The minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, has slammed claims by the EFF that relates to the submission of annual reports to Parliament.
This follows a statement earlier this week by the EFF’s national spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo, claiming that Didiza had missed an initial deadline to submit her department’s mandatory annual reports by 30 September 2020. The party alleged that the minister and her department’s performance reports are still outstanding.
Pambo said Parliament agreed to give Didiza an extension until 30 October 2020 with the minister now requesting a further extension to 31 January 2021.
However, Didiza said that the former department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and its four entities did submit their reports within the stipulated time frames.
The entities the minister referred to include the Agricultural Research Council, National Agricultural Marketing Council, Onderstepoort Biological Products and the Perishable Products Exports Control Board.
“These were further discussed by the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development in preparation for the budget review and recommendation report on 20 November 2020,” said Didiza. “The (report) on vote 24 was tabled on 27 November 2020.”
‘Didiza should be dismissed’
The EFF said they are outraged and concerned by what it described as “the persistent incompetence demonstrated by Didiza”.
The party believes she should be dismissed from her portfolio by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“We consider the minister’s failure to honour the statutory obligations as a serious matter that her empty promises betray,” said Pambo. “It is a well-known fact that financial reporting is a monthly fiduciary duty that minister Didiza must see that it happens without fail.”
“The reports for all the entities, except ALHA, have been audited by the office of the auditor-general.” – Thoko Didiza
According to Pambo the reports in question relate to 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 Didiza’s extent of delinquency and incompetence.”
Didiza has rubbished these claims, further stipulating that in relation to reports of the Agricultural Land Holdings Account (ALHA), Ingonyama Trust board, the commission on restitution of land rights and deeds registration and the office of the valuer-general, she also acted within the law.
In compliance with the provisions of section 65 of the public finance management act of 1999, Didiza said she informed the speaker of the National Assembly about the challenges faced in concluding these reports within the prescribed timelines.
She then requested that these reports be tabled on 31 January 2021. The speaker granted her request, confirmed the minister. “The reports for all the entities except for ALHA have been audited by the office of the auditor-general,” said Didiza.
Awaiting final auditor-general report
The portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development will be briefed by the auditor-general’s office. However, since the auditor-general could not confirm a final date for the release of its audit report, “the minister proactively approached the speaker to outline the challenges and requested a further postponement.”
The EFF furthermore rejected the minister’s request for a deadline extension. “Failure of accountability to Parliament must constitute dismissal as it is central to any assessment of competence and seriousness.”