‘Matters of concern’ in Agriculture Department’s audit

2011-10-14 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture has improved its financial management, achieving an unqualified audit, but with “matters of concern”.

However, the department was warned at yesterday’s standing committee of public accounts (Scopa) sitting, not to allow another beans debacle to be its downfall.

The warning came from ACDP’s Jo-Anne Downs, who had listened to a department staffer explain the outcome of a forensic investigation in which R334 000 was recovered from an individual after a fraudulent bean growing project in Umzimkhulu.

Downs said, “I hope you are not going to have another beans debacle. It was beans that brought down a previous HOD [head of department].

“Please could beans be planted properly in future.”

The DA’s Mark Steele expressed concern that tighter audit controls might not be sustained because adequate systems of control are not in place.

He was also dissatisfied with explanations offered by senior managers about the matters of concern expressed by the auditor.

These included irregular expenditure, underspending and reports on investigations.

Steele said Scopa needs more than simply to be told that the matters are being followed up.

“We need proper explanations. If the department does not know, it must not say it might have been this or that. It should know.

“It can’t say, ‘we can’t find the problem so therefore there wasn’t a problem’. The auditor expressed a concern so there is a problem and you need to find it.”

The MEC, Lydia Johnson, thanked Scopa and the finance and agriculture portfolio committees for keeping her department on track.

Committee chairperson Rena Naidoo said there are definite improvements in the audit, but she warned that challenges remain, one being, the huge amount of irregular expenditure.

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