DA KZN: We won’t hold our breath for Agric Audit

Mark Steele, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Agriculture

The DA will not be holding its breath for the release of a financial audit into alleged ongoing and wide-scale looting and destruction of state resources by officials within the KZN Department of Agriculture.

Last week MEC, Meshack Radebe announced that he planned to reveal the outcome of the probe soon – perhaps even before the elections.

The MEC’s promise is not new.  In fact, he has been promising to take action for more than a year after the problem was first exposed on his watch in December 2012.

In February 2013, the MEC stated in the media that “heads will roll”.  In June 2013, during his budget speech, he said the same thing.

We are still waiting.

That KZN’s agriculture department is in a sorry state is not in doubt.  In the most recent Auditor-General’s report, major issues relating to irregular expenditure and the achievement of planned targets were cited.

Late last year the department appeared to have a strategy to deal with SCM irregularities.  However, a 39% non-achievement of planned targets indicates a department with serious management and planning deficiencies.

The many serious allegations relating to nepotism and irregular SCM procedures within this department also speak to the MEC’s fitness for purpose.  Oversight and monitoring of grants has become a major issue and points to weak financial management systems.

The province’s Agriculture department contains some fine professionals dedicated to agriculture extension but its leadership seems to treat it like the province’s welcome wagon, with handouts to anyone politically connected.

Recapitalisation grants are poorly monitored and hence could constitute wasteful expenditure while the supply of livestock for slaughter at public events can hardly be described as the department’s core function.

The DA expects the MEC to make good on his promise to the people of KZN and expose the rot within his department without fear or favour.  Agriculture has the potential to create an economic turn-around in our province.  The MEC and his officials must deliver.