/ 14 July 2008

Trevor Manuel now in control of troubled Land Bank

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on Monday took over control of the troubled Land Bank from Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana.

The transfer of administrative powers from Xingwana to Manuel was gazetted on Monday, the two ministries said in a joint statement.

”The transfer is effective from today, July 14 2008, and the handover process will be done, which will include the introduction of the minister of finance to the board of the Land Bank,” the statement said.

The decision to transfer was taken after consultations with the two ministers, it said.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that National Treasury officials had begun working on a takeover plan following intervention by the Presidency to save the ailing bank.

In terms of the Constitution, President Thabo Mbeki has the power to transfer the administration of any legislation, power or function entrusted to a minister to another minister.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the move, and has called for the release of a series of audit reports on alleged mismanagement in the bank.

DA land affairs spokesperson Andries Botha said Xingwana’s constant meddling in the bank’s affairs was one of the major stumbling blocks to any attempts to rehabilitate the institution.

”However, we contend that there must be clarity from the finance minister and from the National Treasury about what the extent of their involvement in the bank’s business processes will be — most importantly, what the reporting lines will be,” he said.

Manuel should also say whether the Finance Ministry will be involved in implementing the bank’s much-vaunted turnaround strategy, which has been plagued by infighting and mismanagement.

He said the DA on Friday applied under the Promotion of Access to Information Act to compel Xingwana to release a Deloitte & Touche forensic report completed earlier this year, as well as two other reports in her possession, relating to alleged Land Bank financial mismanagement.

”We now call on the finance minister to reverse Xingwana’s decision to squash the findings of these audits, by allowing their release into the public domain,” he said. — Sapa