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OLAF will continue investigations into funds from IPARD II; No disbursements from the program are scheduled until 2025
Written by SOT.COM.AL 4 Tetor 2023
OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, is expected to continue investigations into corruption in the distribution of funds to aid agriculture through the IPARD II programme.
The OLAF office said that as of August 2023, it has submitted to the Albanian authorities the final report on the IPARD II funds and is awaiting a response from the competent authority.
OLAF has refused to provide details of the conclusions of the final report, while the follow-up is ongoing, as their public disclosure, even in part, may jeopardize subsequent proceedings.
"The General Court has recognized the existence of a general presumption of inaccessibility according to which disclosure to the public under Regulation 1049/2001 of documents related to OLAF could fundamentally undermine the objectives of investigative activities both now and in the future. This is because persons suspected of irregularities may act in such a way as to prevent the proper development of subsequent activities. Therefore, the general presumption also applies to a procedure that has been closed. Investigations are ongoing for this case. OLAF closed the investigation in August 2023 and communicated its conclusions to the competent authority with recommendations for the initiation of appropriate procedures. OLAF has received simultaneous information from the competent authority that has not yet completed the follow-up. OLAF considers that the period,
Based on Regulation (EU, Euratom) No. 883/20132, OLAF investigates cases of suspected fraud, corruption and other illegal activities harmful to the EU budget.
After the news in July that the European Commission has suspended the IPARD funds, dedicated to agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture reacted by explaining that the Albanian authorities have been made aware of a suspension of the current reimbursement bill from DG AGRI for part of the next expenses . But the Ministry of Finance does not program funds from the IPARD program at least until 2025. The data shows that in 2023 there were 260 beneficiaries from the IPARD II programs, but no disbursements are expected for 2024 and 2025.
The IPARD II program which was involved in an investigation process by OLAF totaled 94.6 million euros in total, of which 71 million euros were EU funding. During its implementation from 2018 to 2022, according to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture, 20.6 million euros were disbursed in 2018, 15.6 million euros were given in 2019, 26.8 million euros were distributed in 2020 and for in the years 2021-2022, 31.6 million euros were given. In the first year, the grants of the IPARD II program supported investments in farms, in the milk, meat and fruit-vegetable processing sector. The total available budget of the first and second calls was 57.6 million euros. In the third call, IPARD II financed 29.1 million euros in two support measures for investments in farms and processing.
Due to the investigations, the EU has suspended the launch of the IPARD III program that was expected to open this year with a fund of 146 million euros or 55% more funds than the IPARD II Program. The EU contribution was in a fund of 112 million euros. IPARD III would include 9 new financing measures from 3 measures included in the previous program./monitor