Agriculture

PESI Vouchers: DALRRD promises to blacklist wrongdoers

It appears the controversy that marred the first phase of Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) vouchers is repeating itself with the second phase.

Already recipients of these vouchers are complaining that suppliers are charging them 35% when they redeem the vouchers, leaving them with a lot less inputs than they were approved for.

Some are selling the vouchers for cash, which explains that people who are not into farming were approved. This, they say, points to discrepancies in the vetting process.

PESI was first announced on 10 December 2020 with pomp and fanfare, aimed at subsistence farmers including households farming in back yards and food gardens in communal areas.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) is has once again come out to warn those misusing the vouchers.

“The Department has noted with concern, reports of allegations regarding the misuse of vouchers which were issued to support subsistence producers, as part of government interventions to address challenges affecting farmers resulting from the COVID – 19 Pandemic.

“The PESI programme was initiated to address the high rate of unemployment whilst also seeking to sustain self- employment for subsistence producers,” said the department in a statement.

The Department says it has received reports of the misuse of these vouchers which include the sale and exchange of these vouchers for cash which defeats the initial purpose for these vouchers; which is the purchase of production inputs

“There are suppliers who continue to charge additional costs towards the redemption of these vouchers. Suppliers further arrange with input retailers to charge subsistence producers up to 50% additional costs for rendering no service at all as these vouchers are redeemed directly from the retail shops.

“All suppliers provided prices when they entered into contractual agreements with DALRRD and those are the prices that should be charged,” said spokesman Reggie Ngcobo.

Subsistence producers exchange information on social media to sell vouchers to their friends, neighbours and even to suppliers.

The Department says it condemns these activities and officials are working on a process to deal decisively with these fraudulent acts.

“Suppliers are warned not to charge extra % costs on the vouchers as this will lead to their blacklisting and they could also be charged without further engagements or deliberations.

“Subsistence producers (farmers) who are caught selling or using the vouchers for purposes other than those for which they are intended, will be barred from receiving any other government support.”

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