is successful in that process will be eligible to hold a contract for the delivery of the LEADER element of the RDP for 2014-2020. I do not see any issue with conflict of interest regarding the LCDC once they fulfil the necessary criteria as outlined in the Local Development Strategy selection process.
In addition to a clear and transparent selection process , it should also be noted that subsequent to the issuing of a contract to deliver LEADER for the 2014-2020 programme period each Local Action Group will also be required to adhere to a comprehensive set of operating rules. These will include the need to ensure robust systems to address conflict of interest at individual project decision making level that will also require full and comprehensive documentation of the decision making process.