We have capacity problems – GDARD

The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) has admitted to having ‘capacity problems’ regarding managing conditional grants and a lack of knowledge when it came to procurement processes.

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As a result developing farmers – and conservation programmes – were not receiving the financial support they needed. This followed the second successive year that the department failed to utilise its conditional grants budget, especially finance from the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme. According to GDARD spokesperson Tsepiso Shuenyane, the department had since sent managers for training and would be appointing someone to manage conditional grants.

In its annual report, the GDARD recently revealed that it failed to spend more than R15 million on conditional grants for its Agricultural Support Programme – exceeding the underspend last year by R2 million. This programme focused on the development of subsistence, developing and commercial farmers in Gauteng. Nokuthula Sikhakhane, chairperson of the Gauteng Agriculture and Rural Development Portfolio Committee said that for the past three years the department had had the same problem.

“How can the department employ people who don’t know what they are doing?” asked Sikhakhane. “Some employees are incompetent and don’t show commitment to their work,” she said. Sikhakhane said the conditional grants were there to help farmers. She said it was a problem when farmers were not supported – not because there was no money, but because people could not do their jobs. “People need to be fired,” she said.

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Conservation programme
Another crucial area affected by the massive underspend was the department’s conservation programme, with nearly R8 million not spent in the past two financial years. The responsible managers received warning letters. Shuenyane said besides training, the GDARD would also ensure that plans for the next financial year were approved well in advance.  “Tenders will be advertised before the end of this financial year,” said Shuenyane.