MEC snubs pro­vin­cial stand­ing com­mit­tee

The Star Late Edition - - POLITICS - BALD­WIN NDABA

THE GAUT­ENG De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture could face a bud­get cut for mak­ing pre-pay­ments to com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with it, a prac­tice found to be il­le­gal by the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral.

Yes­ter­day, MEC Le­bo­gang Maile and his se­nior of­fi­cials in the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment snubbed Gaut­eng’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts (Scopa), which wanted an­swers on the pre-pay­ments of more than R43.7 mil­lion paid out to sev­eral com­pa­nies.

In his re­port, the AG found that the pay­ments were an irregular ex­pen­di­ture and wanted Scopa to act on them, but Maile and his team were re­port­edly over­seas.

Scopa chair­per­son Mbon­geni Radebe said he re­ceived an apol­ogy on Mon­day night, while yes­ter­day, dur­ing the sit­ting of the Gaut­eng Pro­vin­cial Leg­is­la­ture, it was re­ported that Maile was in Germany at­tend­ing a climate change con­fer­ence.

Maile was sup­posed to an­swer to al­le­ga­tions that his de­part­ment paid R22m to the Agri­cul­ture Re­search Coun­cil for the con­struc­tion of poul­try struc­tures for 17 farms on March 27 this year.

On the same day, the de­part­ment al­legedly paid more than R7m to the Gaut­eng En­ter­prise Pro­peller for the agro pro­cess­ing hub for the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of mar­ket ac­cess of fruit and vegetable farm­ers to town­ship en­ter­prises in Gaut­eng, as well as the es­tab­lish­ment of a poul­try dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre.

The de­part­ment on March 15 this year al­legedly also paid more than R6m for build­ing ma­te­ri­als while TCT Civil and Con­struc­tion was paid R8.5m on March 14 for the sup­ply, de­liv­ery and in­stal­la­tion of the Isi­gayo milling plant in Rand­fontein.

When asked in a writ­ten ques­tion late last month if he had in­ves­ti­gated the pre-pay­ments, Maile said the mat­ters did not war­rant a probe.

“In prior fi­nan­cial years, the pay­ments were treated as trans­fer pay­ments, but Na­tional Trea­sury guided the de­part­ment in al­lo­cat­ing pay­ments as goods and ser­vices. How­ever, the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral found the ex­pen­di­ture to be irregular dur­ing the 2016/2017 fi­nan­cial year and re­ported them as such,” he said.

“The mat­ter is not fi­nalised and the de­part­ment is in con­sul­ta­tion with the Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial trea­sury on the ac­count­ing method as the de­part­ment op­er­ates on a mod­i­fied cash ba­sis of ac­count­ing and not an ac­crued ba­sis of ac­count­ing,” Maile said.

He also said noth­ing war­ranted an in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the con­duct of of­fi­cials and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Ab­dul­lah Is­mail, who ef­fected the pre-pay­ments.

Maile said that at the time of the pay­ments, the of­fi­cials and CFO were of the view that the pay­ments were done legally.

Radebe said what was more trou­bling was that at the time that the A-G was con­duct­ing his au­dit, “there was no milling plant in Rand­fontein”.

“We are go­ing to write an ad­verse re­port for the at­ten­tion of the leg­is­la­ture for it to take a de­ci­sion on the con­duct of the of­fi­cials in the Agri­cul­ture De­part­ment,” Radebe said.

IN HOT WA­TER: Le­bo­gang Maile

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