Agriculture department reprimanded over lack of progress

2018-09-19 06:02


THE KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development received a tongue-lashing from members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) yesterday for delays in investigations conducted by the department.

Scopa members said they could not understand why the department could not give satisfactory answers on the investigations into the irregular expenditure of R98 million almost a year after auditor-general (AG), Kimi Makwetu ordered them to launch the probe.

Yesterday the department told the committee that the matter had been referred to the Provincial Treasury for investigation. The AG found that money meant for buying tractors had been spent without supply chain management processes being followed.

Committee member Cyril Xaba said it was shocking that almost a year later the only response the department could provide was that the matter had been referred to Provincial Treasury.

“Leadership of the department does not want to take responsibility. As seasoned officials, you should be ashamed to come here and give these kinds of responses ... For 10 months nothing has been done to investigate this matter,” he said.

IFP MPL Nhlanhla Msimango said the Special Investigating Unit, Hawks and Treasury should be brought in to investigate fraudulent activities in the department. “We are extremely concerned that the delay appears to be deliberate, undue and unreasonable, and we condemn this lack of progress. The delay in identifying the perpetrators and masterminds behind the alleged corrupt activities is undermining the public’s trust in the government. The investigation should be carried out with full transparency,” he said.

MEC Themba Mthembu promised the committee that there would be consequences.

However, chairperson of the Agriculture and Rural Development portfolio committee, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, warned that it would not be easy to solve the department’s problems.

“We need to realise that we are dealing with a different animal altogether here. Senior officials in the department have decided they will do as they please.

They have the audacity to say that we politicians are only here for five years.

No MEC will change what is going on in that department unless these officials change their behaviour or they are removed from the department,” she said.

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