How was the R2.5 billion drought relief fund spent? DA calls for further investigation

The Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa has turned down the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) request for an investigation into how the R2.5 billion allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in 2016/17 for drought relief was spent.

While the AG wrote back to indicate that his office is currently inundated with investigating various cases of Covid-19 corruption and does not currently have capacity to investigate this matter, the DA will request that the matter be investigated as soon as there is capacity. And that the scope is broadened to include the additional R4.5 billion that was provided to other departments for drought relief during that same financial year.

As the AG is currently inundated with investigating the ANC’s Covid corruption, the DA will ask that Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) institutes an investigation into the drought relief funds.

We will also be submitting parliamentary questions to the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, regarding the amount National Treasury has spent on drought relief measures since the 2016/2017 financial year. As well as follow-up questions to the DALRRD, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation on how they spent their allocated funds.

South Africa has suffered an ongoing drought for the past few years, with many farmers struggling to remain standing. There is legion anecdotal evidence of farmers never receiving promised and essential drought relief funds. Nor have municipalities that relied on promised drought relief funds ensured that their residents have enough water to weather the disaster.

It is clear that the government does not really care about farmers. They claim to care about food security, but the people providing the food is of little consequence to them. It went so far that the Disaster Management Centre revoked the classification for drought as a national disaster on 16 July 2020, even though many parts of the country still have not received enough rain.

Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa once again promised that corruption would be scrutinized and investigated and that the guilty parties would be prosecuted. We implore the President that such measures should not only be for those who looted Covid-19 funds. The same vigour in pursuing justice should be applied to those who looted drought relief funds, and all corruption rife in South Africa.

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