The representative body of LEADER companies in Ireland, the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN), has criticised attempts to undermine the work of LEADER companies by suggesting mismanagement in the administration of their funding.

Recent commentary which suggests that the European Court of Auditors found administrative failures within the operation of LEADER companies have been strongly refuted by ILDN. The network stated that the European Court of Auditors Audit and the European Commission Audit for 2014 have not yet been completed and any commentary on them is not only premature but irresponsible and inaccurate.

The Department of Environment’s Deloitte Audit report for 2013 which has been finalised shows that Ireland’s error amount for 2013 under the LEADER programme was just 0.016% of the funds audited. ILDN believes that this figure demonstrates the negligible level of error in the management of LEADER funds by Local Development Companies around the country. The current LEADER programme budget is €370m.

At a recent meeting, Kevin Cardiff, Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, told the Dáil Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs that the average error rate for European funding across the EU for 2013 was 4.7%. He pointed out that there was a need for more simplicity in the systems, because some of the errors arise from complexity of the European programmes themselves.

ILDN reaffirm that LEADER companies stand over their work of the last 25 years and welcome the opportunity to be audited by State and European bodies on a regular basis. ILDN also caution against the reporting of unfounded assertions which have the potential to undermine the delivery of essential European funding to rural Ireland