DAERA is set to hand back over £7m of funding to the Department of Finance after several capital projects ran into an underspend.

Of the £7.1m that will be returned, £3m comes from money that was put up for a proposed livestock genetics programme for NI farmers.

At Stormont’s agriculture committee last week, MLAs were told that the project was held up due to “delays in progressing” the report which sets out the cost and benefits of the proposal.

Another £3m of underspend is due to “contractual issues” with waste management grants and £1.1m is because of “procurement delays” with AFBI’s new research sea vessel.

After receiving a written briefing from the department, MLAs on the committee agreed to write to DAERA to seek more clarity on the underspend.

“The prospect of handing back over £7m of funding will come as a surprise to many people. I think it is important that we ask DAERA how they track this and how did they not see this coming?” said committee chair Declan McAleer.

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