South Africa: Ingonyama Trust Admits 'Constant, Perennial Irregular Expenditure'

If it is found that 26 years into democracy - that the Ingonyama Trust is a failure, it should be scrapped, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Zwelivelile Mandela said after the trust's board admitted that there was "constant, perennial irregular expenditure".

The committee met with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on Thursday, as well as its minister, Thoko Didiza, and the Ingonyama Trust Board.

The trust was reporting on the third and fourth quarters of the 2019/'20 financial year.

In both quarters, it failed to reach its targets.

In quarter three, the trust only spent R4.7 million out of the R34.8m allocated for the period, or 13.53% of the budget. In the next quarter, the trust spent an even smaller percentage of its allocated budget - 5.68% or R4.3m of the allocated R77.3m.

Dissatisfaction

The trust was instituted just before the first democratic elections in 1994. It is the biggest landowner in KwaZulu-Natal and King Goodwill Zwelithini is its only trustee.

MPs across the political spectrum expressed their dissatisfaction with the trust's performance.

At the committee's meeting last week, it adopted a report recommending that the department withholds funds allocated to the trust for the 2020/21 financial year after it failed to account for R22m which the department allocated to it.

Furthermore, the trust's board has several vacancies and its chief executive officer and chief financial officer, as well as six top officials, are on "special leave", pending an investigation.

At the start of the meeting, Didiza said she met with the board the previous day to discuss those concerns. The board indicated that an investigation was ongoing and the report was close to completion. She said they would meet again before the end of the month.

The trust's acting CEO, Bheki Gabela, said the main thrust of the Auditor-General's improvement plan for the trust related to irregular expenditure.

"In this regard, many loopholes have been identified," he said.

"As a result, the board has commissioned a forensic investigation and the executive management has been placed on special leave."

Ingonyama Trust board chairperson Judge Jerome Ngwenya said: "There has been constant, perennial irregular expenditure and no accountability, no information."

Administration

He said the trust's activities have been "undermined internally" and they have therefore appointed an independent body to investigate.

Mandela said the committee would allow Didiza the time and space to engage with the trust for the rest of June, but it could recommend that it be put under administration.

He said 26 years into democracy, "we should be able to evaluate whether the Ingonyama Trust is a success or failure."

If it is found to be a success, it should be emulated by other kings, he added.

"But if we come to the finding it is a failure, we as a committee believe we should be able to scrap this."

The committee was also dissatisfied with the department's report as it too failed to meet its targets in the third and fourth quarter.

Source: News24

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