The auditor-general’s audit of the Department of Land Affairs has found massive discrepancies between what its financials said it spent on buying farms for land reform and details in its land asset register.
The audit, tabled in parliament on 30 September, found an unexplained difference of R824 million between amounts disclosed in its statements and the Proactive Land Acquisition Programme (PLAS) register. These form part of assets totalling R1,15 billion, for which the auditor- general could not find adequate records or sufficient audit evidence.
Land affairs spokesperson Eddie Mohoebi denied this implied officials had embezzled hundreds of millions of rands destined for land reform. “That would be a misreading of what the auditor general is saying,” he said, adding that the department would issue a detailed statement to account for the discrepancies. It had not done so by the time Farmer’s Weekly went to press.
PLAS was designed to speed up land reform by allowing provincial land affairs offices to buy large numbers of properties and lease them to newly settled black farmers. Its budget allocations were scaled back after if fell out of favour with Treasury officials last year, when provincial officials bought land without first identifying future farmers, in effect creating state farms. The report also found insufficient audit evidence for grant commitments of R455 million, interest earnings of R13 million, and livestock assets of R14,5 million.
The audit was tabled in parliament on the same day as the Land Bank’s annual report, which found a breakdown of internal controls, poor lending practices, wasteful expenditure, irregular appointments, fraud, negligence and gross misconduct had led to massive losses. TAU called on President Kgalema Motlanthe to sack land and agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana for these governance failures under her watch, and separate the land and agriculture ministries. “TAU is concerned that the minister is so involved with her political aspirations and agendas, that she, as minister of agriculture, is not taking the necessary precautions to protect food security,” TAU SA’s president Ben Marais said.
He wanted Xingwana to accept political responsibility for a qualified audit at land affairs. “With such large amounts of money, it is unacceptable that only officials are being brought to book,” he said. “The present time offers President Motlanthe [the chance] to indicate he is serious about clean administration and national affairs. In that light Minister Xingwana should be recalled.”
Marais also added that Motlanthe must separate the land and agriculture departments into two ministries, and appoint suitably qualified ministers to run them. – Stephan Hofstätter