DA digs up Agri ‘fraud’

2015-03-24 00:00

THE DA believes a series of forensic ­reports into provincial agriculture department projects involving over R300 million might well “lead to one of the biggest financial scandals to rock KZN”.

The “fraud and corruption” is understood to have occurred in 2012 and 2013 when former MEC Meshack Radebe headed the department.

It is understood to have involved, for instance, state money being allocated for certain seed and farming equipment ­projects in rural areas, but where actual delivery was well below what was initially funded for.

The DA’s KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson on finance, MPL Francois Rodgers, said yesterday he had submitted a Public ­Access to Information Application (PAIA) to Agriculture MEC Cyril Xaba demanding the release of the completed NMK forensic reports. “I have done so in my capacity as member of the DA and as MPL in the KZN Legislature,” he said.

MEC Xaba’s spokesperson Nalini ­Dickson said they could not make the reports public because they needed to start prosecuting the perpetrators.

She said the department had been as transparent as possible and had allowed completed reports to be viewed, under oath of secrecy, by all party members of the portfolio committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. It was this provincial committee that had initially asked for the investigation, she said.

The DA’s PAIA was submitted on March 16. The MEC has to respond within 30 working days.

Rodgers said five investigations into the department had been completed and these contained fraud and corruption allegations of R179 million.

Five more investigations were not yet complete, but it was reasonable to assume they could be worth the same amount as the other five investigations, he said.

“The evidence in the forensic reports is a clear indication of fraud, corruption and maladministration of the highest order — under the watch of former MEC Meshack Radebe,” he said.

He said the investigations were likely to cost more than R20 million, and he wanted to know why further investigations were needed to prosecute the officials involved. “The DA finds it unacceptable that despite these explosive reports being concluded in February 2014 they have yet to see the light of day.”

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