I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 38 and 39 together.
EU regulations governing the administration of the basic payment scheme, the areas of natural constraint scheme and 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 various schemes’ requirements before any payments issue. There are certain minimum numbers of inspections that must take place annually under the various schemes.
The method of selecting cases for inspection is set down in EU regulations and is undertaken by means of a risk analysis process with cases being selected on a risk-based and random basis. All cases to be selected for inspection must be in respect of eligible beneficiaries under the various schemes. Therefore, the selection of cases for inspection, while commencing after the closing date for receipt of applications, 15 May, is an ongoing process so as to ensure this specific regulatory requirement is fulfilled.
This year, late applications were accepted up to 9 June, with a deduction. Furthermore, amendments to applications were accepted up to 9 June and allowing for the preliminary checks process whereby applicants could further amend their application up to 19 June as a result of issues notified to them by my Department the final details of the land to be subject to the inspection process cannot be fully established until these periods have elapsed. Therefore, the inspection process cannot commence any earlier.
The EU regulations further prescribe that the inspection process in each case must be fully completed before any payments can issue. I wish it were otherwise, but that is the case. Some 8,000 applicants were selected for a land eligibility inspection in respect of the various 2019 area-based schemes. 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.
As of 25 November, my Department has received inspections results for over 93% of these inspections, of which 92% have been advanced to payment stage processing. The balance of these cases falls into a number of categories, namely, applicants who have been notified of the inspection outcome where an area over-declaration has been identified and from whom a response is awaited; and applicants who have chosen to submit comments on notified inspection outcomes. These are currently being examined and are subject to final processing. The balance of the outstanding inspection results is currently being finalised and will then be advanced through the final stages of processing promptly.
Some 7,700 of the overall number of inspection cases are eligible applicants under the basic payment scheme. To date, some 6,500 of these cases have received the advance payment. The balance of these cases falls into the various categories that I have already outlined.
I assure the Deputy that my Department continues to finalise cases, including ground and remote sensing cases, on a daily basis to ensure that basic payment scheme payments are issued as quickly as possible.