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Further funding hurdles facing council


FURTHER INSPECTIONS Applications to the Department of Rural and Community Development from Mayo County Council will still face pre-payment inspections.

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council will face pre-payment inspections on the vast majority of their applications for funding to the Department of Rural and Community Development, it has emerged.
Last week it was announced that the council were once again eligible to apply for funding after the Great Greenway Scandal funding freeze but the council will face significant hurdles in accessing funding until March 2023, at the earliest.
In response to a series of questions from The Mayo News, the Department of Rural and Community Development issued a statement on the matter.
“The Department is carrying out pre-payment inspections on all claims submitted by Mayo Co Co under the CLÁR Programme, Town and Village Renewal Scheme, Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and the Outdoor Recreation and Infrastructure Scheme until March 2023 upon which the process will be reviewed and a revised audit plan agreed as appropriate. Monthly meetings to review progress will also be held between Mayo County Council management and Department officials,” they stated.
These are all funding streams the council were frozen out of with the exception of the LIS roads funding (funding for non council owned local roads).
The Department said ‘significant engagement’ has taken place between them and the council in recent months ‘on the financial, governance and oversight arrangements in place, with a view to ensuring that value for money and quality projects are delivered’ and that Mayo County Council management ‘have fully engaged and cooperated with the Department throughout the process’.

Outsourced auditors
“Enhanced processes and procedures have been put in place by Mayo County Council and include reviews by outsourced internal auditors. At the request of the Department, Mayo County Council also carried out reviews of project delivery under the CLÁR Programme and Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
“Mayo County Council have confirmed that they have provided training for all the relevant staff; revised procedures including requiring a Director of Services to sign off on all claims; introduced monthly reviews and reporting to their Finance Unit; and provided additional Engineering staff to the relevant Units,” the Department stated.
The council have been allowed to apply for Department funding since July 19. Applications for funding under the 2021 Town and Village Renewal Scheme have been resubmitted for consideration under the 2022 Scheme.
It emerged last December that Mayo County Council had fraudulently drawn down over €2 million in greenway funding, saying the works were complete when some had not even commenced construction.
The council were forced to repay over €1 million in funding while another €1 million worth of projects were allowed to proceed under strict terms and conditions.
Meanwhile, the Department responded to criticisms of the Department’s handling of an application under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund for Belmullet.
Mark Ruddy, one of the people behind the Belmullet application, was critical of the Department for not considering the application because of the funding freeze.
The Department say the application was ‘fully considered by the Department and the Project Advisory Board for the Fund’.  
“While the delivery record of County Councils is a factor in decision-making (as set out in the appraisal scheme for RRDF applications), the Project Advisory Board also had concerns regarding the scale of certain elements of the Belmullet proposal and the robustness of the business case underpinning same, particularly given the future level of investment which would be sought to fully deliver the project.  The timing of the next Category 2 call for applications is currently under consideration,” they stated.