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The main purpose of the Court of Auditors was to evaluate the management of the Swine Fever outbreak in the four Member States concerned (Germany, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands) and at the Commission level. Inspectors from the EU's financial watchdog made visits to these countries and to the Community CSF laboratory in Hanover, Germany.Negligence ascribed to Member States.The Commission's recent decision to request the Dutch authorities to reimburse one-quarter of the Community's budgetary expenditure earmarked to combat this disease (see details in European Report No 2477) is corroborated by the auditors' accusations criticising the Member States for not having assumed their responsibility for effective implementation of Community legislation in order to reduce the risk of future outbreaks of CSF causing epidemics on such a scale.In its report, the Court of Auditors states that particular problems have been encountered with regard to preventive killing. In the Netherlands, the temporary suspension of preventive slaughter is believed to have contributed to the spread of the disease and the subsequent cost to the Community budget of at least Euro 135 million. In Spain, the use of "partial" preventive slaughter cannot be regarded as a veterinary measure.In addition, the Dutch overname (buying-up) scheme was poorly administered. This plan, instituted by the Dutch authorities in March 1997, involved a national veterinary support fund under which growers were compensated for the healthy pigs which they selected for slaughter. But the healthy status of the pigs concerned and the voluntary and partial nature of the scheme resulted in Euro 70 million, included in the claim for Community financing under veterinary measures, being rejected by the Commission as ineligible.According to the Court, payment to producers cannot be verified in a large number of cases because valuations were not adequately documented, the weights of the animals were often estimated and animals buried on farm were not weighed. Rates of compensation for certain categories of animals such as gilts and sows were not always documented. Lastly, the use of municipal pits to bury 140,000 pigs in Spain and the use of cold stores in the Netherlands meant that it was not always possible to trace batches of pigs from the farm to the rendering plants and cold stores. The problems with regard to tracing batches of animals through to final destruction are common to the market measures...

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