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Investigation into Agriculture Department ‘tender fraud’ welcomed

4 Mar 2019

The Mercury

BALDWIN NDABA

THE National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has applauded the Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) decision to conduct a probe into Minister Senzeni Zokwana’s department following allegations of tender fraud valued at billions of rand.

On Friday the PSC informed Zokwana that a team of investigators would descend on his department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) today to formally begin their investigations due to complaints of the irregular awarding of fishing licence allocations.

PSC director-general Dovhani Mamphiswana said the investigators would probe fishing licence tenders that were irregularly awarded in the industry, especially for abalone.

Mamphiswana said the fishing industry was one of the cash-generating industries of the economy of the country.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2019 State of the Nation Address also placed emphasis on the role of agriculture in our economy and the stimulus package in agriculture.

“South Africa therefore needs a DAFF that is fully functional and can support the vision of the president,” Mamphiswana said. He said the team would be led by commissioner Selina Nkosi and include highly experienced investigations team members Matome Malatsi, the PSC’s deputy director-general: Integrity and Anti-Corruption; Rashika Bosch, Director: Complaints, Investigative Research and Advisory Services; Vuyo Skweyiya, Director: Forensic Investigations; advocate Shukrat Makinde, Director: Litigation and Legal Services; and Fanie Hartzenberg, Deputy Director: Public Administration Investigations. The team was due to begin their investigations today.

He said the PSC through its chairperson Richard Sizani informed Zokwana about the probe on Friday.

Mamphiswana said their investigations followed several complaints involving DAFF, including the feud involving the department’s director-general Mike Mlengana and his deputy Siphokazi Ndudane.

He said the investigations team would assess the capacity of the DAFF to deliver on its annual performance plan for the 2018/19 financial year, the strategic plan and the medium term expenditure framework.

“To assess the management of the career incidents of the members of the senior management service as well as the efficient, economic and effective use of resources, emanating from complaints in relation to irregular expenditure,” Mamphiswana said.

He said the team would also determine the extent of irregular expenditure incurred by the department over the past three years. It is believed that amounts could run into billions of rand.

Mamphiswana also said the team would look at DAFF cases that were reported to the law enforcement agencies and other independent bodies for investigation and the status of such investigations. In September last year, Nehawu lodged complaints against Zokwana with public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. The union also lodged complaints with the auditor-general and the Hawks, alleging that Zokwana received a R300 000 bribe to unduly interfere in fishing licence allocations.

Zokwana’s spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyane said the minister welcomed the PSC investigation.

“The attitude of the minister has been to give his full co-operation to any investigations by any arm of government including the Public Service Commission,” Nkwanyane said.

He said Zokwana particularly welcomed the PSC’s decision to probe the breakdown in the relationship between Mlengana and Ndudane, especially the costly court battles between them using government funds.

In the past, the minister has been leading from the front to resolve the long-standing matter.