Free State submits Vrede plan to Mkhwebane

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Office of the Premier of the Free State says it has submitted an implementation plan to the Office of the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, regarding a report on Estina dairy farm project near Vrede.

The dairy farm matter is at the centre of the R220 million allegedly paid to the controversial Gupta family and companies linked to their businesses, which was intended for black farmers.

Last month, the Public Protector released a report titled ‘Allegations of maladministration against the Free State Department of Agriculture – Vrede Integrated Dairy Project’, which highlighted irregularities, gross misconduct and maladministration by the Free State Agriculture Department in its handling of the project.

In the report, Mkhwebane said that the department could not provide documents, policies or measures to demonstrate that proper financial control and risk management of the project had been in place.

The report highlighted the following procurement irregularities:

  • The HoD of the department did not follow the normal procurement process, as prescribed by the Constitution, Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and National Treasury Regulations;
  • Payments to Estina were not in line with Treasury prescripts;
  • The agreement between the Free State's provincial Department of Agriculture and Estina, the Gupta-linked company that executed the project, seemed to have been invalid;
  • The HoD did not follow normal procurement processes, as prescribed by the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and National Treasury procurement regulations.

Mkhwebane directed the Premier of the province to initiate and institute disciplinary proceedings against all implicated officials that were involved in the project.

The Public Protector further directed the Premier to submit an implementation plan of the remedial action to her office within 30 days of the issuing of the report.

The deadline for the submission of the report was on Monday.

Premier’s spokesperson Tiisetso Makhele reported on Tuesday that the Office of the Premier submitted an implementation plan to the Office of the Public Protector regarding the Vrede dairy report.

“The implementation plan also relates to steps that would be taken to initiate disciplinary action (s) against implicated individuals,” Makhele said.

Makhele said the Free State Provincial Government will continue to cooperate with all law enforcement agencies regarding the Vrede dairy and any other investigation.

“It is in the interest of the Free State Provincial Government that this matter is brought to its finality,” Makhele said. – SAnews.gov.za

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