A bill to combat farming fraud will now become a reality after the Justice Minister weighed in behind a campaign mounted by North Antrim Ulster Unionist, Robin Swann..
Mr Swann, a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, unveiled his strategy after expressing his “extreme concern at the performance of the Department of Agriculture’s Central Investigation Service following recent figures, which showed that for 2012/13, the unit investigated fraud with an estimated value of £272,000 and the same period only saw fraud cases prosecuted to a value of £7,842.”
Mr Swann has also “warmly welcomed” an undertaking by the Justice Minister to take action to place an Order before the Assembly to give effect to Mr Swann’s Private Member’s Bill, which would make the Department of Agriculture’s Central Investigation Service subject to inspection by the Criminal Justice Inspector Mr Swann added: “Given my extreme concern at the performance of DARD’s CIS, I, therefore, sought to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill to have the Central Investigation Service inspected by an external body, preferably the Criminal Justice Inspector Northern Ireland and set about conducting a consultation process.
“I am very pleased to say that I had a very successful meeting with the Justice Minister recently where I presented him with the results of my consultation and the reason behind my desire to see CIS inspected by an external body.
“As a result of this meeting, the Justice Minister has now confirmed to me that rather than having to pursue this through a full legislative process, he has undertaken to take the issue forward by way of an Order, which he will put before the Justice Committee before the Easter Recess, which will see the order final come before the Assembly for acceptance.
“This is excellent news and I believe it will ensure that the DARD Central Investigation Service is fit for purpose and delivers results,” said Assemblyman Swann.