A letter calling for the investigation into whether and how more than R6 billion of disaster drought funding was spent, has this morning landed on the desk of the auditor-general.
DA shadow minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Annette Steyn, calls on Kimi Makwetu’s office to undertake an urgent audit on the matter.
In the letter posted on Steyn’s social media accounts she asks: “What amounts were allocated towards drought disasters since 2018 and were any of the associated plans implemented?”
In 2018, former finance minister Malusi Gigaba announced during his budget speech that a provisional allocation of R6 billion had been set aside in the 2018-2019 financial year for drought relief and several other purposes.
Steyn is also baffled by an announcement made by the head of the national disaster management centre, Dr Mmaphaka Tau, last week. Mmaphaka shook the agricultural sector when he revoked the classification of drought as a national disaster.
“An urgent audit will enable parliament to understand the extent of any need to amend legislation in order to strengthen oversight over disaster funding allocations.” – Annette Steyn
She says, “As far as the government is concerned, the drought is over, and farmers should expect no further government help. The question, however, is what research was used and who did the department consult in order to come to this conclusion.”
The initial reclassification of the ongoing drought as a national disaster was done by the head of the national disaster management centre on 13 February 2018.
Steyn also points out that Dr Zweli Mkhize, the former minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, promised multiple measures to address underlying factors after the drought was announced as a national disaster in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape provinces.
‘Urgent drought audit is essential’
Among others, what should have been addressed were weak intergovernmental relations arrangements in development planning and implementation, ageing infrastructure, lack of operations and maintenance of infrastructure, and capacity constraints particularly with regard to technical expertise.
As a result, Mkhize announced a number of actions to be taken, including:
- intervention measures to address drought;
- all sectors would mobilise their resources and implement drought programmes;
- the development of an integrated water conservation model;
- the country would work hard to enhance weather forecasting capacity to ensure early impact-based warning services are heightened;
- an expert research team would be constituted to carry out on-going research and provide evidence-based interventions;
- national and provincial government would work with municipalities to effectively respond to the water crisis;
- the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs would strengthen its back-to-basics programme to support municipalities to improve water management;
- a continual activation of climate change adaption strategies by sectors and plans to support municipalities;
- government would continue with the implementation of water leak programmes; and
- the inter-ministerial task team on drought and water scarcity would continue considering reports received by the national joint drought coordination committee
Concluding her letter to the director-general, Steyn says that while the DA may be asking a considerable commitment from the auditor-general’s office, she believes an urgent audit is essential. Steyn believes this will, “enable parliament to understand the extent of any need to amend legislation in order to strengthen oversight over disaster funding allocations.”