Premier must fire Agri MEC for losing R52 million in disaster funds

By Ismail Obaray, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture:

The DA is furious that the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture’s failure to spend disaster relief funds in the midst of an ongoing drought in the province, has caused the department to lose millions of rands which could have been used to lessen the plight of countless farmers who are currently struggling against waterless conditions.

Provincial Treasury’s introduction and presentation on the adjustment allocations this week have highlighted the fact that no additional funds have been allocated to the provincial agriculture department for the remainder of 2015/2016. Instead, a significant portion of their funds have been suspended from the department as a direct result of delays in supply chain management processes, particularly the awarding of contracts for disaster relief.

Given the drought conditions in the Northern Cape and the rest of the country, this is both shocking and unforgiveable.

The adjustment appropriation bill is intended to facilitate changes to the budget to provide for, amongst other things, emergencies. The fact that the Agriculture Department has not only failed to secure additional disaster funding for the drought but, according to Acting MEC of Finance, Mac Jack, has also lost an amount of R64 million that could have gone towards disaster relief, is testament to the poor management of the provincial agriculture department.

During the department’s first quarter performance presentation to the legislature in August this year, the DA raised our concerns that the department had not spent a cent of the R131,862 million intended for Disaster Risk Management. The department shrugged off our concerns, indicating that the matter was under control. Clearly this was not the case.

The DA is of the firm view that the Agriculture Department needs to be held accountable for its failure to spend allocated funds and in turn its failure to promote and facilitate food security for all.

The DA has written a letter to Premier Sylvia Lucas, requesting her to call MEC Norman Shushu and his management team to report truthfully on the department’s poor performance and then to take the necessary disciplinary action against them. The DA believes that MEC Shushu must be fired.

The failure by the Northern Cape Agriculture Department to effectively mitigate drought conditions in the province is a national issue, as it affects the food security of the entire country, and must be dealt with in all earnestness as a matter of urgency.