Minister of Agriculture Salah Helal announced he has referred senior leaders at the land reforms authority to the prosecution on charges of seizing public funds, in an official statement on Monday.
The leaders are also charged with financial violations regarding hiding the institution’s financial records from auditing agencies.
The Ministry of Agriculture was unavailable for comment on the number of leaders prosecuted or their exact positions. However, the statement said the leaders had seized over EGP 6.5m.
According to a ministry investigation, which was conducted by an independent committee, one of the former institution leaders withdrew bonuses for himself without the approval of the superior management.
The institution’s financial records and revenues also appeared to be false, and did not account for a large amount of its resources. These figures should be presented to the Ministry of Finance, the parliament and the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO) for monitoring, before and after the payments.
In response, Helal reshuffled six positions inside the authority’s management, and decided to put the authority’s financial records under the Ministry of Finance’s official supervision.
Other measures have also recently been taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, to facilitate the land reforms process and contracts for the beneficiaries. Earlier in August, Helal handed 150 contracts to new beneficiaries across eight governorates in Egypt, for nearly 115 acres of land.
The land reforms project dates back to the regime of former president Gamal Abdel Nasser, when the government handed several parcels of land to low-income farmers to cultivate, and from which to earn a living. In return, the farmers were to pay monthly fees to the official land reforms authority.
However, many topographic changes have taken their toll on those lands, which do not have an installed water drainage system to get rid of agricultural wastes and water floods. By 2013, more than 200 acres suffered from desertification due to poor conditions in Fayoum, according to Ministry of Agriculture reports.
The land reforms authority however did not stop collecting the monthly fees from land owners, which sometimes amounted to EGP 2,000 per acre. This was despite the non-productive status of those lands, according to farmers based in Tameya village in Fayoum.