Scopa lashes Agriculture

2016-02-11 10:30


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Pietermaritzburg - The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development was sent packing on Wednesday at the legislature during a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) hearing on the 2014/15 report of the auditor-general (AG).

The committee members gave the department a tongue lashing, expressing their discontent with the quality of answers the department gave to their queries on the AG’s report.

A disappointed committee chairperson Maggie Govender immediately proposed that the department be released “to go and work on these resolutions and prepare proper responses that addresses issues raised”.

“I am looking at the quality of the responses; they are very, very poor. They actually do not address the issues that we have raised. The only explanation I can find is that these resolutions’ responses were extremely hurried.

“I personally do not see a point in continuing with this because we are not getting the answers that we need,” she said.

The AG had found that the department had not taken effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure.

The committee then resolved that the department should submit a report on action taken against those officials who did not take effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure.

However, on Wednesday the department said it was still awaiting recommendations from their investigations to take any disciplinary action.

This left ANC MP Makhosini Nkosi dumbfounded, as he said the AG had already given a finding, saying there was no need for another investigation. The committee had also resolved that action should be taken against those officials who were implicated in incurring fruitless expenditure.

The department responded by saying their Loss Control Committee was “investigating the incidents”.

Govender’s proposal was accepted by the committee members, who seemed irritated by the responses that had been presented by head of department Siphiwe Mkhize.

“I am tempted to say it is more a political explanation than the administrative responses that we expect from officials,” said committee member Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi.

“I would expect the MEC to respond in this fashion, not the administrators. They must give specific answers. It is clear that they did not apply their minds to the resolutions,” she added.

The committee members concurred with Govender’s assertion that the responses had been “extremely hurried”.

The document, which the members said they only received on Tuesday, was signed by the head of department on Monday.

“It is quite clear that people might have been reminded by the notice that they would need to go to the Scopa meeting on the 10th, and therefore will have had to look for the head of department, if it not somebody else to sign it quickly and drive around looking for the MEC to do the same,” said Sipho Nkosi, a committee member.

“Maybe because this was done in a hurry ... we actually have not had a proper, well-thought-out reply to what were in fact very searching questions we put out in our resolutions,” added Mark Steele of the DA.

Govender said the committee had spent a lot of time and public resources to interrogate the AG’s report.

“It costs a lot of money for the legislature to establish this. It cost your department money to release people from their other department work to come here and do this.

“We then spent time coming up with resolutions and the idea is not that resolutions occupy space on a sheet of paper.

“The resolutions are there so that you can improve your audit performance and in a way to provide guidance as to how you proceed,” she said.

Govender said if the department would not apply “proper attention” in addressing the resolutions, then the department must write a letter informing Scopa they do not think that the Scopa resolutions are of any importance.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  scopa

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