DA welcomes audit of PESI vouchers meant for agricultural relief

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza’s announcement that her Department (DALLRD) will clamp down and blacklist individuals selling the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) vouchers for cash.

This, according to Noko Masipa MP, DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, came after the DA called for an audit of the recipients of these vouchers.

Masipa said his party has received numerous complaints from farmers that middlemen that the Department contracted to distribute the vouchers and help farmers source various necessities are selling these goods at inflated prices.

“One store in Limpopo confirmed the farmers’ allegations, but stated that the situation was created due to an arrangement between the Department and these middlemen. In one example, the feed that should cost farmers R100 is being sold by the middleman at a 300% mark-up for R400, even though it is sourced from the same store,” said Masipa.

He continued to say that It has also come to light that these middlemen are asking farmers for a commission of 25%.

“The audit should also extend to include the investigation of these inflated prices and commissions that farmers are forced to pay.

“It is unacceptable that this programme is being exploited, and the Minister must ensure that those fingered in these corruption allegations are disciplined as a matter of urgency. It is no surprise farmers development programmes fail, when malfeasance seems to infect the Department’s every initiative,” said Masipa.

Masipa further said that Didiza must ensure a transparent audit and extend it to officials who might be colluding with these unscrupulous individuals as well as an investigation of inflated prices farmers are forced to pay.

The DA has submitted written parliamentary questions to the Minister regarding:

  • The details of contracted agents (middlemen) for the R1.2 billion intervention package;
  • Whether she is aware of inflated prices and that middlemen are charging 25% commission on the vouchers;
  • If she knows what she is doing about it, and if not; When is she going to institute an audit into these middlemen?

In conclusions Masipa said the Department can only blame its own incompetence and corrupt relationships with middlemen for the failures in both land reform and its commercialization programme for black farmers.

“The DA will never stop fighting for the appointment of fit for purpose and capable individuals in the Department to provide support to the development of farmers,” assured Masipa.

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