The Romanian authorities have suspended only SAPARD payments for June, July and August, and this decision was taken following the findings of European experts on an audit mission, June 3-13, state secretary with the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development IMADR) Cornelia Harabagiu told on August 20.
"The recommendations of the European Commission following the audit mission suggested strengthening the control mechanism of payment authorization to end users of SAPARD funds. In reply to this request, the Romanian authorities decided to suspend payments only for the payment applications of June, July and August, pending the finalization of a complete and precise plan of measures that will supplement the legal procedures for payment authorization," said Harabagiu.
She added that the action plan will be finalized by next week and submitted to the National Fund for confirmation.
"When the National Fund has confirmed that all the measures in the action plan have been followed though, the suspended funds will become available for distribution again," said Harabagiu.
She added that this is not about suspending the entire 2008 funds of 200 million euros, but about the suspension of a much smaller amount due for the third months mentioned above.
The EC announced it was suspending the payments under the SAPARD program for 2008 because of some deficiencies detected in the payment management system mentioned in a letter of the European Commission to the Romanian Finance Ministry dated July 9 and signed by Director General Jean Luc Demarty.
Demarty said back then that payments under the SAPARD program will be halted as a result of deficiencies detected by an audit mission conducted in Romania in early June.
The Commission called on the Romanian authorities to draw up an action plan to remedy the deficiencies, and submit it to Brussels by August 31.
The letter also says that on March 8, 2008, the Commission recommended strict conformity of the Romanian Payment Agency for Rural Development and Fisheries with the accreditation criteria and protection to the financial interest of the European Union in the implementation of two SAPARD measures. The measures included in SAPARD regard improving quality, veterinary and phytosanitary controls to secure food product quality and consumer protection, as well as an agricultural environment measure.
The letter also mentions that on May 5, the Commission halted payments for the two measures, which were 1.01 million euro for the first measure and 137,000 euros for the second, requesting at the same time explanations for the implementation of the two measures.
The European authorities called for an action plan that will remedy the deficiencies detected in the management and control mechanism of the SAPARD Romania Agency and also halted the disbursement of 28.3 million euros due for the expenses sustained in the first quarter of 2008.
The Commission mentioned that the disbursement will resume as soon as the Romanian authorities have submitted the action plan Brussels, an action plan that will be certified and implemented by an independent audit organization.
The Commission urged the Romanian authorities to take all the necessary measures to make sure such management deficiencies will not be repeated in the National Rural Development Plan of Romania.
The total funds earmarked to Romania under the SAPARD program in 2000-2006 is standing at 1.16 billion euro, while the payments under the SAPARD program for 2008 is worth 200 million euros.