AGRICULTURE OFFICIALS SENT PACKING: DAILY DISPATCH

RURAL development officials – including the province’s head of department – were sent packing with a flea in the ear by the Bhisho Legislature oversight committee when the department failed to produce political and financial overviews in its annual report presentation.

The committee expected to get answers about the Auditor-general’s (AG) findings on the department’s finances, including unauthorised and irregular expenditure of R58-million and its failure to spend R54m of its budget for farmer support and development and agricultural training.

The department received a qualified report for the previous financial year ending March 2011. This means the AG found instances where the department did not comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

However, the rest of its financial statements were fairly presented and accurate.

Agriculture superintendentgeneral Glen Thomas and his senior managers bore the brunt of the committee’s annoyance at the absence of MEC Zoleka Capa and the department’s chief financial officer (CFO) Lumka Sibanyoni.

The fact that Thomas, a former national director-general for agriculture, also did not have a written departmental overview only fuelled the committee’s anger.

Livid committee members ordered the department out of the meeting, which was held at the legislature on Tuesday.

Department spokesman Ayabulela Ngoqo had not responded to questions about the incident at the time of going to print.

One committee member said the department should come back better prepared.

UDM committee member Jackson Bici said the meeting could not have continued without the crucial political and financial overviews.

Capa, who was off sick, had sent an apology to the committee, while Thomas was at pains to explain he did not know Sibanyoni’s whereabouts.

“It was the view of the committee that Capa should have sent us something in writing, even if it was to be read by someone else, about the department. We needed an overview,” said Bici.

“Agriculture is important because it brings food to the people, but he (Thomas) just seemed to get everything from his head and had nothing we could hold him to account on. We felt they weren’t prepared for the session so we asked them to go back.”

The DA’S Veliswa Mvenya, who initially raised concerns about the department’s preparedness at the meeting, said she was not happy with how the HOD “thumbsucked” his overview.

“It clearly showed he had not prepared; besides we could not do oversight work without a political overview,” Mvenya said.

MPLS were yesterday unable to comment on the contents of the report, including the AG’S findings, saying they first needed to hear explanations from the department.

The AG’S report said unauthorised expenditure of R16.7m was a result of overspending in administration.

The R40.9m irregular expenditure related to expenditure incurred in contravention of laws and regulations for supply chain management and compensation of employees. — sabelos@dispatch.