The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today by DA Gauteng Spokespersons for Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Graham Gersbach MPL and Heinrich Volmink MPL, during a debate on the SCOPA Report on the 2016/17 Annual Reports of Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Graham Gersbach MPL
“AG could not verify department’s expenditure”
- While this Department might have received a financially unqualified audit opinion, it remains one of those yet to achieve the goal set in 2009 of clean audits with no findings whatsoever.
- The Auditor General found the main root causes for many of the findings in the audit opinion for this department in the year under review to be: (a)Officials lacking skills to prepare accurate financial and performance reports. (b)Slow responses by the Accounting Officer and Senior Management in addressing root causes and implementing action plans.
- Included in these findings are: Poor record keeping that placed limitations on the scope of the Auditor General’s work due to a regression in the usefulness and reliability of the information provided in Programme 2 Agriculture, and Rural Development and Programme 3 Environmental Affairs.
- 2085 hectares protected/rehabilitated to improve agricultural production; 8235 households benefiting from agricultural food security initiatives; 6000 individual household gardens were supported; 8023 hectares worked by GDARD tractors and 3621 hectares cultivated for food production in communal areas and land reform projects, could not be verified by the Auditor General.
- What this really means is that we don’t really know if the monies allegedly spent during the financial year under review was spent nor who the beneficiaries really were.
- Included in this list are approximately 770 “ghost” recipients of money for home garden projects whose ID numbers could not be verified by the Department of Home Affairs. GDARD needs to investigate this with urgency, as such forms of corruption cannot be tolerated.
- Supply Chain Management remains a weakness mainly due to poor management controls.
- Payments were made before receipt of goods and services in contravention of TR. 126.96.36.199. (c) amounting to R43.8 million.
- Irregular expenditure for the current year amounted to R9.5 million resulting in a closing balance of R75.4 million.
The full speech can be obtained here.
Heinrich Volmink MPL
“Department fails to manage expenditure effectively”
- On the surface, the Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development gives an impression of progress. However, a closer inspection shows serious deficiencies.
- The amount of agricultural produce that Gauteng imports from other provinces is still far too high.
- The rate of local farmers producing food for local markets in Gauteng is still far too low.
- The skills that our farmers have in commercial farming is still far too inadequate, with still too many constrained to subsistence farming which has little economic benefit.
- I am of the view that the food security initiatives such as food gardens for households and schools should rather be rendered as a holistic social security intervention, not to be managed by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, but by social services. This will allow the department to concentrate on the commercial sector throughput of small and emerging farmers instead of continually dishing out seeds to household gardeners.
- What is even further cause for concern with regards to the figures are the questions raised by the Auditor-General. Indeed, the AG indicated that the reporting on some of the crucial targets relating to the Agricultural and Rural Development Programme, as well as the Environmental Affairs Programme, were simply not reliable.
- The AG also raised serious concerns about the Department’s ability to manage its expenditure effectively. This includes the failure of necessary steps taken to prevent irregular expenditure to the tune of R29 million, as well as payments made before receiving goods and services (in contravention of Treasury regulations) to the amount of just under R44 million.
- We, therefore, call for urgent action to be taken on behalf of those working in the agricultural sector and, ultimately, for the households across Gauteng who deserve, and need, food security.
The full speech can be obtained here.