The scandal-hit AIS agricultural subsidy program has returned under a new name with strict precautions to ensure the money is delivered to where its needed, Caracol Radio reported on Monday.
The new program, the Rural Development Equity Program (DRE), will ensure the irrigation and drainage subsidy money will be given exclusively to small and medium farmers, thus in theory eliminating the possibility of the money landing in the hands of big businesses or wealthy families, the main cause of the crisis of the previous model.
The new program will furthermore be overseen by the National University, not the IICA which was responsible for the AIS auditing, and will hand out $275 million to finance the production of essential foods for the family pantry.
Colombian Farmers Association President Rafael Mejia supported the program’s reinstatement, saying that the agricultural subsidies are needed now more than ever to meet challenges from the U.S. with the pending ratification of the FTA.
In September 2009, it was revealed that multi-million dollar subsidies to “promote productivity and competition and reduce inequality” in Colombia’s agriculture industry ended up in the pockets of beauty queens, politicians’ family members and wealthy families. It was also later revealed funds were delivered to supporters of former President Alvaro Uribe’s re-election campaign.
Seven officials who belonged to the Ministry of Agriculture are currently under investigation for issuing contracts without complying with legal requirements, misrepresentation, embezzlement and fraud, for their part in the controversial subsidy scheme. The trial began last week with the no-show of three former government officials.