Agriculture research body criticised over £250m spending

Kieran Donnelly Kieran Donnelly criticised AFBI for exceeding its budget for research and development

Researchers for the Department of Agriculture have been criticised by the Audit Office for how they spent £250m of taxpayers' money.

A report said the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) did not get good value for the money, which it received between 2006 and 2011.

Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said its research and development projects had significantly exceeded budgets.

However, AFBI made efficiency savings and increased its commercial income.

Mr Donnelly said: "The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), its sponsor department, cannot provide sufficient assurance that it is getting value for money for the £250m funding it has provided from 2006 to 2011.

"AFBI does not know the unit costs of its scientific testing or how these compare with other organisations.

Undercharged

"Its research and development projects have significantly exceeded their budgets and have not been subject to sufficient appraisal, oversight and evaluation."

AFBI delivered £3m in efficiency savings and increased non-DARD income from £6.3m in 2006-07 to £16.8m in 2011-12.

However, the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General also said there was scope for further efficiencies.

It also said AFBI may have lost £3.5m by failing to update its fees for commercial customers, and some clients may have been undercharged.

AFBI was established in 2006 and undertakes scientific testing and research and development work in agriculture, animal health and welfare, food, fisheries and forestry.

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