The North West agriculture department has fired 13 of its senior officials for maladministration, mismanagement and contravention of government financial policies.
The shortcomings of the officials were unearthed by a forensic investigation undertaken by private auditors Ramaithe Fivaz in the provincial department’s Directorate for Entrepreneurial Development (DED). DED is a special parastatal structure set up in April 2003 by the government to promote agribusiness development.
A ddressing the media at the release of a 300-page report into the investigation, agriculture MEC Mandlenkosi Mayisela said the probe confirmed these officials did not comply with the processes and procedures of project management. He did not disclose the names of those fired and those facing disciplinary action. Mayisela said his department is currently seeking legal advice about recovering losses suffered as a result of the negligence of certain senior managers.
The auditors investigated 93 agricultural projects under DED and found irregularities in 50. Lesego Mncwango, the provincial agricultural spokesperson, said the department could not disclose how much money could have been lost through mismanagement since there is an ongoing accounting investigation. She said the loss incurred is not more than 20% of the total amount allocated to the DED, as no corruption was involved.
One project found to be in bad shape is the 64-member Bonolo Farm near Rustenburg, which received R10 million from the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs and Bank. Mayisela said this project created the perception of corruption in the department, which resulted in the launch of an extensive investigation. Since August 2005, six directors in the department have been suspended on allegations of corruption, fraud and maladministration. Four other top officials were arrested last year on corruption charges relating to issuing of tenders and claims. It is uncertain whether these officials are part of the group of 13 who have been fired. gri North West CEO Boeta du Toit said his organisation is confident that Mayisela and his new team will bring the department back to its feet. – Fidelis Zvomuya