AG report shows that Department of Agriculture is failing all farmers

FF Plus

AG report shows that Department of Agriculture is failing all farmers
AG report shows that Department of Agriculture is failing all farmers

After conducting an audit of the Covid-19 relief funds allocated to small-scale farmers, the Auditor-General (AG), Kimi Makwetu, found that the record-keeping with regard to beneficiaries was inadequate.

He expressed concern about the inadequate and unfair process that was followed with the identification of suppliers that issued vouchers to these farmers as well as about beneficiaries who were most probably not even eligible to receive vouchers.

The list of beneficiaries was not accurately administrated and the inadequate record-keeping created leeway for corruption. These findings warrant further investigation and the officials responsible for the irregularities must be held accountable.

It is unacceptable that people who probably did not even qualify for aid benefited from the relief funds, especially in light of the fact that commercial farmers were completely excluded from any form of government aid.

The Department excluded commercial farmers while Covid-19 and the lockdown posed an enormous threat to food production. Only emerging farmers benefited, while the Department referred commercial farmers to Landbank.

Although wool, wine and tobacco are some of South Africa’s main exports, the commercial farmers who are responsible for producing these products, were not considered for receiving government aid.

The FF Plus would have liked to see these farmers receiving support from the very same government that basically brought production to a standstill. But in the meantime, these farmers were also turned away and told to approach Landbank.

In addition, Landbank has already been downgraded twice this year and had to be saved from financial ruin by means of a lifeline amounting to R3 billion. It resulted in higher interest rates and consequently, consumers have to pay higher prices for agricultural products.

The FF Plus welcomes the AG’s findings, but expects decisive action to be taken against officials guilty of irregularities. The Department should look to itself and stop hiding behind Landbank as the only alternative.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Tammy Breedt on FF Plus

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