Land reform ministry returns N$109m to Treasury

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Land reform ministry returns N$109m to Treasury
Land reform ministry returns N$109m to Treasury

Africa-Press – Namibia. The department of agriculture and land reform within the agriculture ministry returned N$109 million to the Treasury in 2023, funds that could have been used to finance other pressing national needs.

The information is contained in the report of auditor general (AG), Junias Kandjeke, into the financial statements of the department, covering the 2022-2023 financial year (FY).

The report was submitted to the National Assembly for scrutiny earlier this week.

“It was noted that the total budget for the department of agriculture and land reform was underspent with an amount of N$109.2 million (7.88%). This money could have been utilised for other projects in the country,” Kandjeke says in the report.

He recommended to executive director Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata that she put measures in place to avoid under-expenditure and ensure all planned programmes are implemented.

In her response, Nghituwamata indicated that the department took note of the recommendation and “will ensure that measures are in place to avoid under-expenditure and that all planning programmes are implemented timely. Such measures include capacitating the structure of the procurement unit to support the size of the ministry”.

This week, the ministry’s spokesperson, Jona Musheko, could not immediately explain why they returned monies to the Treasury in the face of a myriad of challenges confronting Namibians, including those desperately in need of land.

Over the weekend, farmers invaded Farm Witsand in the Omaheke region, citing destitution and neglect.

Farm Witsand is located about 130 kilometres west of Gobabis.

It is one of the government-procured farms, earmarked for Namibians who are being repatriated from Botswana.

Prior to the invasion, the farm had been unoccupied for about four years.

During the 2021-2022 FY, the department underspent its budget by N$98 million. This means that over two consecutive FYs, the department returned N$207 million.

Furthermore, unauthorised expenditure was also observed at the department during the period under review.

“Although Treasury approval was obtained to utilise certain expected savings for the defrayal of expenditure through virements during the year, two subdivisions were exceeded with a total amount of N$160 361.73, which is unauthorised in terms of Section 6 (a) (iii) of the Act.

“It is recommended that the accounting officer should closely monitor and review the financial position of the department on a continuous basis to enable better financial control, and take appropriate action timeously to prevent unauthorised expenditure,” Kandjeke advised.

In her response to the auditors, Nghituwamata took note of the recommendation.

She vowed to ensure “close monitoring and review of the financial position of the department to prevent unauthorised expenditure”.

Explanations

Furthermore, the minister’s office budget was underspent by N$951 407 or 14.5%.

“The contributing factor was that the foreign trips for the minister and deputy minister depended on invitations from their counterparts, as well as subsequent authorisations from the head of State and, therefore, it was very difficult to plan for.

During the year under review, fewer trips were undertaken as anticipated, hence the underspending on this main division.

Another contributing factor was due to funds budgeted for remuneration, transport and other conditions of service that were not utilised in full during the financial year under review, thus resulting in an under-expenditure,” the ministry explained.

In the administration division, N$16.7 million was underspent.

“The contributing factor for underspending on this main division was due to the vacant positions that were not filled during the year under review. Another contributing factor was due to construction, renovation and improvement of offices and official houses that could not be completed on time because of nonresponsive bidders, thus the underspending on this main division,” the executive director explained.

The veterinary services vote was underspent by N$12.4 million or 3.7% due to the vacant positions that were not filled during the financial year under review and the delay in procurement processes.

Meanwhile, the research, development and training vote was underutilised by N$10.7 million, again due to vacant positions that were not filled.

More so, the agriculture production and extension services vote was underspent by N$5.8 million, the report further shows.

The underspending was due to a few staff members who went on retirement, as well as the purchase orders that were printed, but suppliers could not deliver on time during the financial year under review.

The other contributing factor was due to tenders for diesel, which were not awarded on time, and the supplier could not deliver timeously until the end of the financial year under review.

What is more, the ministry spent N$6.2 million on planning, pricing, marketing and coordination due to unfilled vacancies.

Another contributing factor is the late submission of invoices from AgriBank.

On information technology, N$7.5 million or 30% was not used due to the procurement of server and IT equipment that could not be bought due to bid documents that were delayed.

The resettlement and regional programme implementation were underspent by N$4.4 million.

“The contributing factor for underspending on this main division was due to the vacant positions that were not filled during the financial year under review, and other purchase orders that have been cancelled at the end of the financial year under review. Another contributing factor was due to activities under the development budget that were not undertaken,” she said.

On land reform, N$29.9 million was returned to the Treasury. This is 24.5% of the budget.

“The contributing factor for underspending on this main division was due to the vacant positions that were not filled during the financial year under review and other purchase orders that have been cancelled at the end of the financial year under review. Another contributing factor was due to activities under the development budget that were not undertaken, thus resulting in underspending under this main division,” she said.

The report was compiled last month.

In it, Kandjeke gave the department a qualified audit opinion.

“The department of agriculture and land reform in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform as at 31 March 2023 are prepared in all material respects in accordance with Section 12 and 13 of the State Finance Act,” Kandjeke said.

A qualified audit opinion typically indicates that the auditor is not confident about any specific process or transaction, which prevents them from issuing an unqualified or clean report.

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