Mzansi Agriculture Talk

Agriculture

Minister Didiza responds after EFF calls for her dismissal

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development said she has noted with concern the media statement issued by the EFF regarding the submission of Annual Reports of the former Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and its entities.

This is after the EFF called for the dismissal of Minister Thoko Didiza due to “incompetence and lack of accountability”.

The EFF said it was outraged and deeply concerned by the persistent incompetence demonstrated by Didiza in relation to her statutory and routine responsibilities.

“This relates to the failure to submit annual reports which most serve as basis of accountability to parliament. The Ministry and Department’s mandatory Annual Reporting deadline was initially the 30th September 2020. Yet, to this day, the Minister and her department have not submitted the Annual Performance Report for 2020,” said Vuyani Pambo, National Spokesperson.

The EFF said Parliament agreed to give her an unsolicited extension for submission of the report to the 30th October 2020.

“Upon arrival and long passing of this deadline, the Minister has now requested a further extension to the 3151 January 2021. We consider the Minister’s failure to honour the statutory obligations as a serious matter that her empty promises betray. It is a well-known fact that financial reporting is a monthly fiduciary duty that Minister Didiza most see to it that it happens without fail. The said reporting covers even matters relating conditional grants. Therefore, it is inexcusable that matters pertaining to accountability in respect of the conditional grants or any matter bearing financial implications cannot be resolved until the end of the reporting period.

“The fact that it had to take the Auditor General to pick up the irregularities in respect of the grant in question goes to demonstrate the Minister’s extent of delinquency and incompetence that requires swift action by the President. It also shows the extent of her failure to exercise political oversight as the executive authority over the activities and affairs of the department to such an extent that a routine matter degenerate into a crisis,” said Pambo.

In our view, said Pambo, the Minister has not taken parliament and the public into confidence about what are the concrete reasons for her failure to perform routine duties, let alone strategic responsibilities.

“This is because there are no reasonable or sound excuses. Lockdown and the AG’s report are in adequate reasons and must be dismissed with contempt. We further reject the Minister’s request for an extension and call on her immediate removal from office. Failure of accountability to parliament must constitute dismissal as it is central to any assessment of competence and seriousness.”

DALRRD Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the submissions of the 2019/2020 Annual Reports in the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development were to be reported separately for the erstwhile Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Rural Development and Land Reform and their respective entities.

“The report of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its four entities (Vote 24), namely Agricultural Research Council, National Agricultural Marketing Council, Onderstepoort Biological Products and Perishable Products Export Control Board were submitted within the stipulated timeframes,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo said these were further discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in preparation for Budget Review and Recommendation Report on 20th November 2020.

The Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on Vote 24 was tabled on 27 November 2020. 

“Relating to the Annual Reports of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and its five entities, namely Agricultural Land Holdings Account (ALHA); Ingonyama Trust Board; Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR), Deeds Registration (Deeds) and Office of the Valuer-General, the Minister in compliance with the provisions of Section 65(2)(a) of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 informed the Speaker of the National Assembly of the challenges faced in concluding the reports of the DRDLR within prescribed timelines. The Minister further requested to table the reports on 31st January 2021. This request was granted by the Speaker,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo further said the reports for all the entities except for ALHA have been audited by the Office of the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) and the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will on the 26th January 2021 be briefed by the concluded by the AGSA on their findings.

“Relating to ALHA, there are areas that the AGSA is finalizing and this is impacting on the reporting of the DRDLR as ALHA, CRLR and Deeds are reported on the budget structure of the Department. Once the AGSA has concluded on the audit report, the DRDLR Annual Report will be concluded. Since the AGSA could not pronounce on a date to avail the final audit report, the Minister proactively approached the Speaker to outline the challenges and request for a further postponement.” 

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