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Ingonyama Trust under spotlight in Parly over poor audit outcomes

The Office of the Auditor-General of South Africa briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development on Tuesday.

FILE: Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini on 27 July 2020. Picture: @kzngov/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - The inability of the Ingonyama Trust and its board to improve on poor audit outcomes has come under the spotlight in Parliament.

The Office of the Auditor-General of South Africa briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development on Tuesday.

The trust is the biggest landowner in KwaZulu-Natal and King Goodwill Zwelithini is its only trustee.

It’s been in the headlines for the wrong reasons and an investigation into its finances was ordered last year.

READ: 23 KZN municipalities say Ingonyama Trust owes over R300m in outstanding rates

Officials from the Office of the Auditor-General told the committee the Ingonyama Trust Board again received a qualified audit opinion for the 2019/20 financial year, mainly because it did not fully disclose the irregular expenditure it incurred.

The Ingonyama Trust itself received a qualified, adverse audit opinion, in part due to its failure to properly recognise the value of the land the trust controls in KwaZulu-Natal.

Thabo Ditodi of the AG’s office said the trust’s board failed to implement corrective action to fix problems flagged during its audit in the previous financial year.

“On the Ingonyama Trust Board, action plans to address the internal deficiencies identified were not adequately developed, implemented or monitored, which resulted in the recurring findings. Also, on the Ingonyama Trust, they did not implement adequate redress to ensure financial statements submitted for audit are free of material misstatements.”

DIDIZA TALKING TO THE KING

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, said she and her department were talking to King Zwelithini as well as the Ingonyama Trust’s board and management about the way the entity is run.

Didiza was on Tuesday responding to concerns raised today by members of Parliament’s portfolio committee responsible for overseeing her department.

MPs wanted to know what Didiza was doing about continued poor governance and financial management by the trust and its board, which have failed to improve on poor audit outcomes.

She told the committee she and her department had been engaging with the board and its management about governance at the entity.

“We have had several meetings and are also engaging the trustee [King Zwelithini] to express our concern about the matters of the governance within the board.”

Didiza said she would be sending department officials to the trust to better understand the problems.

“One of the matters that we have decided as a department is that we are going to undertake the secondment of officials to the Ingonyama Trust Board so that we are able to also get a deeper understanding of what the challenges are in the institution.”

Didiza ordered a forensic investigation into the trust’s finances last year and is also in the process of finding permanent members to replace an interim board she installed under long-standing chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya.

“As members know, this has been one of the challenging entities for us in actually dealing with its accountability - both in terms of its assets, as well as the resources being expended to the board to undertake its function.”

Didiza said they were also looking at legislation governing the trust and its board, saying the way the board was structured limited her powers in regulating the board effectively.

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