The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the unanimous decision taken by KwaZulu-Natal’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to reject a report tabled by the province’s Department of Agriculture and two of its entities, the Agribusiness Development Agency (ADA) and Mjindi. This after the DA proposed that the report be rejected in its entirety.
The document, tabled at a SCOPA hearing held yesterday, emanates from 2018/2019 reports of the Auditor General which revealed irregular expenditure of R715 million by the Department as well as irregular expenditure by ADA and Mjindi to the tune of R118 million.
Further findings by the AG include;
• Poor response to addressing prior years audit findings
• Systems not in place to monitor progress toward achieving targets
• A lack of a strategic planning and poor internal controls
• Under spending of R264 million
• Underspending of conditional grants by R40.75 million rand by ADA
• Fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R70 000
• Irrecoverable debt by Mjindi of R6million rand and
• Non-compliance with legislation in procurement.
The DA regards the quality and detail of the report presented by the Department, along with its response to SCOPA resolutions, as both pathetic and sub-standard. The document is little more than a “tick box” exercise and a ‘copy and paste’ response from prior years reports, with no clearly defined plan and strategy to self-correct. This from a Department that enjoys a substantial slice of the provincial budget – a Department that is fundamental to economic growth and poverty alleviation.
Regrettably, this inferior report and performance is not an isolated incident with the Department clearly incapable of delivering on any of its mandates. The report also highlighted deficiencies in accountability and consequence management and it seems that this Department has been captured by a mafia- style syndicate who are creating their own fiefdom at the expense of the people of our province.
Last year, the DA wrote to Treasury, calling for this Department to be placed under administration – a call which we have not yet had a response to. Given this lack of urgency, the DA will write to KZN Speaker, Nontembeko Boyce to call for this matter to be debated at the next Sitting of the Legislature. This is a disgrace which must be addressed.
It cannot be that the Premier continually talks about radical agrarian transformation and building of a capable and ethical state, based on accountability and consequence management while this Department is being plundered right under his nose. It is time for the Premier to walk the talk – failure to do so will merely make him nothing more than a Bell Pottinger protégé.