The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Rural development dept takes back 158 farms due to fraud, graft

The Citizen 25/01/2019

One of the officials involved is serving 10 years in prison for fraud and corruption, while eight were dismissed and a number of cases are pending.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform today said after damning findings of dodgy land deals by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) it had taken back 158 farms and some of the implicated staff had either resigned, retired or had been sanctioned.

Reacting to media reports that little has been done by way of corrective action since the report was handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa in March 2018, the department said it had moved to nullify bad deals and had acted against staff under its jurisdiction.

In a statement, the department said: “In relation to the farms forfeited through the fraud and corruption activities, 58 farms worth R150 million have been returned to the state and a further 37 are under curatorship awaiting investigations to be concluded. Upon conclusion of this process, the 37 farms will be returned to the state as well.”

At the time the SIU report was handed over to Ramaphosa, referrals were made to the department with recommendations on action to be taken against officials who were alleged to have committed misconduct, fraud and corruption.

The department said disciplinary processes were at various stages with most of them concluded and sanctions made against the officials.

“Eight officials were dismissed, five officials could not be disciplined because the department did not have jurisdiction over them; two officials retired and one resigned, five were awarded sanctions of final written warnings,” said the statement, adding “one was medically unfit to go through the process and six cases are still pending. One official is serving 10 years in prison for fraud and corruption”.

The department also revealed that the programme under which this fraud and corruption took place was discontinued in 2010 and a new policy framework has since been introduced.

“The department is continuously assessing, monitoring, evaluating and strengthening its internal controls including improvement of policies to ensure that the land reform processes become more efficient and effective,” said the statement issued by spokesperson, Phuti Mabelebele.

“The department would like to reiterate and assure the public that it is fairly equipped to legally and fairly deal with all land reform processes now and in the future.”

Mabelebele said the department reserves the right to comment further on other matters which are still sub judice.

– Africa News Agency (ANA