The Public Protector (PP) has quietly released a report on the Vrede dairy project in the Free State, highlighting procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial project.
In what is arguably Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane's most politically sensitive report to date, the PP has recommended as remedial action that Free State premier Ace Magashule should "initiate and institute disciplinary action against all implicated officials involved in the Vrede dairy project".
Some of the procurement irregularities highlighted in the report include that
- the payments to Estina were not in line with Treasury prescripts
- The agreement between the Free State's provincial department of agriculture and Estina, the Gupta-linked company that executed the project, seemed to have been invalid
- The head of department (HOD) did not follow the normal procurement processes, as prescribed by the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and National Treasury procurement regulations.
"The evidence outlined earlier [in the report] points to gross irregularities in ensuring the effective and efficient performance of the agreement and resulted in maladministration," Mkhwebane found.
The report also states that the project was mired by "gross negligence".
Unlike reports released by Mkhwebane's predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, the latest PP report was apparently released without a preceding notification to the media or to the public, and no media briefing on the report seems to have been scheduled as yet.
The report follows on the back of the Asset Forfeiture Unit's (AFU) recent court application for a court order to freeze assets worth around R220-million belonging to individuals who'd benefited from the ill-fated project, including members of the Gupta family and some of their associates.