18 April 1997

Audit Office set to investigate BSEspending

GOVERNMENT spending on the BSE slaughter programme is to be investigated by the National Audit Office.

Sir John Bourn, Auditor General, said his office would particularly study the administration of the over 30-month scheme, which had attracted considerable criticism from MPs and farmers.

Sir John said examinations of the method of procuring and pricing services to abattoirs, the methods for calculating and making aid payments to farmers and renderers and the system for determining the eligibility of payments would be examined.

Representatives from the European Court of Auditors are to accompany investigators to see if EU BSE funding had been correctly spent. If they find discrepancies, the European Commission can remove its UK BSE grant aid, which has still to be paid to the UK government.

Analysts claim that is between £300m-£500m, which would mean that an additional financial burden would have to be placed on the UK taxpayer.

The investigation was welcomed by Paul Tyler, Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman, who claimed in the House of Commons last December that a small number of big abattoirs were profiting at the expense of farmers, taxpayers and smaller operators. &#42