Agric funds invested in Ponzi scheme

Agric funds invested in Ponzi scheme

MASERU – A TOTAL of M195 000 allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture was lost after the funds were invested in a dubious Ponzi scheme.
The shocking revelation was disclosed in a scathing audit report released by the Auditor General Lucy Liphafa last week.
Liphafa says M95 000 disbursed to Moroe Nursery of Mafeteng and M100 000 for Farmers’ Pride of Butha-Buthe were invested in MMM which later collapsed.

The two cases were reported to the police by the project manager who in turn was advised to negotiate with the perpetrators on repayment of the misappropriated funds.
“However, at the time of audit in September 2017 a loss report was not yet submitted to the Principal Secretary for Finance,” Liphafa says.
She also reports that the Small Agricultural Development Project (SADP) bought 480 bags of cement at a cost of M38 402 for the construction of a storage tank in Hleoheng in Leribe in November 2016.

The tank was not built and there was no cement kept in store and there were no records showing what happened to it.
The loss was not reported to the Finance Principal Secretary.

Liphafa also reveals that the Department of Livestock Services (DLS)’s two hatcheries for poultry and fish, which were both established in the early 1970s to produce high quality breed and sell to farmers in all districts at subsidised prices, no longer met farmers’ demands.
She says the department’s response is that breeding stock was not available because of lack of funds “to the extent that it was forced to dispose of breeding for chickens and dairy goats because of shortage of feeds”.

“However, scrutiny of the budget and other plans reflected that DLS did not plan or budget for these activities and instead, they facilitated procurement of breeding stock farmers,” Liphafa says.
She says in order to meet the demand and supply of breeding stock from South Africa, the department used to provide suitable transport to farmers prior to 2010.
She has however discovered that lately the department lacks suitable vehicles for livestock transportation, forcing farmers to help themselves and therefore “animals died along the way due to inappropriate vehicles that farmers used to transfer them”.

Liphafa says the Animal Health Division (AHD) could not continue procuring drugs and vaccines as well as semen for farmers because of lack of funds.
She discovered that the department used to acquire funds for buying breeding stock from the Cattle Revolving Fund and from its own annual budget.
Liphafa found that “the Cattle Revolving Fund could not be traced within” the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) since IFMIS was established in 2009.
Because of this, the department could not access funds from the revolving fund, resulting in farmers in all districts doing artificial insemination on their own without the assistance of livestock officers.

She says the unavailability of drugs at the department and the District Agricultural Office resulted in farmers buying from individual clinics without subsidy.
“This affected productivity as livestock farming became expensive and not every farmer could afford to buy medicines for their animals or import of semen from other countries,” she says.
She says the department has the responsibility to provide technical backstopping to staff from the districts and producer associations, when expertise is needed during training of farmers to equip them with necessary skills.

Liphafa says the department planned to provide 60 technical backups for staff from the districts on small stock activities, breeding site selection, two sheep studs as well as 20 meetings with national associations.
“Instead, the DLS offered only six out of the 60 planned district training interventions,” she says.

When a schedule that would be followed in conducting a training programme was drawn up, the department was invited but it rarely attended because of lack of funds and transport.
Liphafa says the department has the responsibility to carry out surveillance of movement of livestock in harmony with the World Organisation for Animal Health.
This is meant to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Tuberculosis (TB) and Brucellosis.
The department has to report the status of the diseases in the country to the Office International des Epizooties (OIE).

Non-complying countries are banned from exporting meat and other animal products to other countries, meaning in the case of Lesotho it would be exportation of wool and mohair.
Liphafa says the department sometimes delays to submit its reports to the OIE.

She says the delays are sometimes caused by failure to visit districts to liaise with veterinary doctors to carry out surveillances but instead rely on samples collected and submitted by district vets.
“That could result in submitting reports to OIE, which were not truly representative of the country, as officers may get samples from nearby areas or those that were easily accessible,” Liphafa says.
She also says for some years samples were spoiled in the dysfunctional cold room because of power cuts caused by non-payment of electricity. This was the case in September 2015 when 2 000 samples got spoiled.

Liphafa says Lesotho still owes Botswana money that was supposed to be paid for re-testing in the financial year 2014/2015 hence the delay to submit samples for subsequent years.
She also says she could not verify whether M80 000 for testing services was budgeted for in the financial years 2012/2013 to 2016 because the amount did not appear in the budget estimates.
“Failure to comply with laid out terms of submission could have a negative impact on international relations,” Liphafa reports.
“Lesotho would be banned from trading wool and mohair with other countries, in particular, China.”

Staff Reporter

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