Botma told to stay away

Grain SA’s beleaguered chairperson, Bully Botma, has escaped dismissal as a Maize Trust trustee — but has been barred from further meetings of the trust.

This follows the disclosure that, under Botma’s care, more that R7-million of Maize Trust (used to promote farming) money was either misdirected by Grain SA or not spent. The discrepancies were kept from the trust through incorrect feedback reports by Grain SA.

Meanwhile, Botma has told the Mail & Guardian that he will not make himself available for re-election as Grain SA chairperson in March next year. He will also resign from all other Grain SA positions. Grain SA is the industry marketing board.

It has also come to light that Grain SA must repay the Oil Seeds Development Trust (OSDT) a substantial amount of money that was misdirected or not spent. Gerhard Scholtemeijer, chairperson of the OSDT’s advice committee, confirmed an investigation was under way to ascertain the amount owed to the trust.”We’re still in a dispute with Grain SA about the amount,” he said.

On Monday, the Maize Trust announced that Grain SA would have to repay R5,62-million with interest, plus a further R1,5-million for the current book year on which interest would not be levied. An amount of close to R10-million must be repaid.

Interviewed on a radio station on Monday, Botma insisted the forensic audit done by Deloitte & Touche on the Maize Trust’s finances had found “Geen foute [no mistakes]”. He said that in the past Grain SA was allowed to spend Maize Trust allocations on other crops. That Maize Trust money could only be spent on maize projects was “a new decision”, he said.

Botma’s statement was denied the following day on SAfm by outgoing Maize Trust chairperson Andrew Makenete.

Interviewed by the M&G, Botma said “mistakes” had crept in because no systems were in place at Grain SA to audit gifts and funding. “We will have to correct this,” he said.

Sources close to the process said an August 4 decision by other Maize Trust trustees to order Botma to step down from the trust was “softened” a week later to allow him to save face.

However, it was decided he would attend no further trust meetings. Sources said the auditors had identified a conflict between Botma’s position as Grain SA chief and a Maize Trust trustee.

Botma insisted the decision that he should not attend trust meetings was his own. “I’m going to make an exit from Grain SA next year anyway, and have no direct interest in further proceedings.”

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