Gupta family controls Free State Department of Agriculture

Die Vryburger

Gupta family controls Free State Department of Agriculture
Mr. Wouter Wessels - Image - Die Vryburger

The Free State Department of Agriculture is aware of financial irregularities. The failure of the department to table its 2015/16 annual report shows that the allegation regarding the funding of the Gupta wedding through the Vrede Dairy Project is entirely possible, said Wouter Wessels, FF Plus MP in the Free State Legislature and member of the Legislature’s Public Accounts and Finance Committee.

“As a result of mismanagement, lack of record keeping and proper financial controls, the department cannot say with certainty what was bought from public funds. Farms and implements may in all likelihood belong to the Guptas or be sold by them without knowing it,” said Wessels.

The department appeared with the Auditor-General (AG) before the committee. The department was crucified for its failure to submit its annual report for the 2015/16 financial year, which had to be tabled in 2016. The report is still not presented by the department because it has declared a dispute with the AG and refuses to abandon the dispute. However, the AG has published the report as stipulated by the AG Act.

The FF Plus insists that the department should abandon the dispute, table its annual report and fully reveal and account for all details of overpayments to operation agents.

The core of the dispute deals with the overpayment of public funds to implementation agents, such as Estina (Pty) Ltd, a company with Gupta ties without requiring or enforcing the necessary accountability. Expenses related to development projects, such as the Vrede Dairy Project, are classified by the department as “transfers, ” and thus assets and property are not shown by the agents purchased in respect of the projects concerned in the financial statements.

“The department refuses to abandon the dispute and submit the report because they refuse to see that public funds can not just be given away. This is exactly how the Vrede Dairy Project paid for a Gupta wedding and is probably not the only one of its kind,” said Wessels

According to Wessels, the findings of the AG are “shocking and extremely worrying to say the least.”

Also, approximately R661 million was incurred in irregular expenditure during the 2015/16 financial year, and the department’s audit opinion deteriorated from 2014/15’s unqualified opinion to an adverse (negative) audit opinion in the 2015/16 financial year. This means that the principal has found that the Department of Agriculture’s financial information has been misrepresented and is an inaccurate reflection of reality.

“The ANC government should be ashamed of the unfair and blatant way in which its own cadres have taken their corruption claws into one of the most important sectors of the country.”

“The Free State Department of Agriculture suffers from gross mismanagement and human rights abuses while it is supposed to promote and support agriculture in the province. These crimes can not be tolerated any longer,” said Wessels.

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