Crooked officials capture provincial agriculture dept – DA KZN

Francois Rodgers question why MEC Mthembu is failing to deal decisively with ongoing robbing of public purse

Rot remains within KZN Agriculture as crooked officials capture Department

12 September 2018

Despite overwhelming proof of irregular expenditure totalling R2.2 million by a senior official, KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Agriculture (DoA) decided to terminate his employment in January rather than pursue ‘costly and lengthy’ legal action.

The revelation was made during a hearing conducted by the province’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) yesterday which was also attended by the DoA and the Agribusiness Development Agency. The finding comes after the Department recorded a R248 million underspend during the 2017/18 financial year in its fourth consecutive year of under-expenditure.

The DA is stunned by this decision on the part of MEC Themba Mthembu and his legal advisors. It cannot be that a department as critical as agriculture, which is a key economic driver and job creator, is continually being held to ransom by crooked officials who flout the system through irregular expenditure with zero accountability or consequence. If ever there was proof that this Department has been captured by certain crooked individuals, this must be it.

In 2015, the DA exposed a litany of forensic investigations into R60 million worth of supply chain management and procurement irregularities within the Department. Yesterday’s meeting was due to see the DoA report on the outcomes of or progress made in terms of these and other investigations. Instead, the committee received little more than a breakdown of irregular expenditure for the 2016/17 year amounting to more than R24 million.

Regrettably, the financial rot does not end here with KZN Premier Willies Mchunu recently forced to launch a special investigation into the allegedly fraudulent use of R100 million in drought relief funding by this same Department.

The question that must be asked is, why is MEC Mthembu failing to deal decisively with this ongoing robbing of the public purse at the expense of KZN’s people? The only possible answer is that he lacks the political will to enforce accountability or ensure consequence management.

MECs have come and gone, but nothing has changed within KZN’s Agriculture Department - the rot remains.

As indicated in yesterday’s hearing, the DA will continue to closely monitor this particular case to ensure accountability and consequence for this R2.2 million loss. In the event that the DoA fails to take the necessary steps, the DA will be forced to approach the courts.

Issued by Francois RodgersDA KZN Spokesperson on Scopa, 12 September 2018