Treasury officials were 'pressured' to pay R30m to Gupta-linked firm

Treasury officials were pushed to pay R30m to the Gupta-linked company Estina, without proper documentation being submitted. File photo.
Treasury officials were pushed to pay R30m to the Gupta-linked company Estina, without proper documentation being submitted. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

Free State department of agriculture finance boss Selpate Dlamini allegedly insisted that provincial Treasury officials pay out R30m to the Gupta-linked company Estina, without proper documentation being submitted.

This is according to former Free State treasury deputy director for financial governance, Anna Fourie, who told the state capture inquiry on Monday of an instruction handed to her by Dlamini in 2012, when the controversial Vrede dairy farm project was established.

Fourie, who retired from the provincial government in 2018 after almost 40 years of service, said she was at a farewell event for a colleague on June 15 2012 when she was approached by her boss, then provincial treasury chief executive, Humphrey Kgomongwe.

She said Kgomongwe told her to help two other colleagues to conduct a financial assessment on payments needed by the department of agriculture.

"It was a very urgent payment that needed to be done on that same day. He requested that we go to the office and do the assessment. The amount requested to be paid was R30m. We waited for [Dlamini] to come to the venue with documentation to be assessed," she told the commission.

Fourie, two of her colleagues and Dlamini then proceeded to the treasury offices late in the afternoon.

"The documents contained the normal payment advice that departments use to prepare payments to be processed as well as an agreement between [the department of agriculture] and Estina. I realised it was a huge amount, so the first document I then looked for was the financial report which indicates the budget and expenditure already occurred and commitments. That report was not attached to the documentation provided to us," she said.

"I looked at the content of the agreement that was provided. When I browsed through that one I realised in terms of the content, there was a sentence that stated Estina submitted a proposal on May 15 2012. From that, I then asked Dlamini if it means there was not a tender process followed and it was done based on the proposal, which she confirmed.

"There was also no deviation approval. I said should the payment proceed, it would result in irregular and wasteful expenditure. I also asked if there was a feasibility study done for the project. That was also not available to us."

The department needed a R30m hand-written cheque from Treasury to pay Estina.

"It was my view that we could not proceed with the payment, but Dlamini indicated they were meeting the other party [Estina] the next morning and needed the payment by then, so it was very crucial. She indicated the payment was very, very urgent.

"It was at that time I saw we were going to have some difficulty so I phoned our CEO and said I could foresee a problem," Fourie said.

"We had less than R6m in the provincial revenue fund bank account. I indicated to [Dlamini] there was no possibility that treasury could pay R30m."

After the payment was refused, the department of agriculture launched a provincial policy intervention known as "Mohama Mobung", which was aimed at revitalising the Free State agricultural sector through investments in various initiatives. The Vrede dairy farm was identified as a flagship project to realise such intervention.

It was intended to uplift the Vrede community, through sustainable job creation opportunities. About R30m from Mohama Mobung was diverted to Estina for the project.

On Tuesday the commission will continue with other evidence relating to the Vrede dairy farm.

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