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HOD denies allegations

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"The directors of Nieuwoudtville Rooibos (Pty) Ltd received absolutely no financial benefits from the agricultural project."

Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

THE HOD for the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Viljoen Mothibi, has explained that the directors of Nieuwoudtville Rooibos (Pty) Ltd received absolutely no financial benefits from the agricultural project.

“The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is the sole shareholder of Nieuwoudtville Rooibos (Pty) Ltd. It is represented by two officials as directors on behalf of government and not in their personal capacity. There is no financial gain for the two senior officials. The project has been audited numerous times and the said officials are required to submit financial disclosures annually,” said Mothibi yesterday.

He added that the organising partners had agreed that should the Agro-Processing Investment and Trade Fair not proceed, all the money paid by sponsors would be reimbursed.

“The date for the trade fair had to be moved on four occasions as internal stakeholders had to be notified and consulted. August and September were not suitable and October would have clashed with the National Investment Conference.”

Mothibi indicated that another project manager would not be sought to organise the trade fair in the future.

“The organising partners agreed that the event could only proceed if 75 percent of the projected number of investors confirmed attendance and payments were received. The organising partner could not confirm how many delegates would attend, despite numerous requests. The income generated from the event was dependant on the sponsorship and this would have been reflected in the costed and funding business plan.”

Mothibi stated that a dispute arose regarding the ownership of the concept for the trade fair.

“The department did not pay Optirel8 for management fees and the concept.”

He said the 60-40 percent profit sharing agreement that was entered into was proposed by the organising partner.

“It was not envisaged that the department would receive any proceeds from the conference. The directors would in no way benefit from the 40 percent profit sharing arrangement.”

Mothibi added that some of the companies were approached by the department to sponsor the event and directly deposited funds into the joint bank account.

Successfully

“The joint bank account was opened between Nieuwoudtville Rooibos and Optirel8 as organising partners to successfully hold the conference. Access to the bank account is between Nieuwoudtville Rooibos and Optirel8. To our knowledge no funds have been deposited into the account.”

He stated that to the best of his knowledge, no sponsor or delegate could register on the website.

“Therefore no money was deposited into the joint bank account, hence the cancellation of the trade fair. The department did not suddenly agree to terminate the cancellation.”

Mothibi indicated that the venue hire, catering, accommodation and transport of delegates had not been paid for.

He explained that the draft service level agreement between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development represented by Nieuwoudtville and Optirel8 was rejected by the department in a meeting where the organising partner was present.

“The final draft of the service level agreement was drawn up between the organising partner and Nieuwoudtville Rooibos.”

Mothibi confirmed that various invitations had been extended to various ministers and MECs.

“Some dignitaries had confirmed attendance at the trade fair. The intention to have the conference was communicated to the Northern Cape executive council.”

He also indicated that the department did not fund the operational costs of Nieuwoudtville Rooibos.

“The premises is not situated at the department.”

Mothibi said he was not aware of any legal action being taken against the department.

“Only a lawyers letter was received from the organising partner, requesting negotiations to reach a settlement to avoid taking the matter to the relevant authorities and institutions.”