Drought relief process needs to be investigated – Agri SA

Organisation says there is a blatant disregard for good governance and management principles at provincial level

Alleged irregular, wasteful and corrupt practices related to National Drought Relief funds awarded to drought stricken provinces during 2016  

31 May 2017

In 2016, South Africa faced the effects of the most serious drought in decades.  Six provinces were declared disaster areas, [KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and the Northern Cape] whilst in two, [Western and Eastern Cape] only specific district municipalities were declared disaster areas.  The drought resulted in severe grain shortages, forced livestock sales, loss of livestock life and a negative impact on the financial stability of farmers across the affected areas. 

During the 2016 drought, Agri SA as a responsible membership based organization, pro-actively acted and commissioned a task team to look at the devastating effects of the drought, and with industry participants, came up with solutions and mitigation measures. 

A Drought Task Team (DTT) consisting of Agri SA, the Land Bank, Agbiz, African Farmers’ Association of SA (Afasa), the Transvaal Agricultural Union SA (TAU SA); Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC); SA Grain Milling; Industrial Development Corporation (IDC); Banking Association SA (BASA), Grain SA and other commercial banks was established.

The DTT held various meetings inter alia since November 2015 until March 2016.  The DTT also held a SA Drought Media Conference on 22 February 2016 in Cape Town and a further media conference, in conjunction with the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), on 1 March 2016, focusing on the drought situation in SADC.

Members of the DTT had numerous private meetings with the Director General of DAFF as well as the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (2016/01/12; 2016/02/10; 2016/07/18; 2016/10/06; 2016/11/08; 2016/11/15) to discuss the urgency of financial assistance. Members of the DTT attended Minister Zokwana’s media briefing where he informed stakeholders of the drought relief measures in January 2016.  We also participated in DAFF’s National Drought Indaba in September 2016 where again we emphasised the seriousness of the drought and the need for financial assistance.  

Agri SA in its own capacity addressed numerous formal and informal requests to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Minister of Finance as well as the DG of DAFF but to no avail.

Despite concerted requests by the DTT directed to government to establish a partnership in order to get drought relief supplies and humanitarian aid in the most effective and efficient way to distressed agricultural communities all over the country, government continued to ignore these requests.

This resulted in numerous challenges as listed in the Draft 2016/17 Drought Scheme Report recently released by DAFF. These include appointment of service providers with no track records, service providers being expelled due to poor performance, service providers changing delivery plans without prior engagement with DAFF or PDA, limited hands-on support by provinces, very slow pace due to lack of readiness by service providers, non-availability and changing of storage facilities, large scale theft of bags of feed pellets, inefficient and faulty delivery vehicles, over and under delivery of animal feed in particular districts, no assistance to commercial and small scale farmers in some provinces, delivery of wrong feeds, lack of adequate communication during implementation as well as outdated farmer registers.

Agri SA has also done an investigation into how drought relief funding was spent at provincial level. It paints a shocking picture of blatant disregard for good governance and management principles that should underpin any government project.

The Public Protector, Auditor-General and SCOPA was informed to investigate the entire drought relief process to unearth any irregular, wasteful and corrupt practices.

Issued by Thea Liebenberg, Media Liaison Officer, Agri SA, 1 June 2017