Johannesburg - Former Free State department head Peter Thabethe faced tough questions on his department's oversight over Estina's use of funds in the multi-million-rand Vrede Dairy Farm project.
Thabethe was making his fourth appearance at the inquiry on Monday. He had headed the Department of Agriculture and played a key role in the appointment of Estina, a Gupta-linked company, as a partner for the government in the Vrede Dairy Farm project. The project was meant to uplift black emerging farmers, but little of the funds went towards the project. It had been reported that some of the funds were distributed to various Gupta-linked bank accounts.
Advocate Leah Gcabashe led Thabethe in the questioning regarding how aware was his office of the possible misuse of funds. In reports submitted by Estina to the department, it was found that some of the funds were misused. Approximately $5 million was paid to a company called Gateway for a feasibility study.
Further investigations and cite visits by some government officials found that the study was inadequately done and would need to be redone. Thabethe said he relied on his juniors to approve reports supplied by Estina and that he was not aware of everything.
Gcabashe and commission chair deputy Raymond Zondo questioned Thabethe on why they did not question Estina on its use of such a large sum of money to pay consultants. Gcabashe said it implied a lack of care of how government money was spent.