Thursday 2020-04-09

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MINISTER APOLOGISES FOR PROJECT’S BLUNDER

By ZWELETHU DLAMINI | 2020-02-27

MINISTER of Commerce Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo has apologised to Parliament for his ministry’s failure to follow budget procedures when commissioning the construction of the E220 million factory shell, which will accommodate the Kellogg’s Tolaram Eswatini.

This comes after Members of Parliament had indicated their unhappiness that government had already committed itself to finance the project, which was not budgeted for or approved by the legislators. Some MPs went to the extent of threatening not to pass the budget allocation for the project. The minister, in his preamble of the annual performance report, noted that there had been a lot of public interest regarding the ministry’s capital projects, which he said was their right.

He said the Kellogg’s Tolaram project was part of the much-talked about capital expenditure programme, explaining that it was initially assigned to be executed by the Industrial Development Company of Eswatini (IDCE).

The minister explained that this was in view of the tight cashflow constraints reported by government but, failure of this option led to government having to finance and execute the project through the Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority.  As earthworks had already begun, this led to inherited costs from IDCE. “Honourable members, I would at this point not turn a blind eye on the procedures and processes that should have preceded the commissioning of the project. In this regard, the ministry would like to apologise and commit to adherence of budget procedure in future. Chairperson, I would like to humbly submit to the house that the project was undertaken in good faith and in light of the mandate of the ministry, which is foreign direct investment attraction and investment,” he explained. The minister added that the ministry was optimistic that the project will yield social and economic returns, stating that the construction of factory shells fits in the ministry’s goal of providing space for industrial development. Members of Parliament accepted the minister’s apology and justification, saying they were also convinced that the project would bring about economic and social returns by providing job opportunities for at least 200 Emaswati. The lawmakers promised to support the minister in passing of the ministry’s budget. However, some legislators told him their comments did not mean they encouraged the flouting of procedures, hence they would not let go of him or prevent him from facing consequences of his action.

Prince Mfanawemakhosi, Princess Phumelele, Siphofaneni Member of Parliament Mduduzi Simelane and Ndzingeni MP Lutfo Dlamini said they were happy that the project would bring job opportunities and wanted it to proceed, while the manner in which the project was handled will be dealt with later.

“Who would want such a project to stop when it will benefit Emaswati? This is an investment that we cannot afford not to support. Kellogg’s factory shell construction should go through because it is for the good of the country. We will deal with the failure to follow procedure later, there are processes on how it should have been done, so we want whoever bridged them to be taught a lesson,” said  Ndzingeni MP Dlamini.  Similar sentiments were shared by the other legislators, who said they wanted the project to go through and would support the minister to have his budget passed as requested.

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