DA KZN:  Agriculture department living proof of failed governance

Francois Rodgers, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Agriculture

KZN’s agriculture department has failed the people of KZN.  It has failed in the objectives of the NDP and PGDP.  It has failed in terms of leadership with little or no political will and ultimately proved that there is a vast gap between liberating a country and effectively governing a country so that there is a tangible difference in the lives of ordinary people.

In short – if the people of this province want to see evidence of failed governance by the ruling party then the Department of Agriculture of KZN is living and breathing proof.

If the ANC believes it can defend the dismal performance of the KZN Department of Agriculture then the following questions must be answered;

  • Why has this department had more MEC’s than terms served by the ANC?
  • Why have failed and incompetent MEC’s in this department been banished to position of Deputy Speaker? Has this position now become the dumping ground of incompetent MEC’s?

KZN’s Agriculture department is allocated more than R3 billion.  With the right leadership and political will it has the potential to turn KZN around.  The question is whether the ruling party has the will or the ability to do so.  Certainly is has not demonstrated this in the past 15 years.

Yesterday a media report stated that by developing rural agriculture as a priority, KZN could beat the economy of Gauteng by 2020. This plan was first mooted in 2011, the objective, to commercialise rural agriculture. The question remains, what has this department done since the ANC took over power in KZN? Why should we suddenly believe that it has the power and ability to turn things around?

KZN is a province of political musical chairs, especially when it comes to Agriculture.  When outcomes are not achieved, officials and politicians are simply moved.  Accountability simply does not exist.

For years this department has been guilty of blatant waste:

  • seeds not being delivered,
  • the incorrect seeds being delivered,
  • fertilizer being delivered but having expired,
  • planting taking place at the incorrect time of the season,
  •  forensic investigation after forensic investigation with no outcomes or corrective measures implemented.

The outcome of the forensic investigation instigated by former MEC Radebe remains outstanding and one wonders if it will ever see the light of day.

The strategic goals of the KZN Agriculture department are to;

  • Improve local, national and international trade access and competitiveness.
  • Provision of food security.
  • Farmer development and support.
  • Integrated and transformed service delivery.

The department did not achieve the objectives of this department – not this year, not last year, not ever. The Auditor General’s report of 2012/13 states that only 67% of the planned targets were achieved.  The A-G further reported that;

  • The Department incurred irregular expenditure to the obscene amount of almost R120 million.
  • Ineffective compliance with supply chain management laws and regulations.
  • Inadequate supervision and monitoring of procurement by the department.
  • Seven forensic investigations in progress.
  • The accounting officer did not take effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure.

The close out report of the department of Agriculture for 2012/13 continues to diagnose the department as terminally ill with the following;

  • Under expenditure for the year of over R50 million rand including bailing out a failed Flemish Government co-funded project to the tune of R18 million.
  • A rollover of equitable share funding of almost R20 million.
  • Conditional grant rollover of R23 million.
  • Infrastructure under spending of almost R9 million.
  • Public entity rollover requests of over R23 million.

Essentially, the KZN Department of Agriculture did not effectively or efficiently spend R245 million of its budget.  This is the same Department that wants to take on and beat Gauteng.

The poor performance by this department is highly contagious if one looks at certain of the entities that have been created to assist in the delivery of the departments’ mandate.  Agribusiness Development Agency’s (ADA) mission is to support the department in creating and enabling an environment aimed at growing the agriculture sector and improving market access for Black commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, through intensifying land productivity and maximising value-added opportunities, land ownership, thus stimulating job creation.

Let’s see just how well ADA succeeded in their mandate:

  • Irregular expenditure over R69 million.
  • Material losses to the value of R1.8 million rand.
  • Other material losses incurred were due to a failed project and the loss could not be quantified.
  • Only 50% of planned targets achieved
  • Comments of non compliance with the PFMA regarding expenditure.
  • Inadequate oversight by the accounting officer
  • Inadequate financial reviews by the CFO while he continued to be paid almost R800 000 for the year, as did the CEO at well over a R1 million rand.

Both the Premier and the MEC of Finance have made is very clear that this type of performance will no longer be tolerated.  This is the perfect department to start the            “no nonsense and accountability programme.”

ADA with an overall budget of over a R127 million rand only managed to:

  • Train 115 farmers
  • Mentor 17 farmers
  • Prepare 24 engineers reports
  • Developed 24 business plans
  • Conduct 8 feasibly studies
  • Plant just over 200 hectares
  • Replant 560 ha

This is a far cry from its mission.  Meanwhile the salary tab for Executive Mangers cost the department almost R7 million in remuneration and perks.

Another failed entity is Mjindi Farming (PTY) Ltd which has a mandate to develop and sustain agricultural potential, supply effective farmer support, maximise agri-business development for the benefit of Makhathini farmers. This entity faces:

  • Failed to spend almost R24 million of its budget on irrigation maintenance.
  • Forensic investigations into the supply chain management, regarding non supply of fertilizers and seeds.
  • Investigations into the lack of spending, lack of capacity and poor coordination and implementation.
  • The failure to capacitate and implement business acumen in the rural farming sector.
  • The AG’s report further raises alarm bells regarding poor and inaccurate financial management, reporting and oversight.

In July 2014 the Premier announced that Makhathini Flats would receive an additional R1.1 billion cash injection to revamp agriculture and improve agriculture in the area. The question that needs to be asked is – what vehicle will drive this? Clearly Mjindi farming has not been able to carry out its mandate effectively.

The Democratic Alliance can and will run the Department of Agriculture in KZN.  It will do so effectively, efficiently with the necessary tangible benefits to all in KZN and not just a small select elite group of supporters as is currently the case.

This is how we will do it;

Improving Land Reform Processes;

  • Increase the budget for land reform.
  • Distinguish between claimants wanting land for commercial production and

those aiming at subsistence agriculture.

  • Reduce the complex processes of beneficiary selection.
  • Ensure that adequate information on land reform is available to beneficiaries
  • Set up a databank of all land available for land reform.

•     Devolve the job of finding and acquiring land to the private sector.

Providing Proper Support;

• Work with the Land Bank and commercial banks to develop more affordable

financing options for new farmers.

• Develop a legislative framework for community banks and other types of

revolving credit schemes.

• Require that 10 percent of a land redistribution grant be devoted to capital

• Require agricultural extension agents serving commercial farmers to sign

contracts with farmers, and base their payment on the performance of the

• Offer rebates on loans to farmers taking part in mentorship schemes.

• Proactively facilitate the development of share equity schemes.

• Ensure that agricultural research bodies are properly funded and left to

manage themselves.

 

Tenure Reform;

 

• Conduct an enquiry into communal land rights in order to tackle long

standing disputes and determine appropriate solutions.

• Introduce legislation for a fair and just communal land rights system.

• Ensure that legal services are available to people facing imminent eviction

• Permit the subdivision of agricultural land whereby existing landowners will

be able to endow their employees with land by mutual agreement.

As the Official Opposition in KZN, the DA is also the most diverse party in this House and represents a broader majority. Our task is quite simple, to hold the ANC to account, play an oversight role, criticise where needed and to offer alternates.