Wednesday, December 12, 2007

South African Minister of Land Affairs Defends Policy From Charges of Corruption

CAPE TOWN 11 December 2007 Sapa


The agriculture and land affairs department's assertion that all is well at the Land Bank and there has been significant progress in the past three months "does not fly", the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.

"It is common knowledge that the situation at the Land Bank has been all but rosy following the dismissal of the board members who were responsible for the financial affairs of the bank during the period in which R2 billion worth of funds were stolen from the bank," DA spokesman Kraai van Niekerk said.

Cabinet's announcement last week that Minister Lulu Xingwana would investigate the "pilferage of R2 billion" from the bank and that it would not be handed over to a prosecuting authority was already highly suspicious.

"For the Minister to now release a statement attesting to the recent successes of the bank sounds even more disbelieving," Van Niekerk said.

Government news agency BuaNews, reported earlier on Tuesday that there had been significant progress in turning around the Land Bank in the past three months, after the finalisation of the forensic audit report.

BuaNews quoted Xingwana as saying that she was satisfied with the latest developments at the bank and accredited the successes to monitoring and control systems put in place in a short space of time by the current board and management.

According to the ministry, progress included an unaudited R200 million net profit generated from its operational activities, and upgrading of the bank's rating from AA- to AA+ with respect to long-term borrowing by international rating agency, Fitch.

There had also been an improvement in the organisational culture and behaviour in the bank and, as such, employees were highly motivated to work as a result of the management and direction of the new board.

The process of appointing a new chief executive officer and
additional board members had started.

"As a follow-up to the implementation of the recommendations of the forensic report and the Cabinet resolutions, the referral of the forensic report to the SA Police Service and National Prosecuting Authority has been temporarily put on hold, until internal investigations are completed, as directed by Cabinet," BuaNews reported.

Van Niekerk said solutions to the bank's dilemma would only be reached once clarity over the abuses by officials were made public through an independent forensic investigation, and the necessary criminal steps had been taken against them.

"The costs of letting such corruption pass unresolved or covering up the truth will be much higher than the political interests that the ANC government is trying to protect," he said.

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