FS Department of Agriculture attempts to dodge accountability in Gupta linked Vrede Dairy Project
14 September 2017
In a bizarre twist in the Vrede Dairy saga, the Free State Department of Agriculture is attempting to dodge accountability for the Gupta linked project.
A dispute has been declared between the Department and the Auditor General (AG) over funds transferred to implementing agents in the Free State. This has also led to a regression in the AG’s 2015-16 financial year report from “unqualified with findings” to “adverse”.
The Department is claiming that funds transferred to implementing agents are not subject to normal auditing by the AG. Implementing agents do the work of the Department in various projects that are meant to benefit beneficiaries on the ground. With the Vrede Dairy, over R184 million was transferred to the Gupta linked company, Estina, which was both a partner and the implementing agent in this project.
Leaked e-mails have exposed the possibility that R30 million of this money was abused to pay for the Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013. To date the 80 beneficiaries who jointly own 51% of this project have been totally side-lined.
It is clear that the dispute with the AG is an attempt to avoid responsibility for public funds that were transferred to Estina. Should the principle that money transferred to agents that do government work is no longer regarded as public funds succeed, then the Department could claim that they are not accountable for how the R184 million paid to Estina was spent.
Estina has conveniently withdrawn from the project and individuals involved have returned to India.
This further confirms that the project was set up to milk taxpayers, and now the Department is attempting to avoid accountability for this.
The DA supports the AG in this regard and will continue to drive this issue in the Free State Legislature to ensure that those responsible for this abuse of public funds are held accountable.
The Public Accounts Committee in the Legislature has to implement this institution’s constitutional mandate to enforce oversight over, and accountability of, the Executive in the Free State province. This includes officials and politicians who are part of, or cover up, the abuse of taxpayer’s money and corruption.
Issued by Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition, 14 September 2017