Department of Land Affairs Annual Report 2008/09: Auditor-General's & Department's briefings

Rural Development and Land Reform

20 October 2009
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The two Committees, sitting jointly, were addressed by the Office of the Auditor General on the qualifications in the audit report for the financial year 2008/09. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (previously the Department of Land Affairs) presented its annual report, accounted for its activities in the last financial year, and explained the findings of the Auditor-General and the steps taken to address the issues.

The Committee expressed its concern with a number of issues arising from the Auditor-General’s report. A number of questions were asked about the vacancies, particularly those at senior levels, the fact that there were several acting posts, and their effect on the Department’s ability to deliver. Members also raised questions about the outstanding commitments of R8;8 billion, the agreements with AgriSETA, fruitless expenditure by the Department and what had been done to correct it, training of beneficiaries, the bursary scheme, the necessity for Trignet stations and the ability of the Department to monitor, especially given the instances where its own lack of systems had been highlighted. Other issues included the payment to farmers, and an explanation was requested regarding the apparent inconsistency between complaints by farmers and the information provided in the Annual Report. Members also noted that unless some of the issues were addressed urgently, there would be further qualifications in the next years. They asked a number of questions around the asset registers and the registers of land, and the Department’s plans to address the lack of information.

The Committee commented that sometimes the Department was skirting issues, and was not providing a full enough response. In particular, the Committee stressed that it wanted specific timeframes on a number of projects, and wanted to hear what was the capacity of the Department at present, not in the future. It noted that monitoring and evaluation was a particularly important aspect. Members were asked to submit further questions in writing and the Department was also asked to respond to issues not addressed during this meeting in writing. It was agreed that the Department must return in the later part of November to report back on plans and projects, and also to report on the conclusions of a task team comprising officials of this Department and the Department of Public Works.

The Chairperson noted that when answering Question 73 raised in the House, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform had given an incorrect answer, on the basis of the information provided by the Department. The Department explained that there had been a misunderstanding as it had not understood the question fully. The Chairperson asked that this matter be addressed and corrected urgently.

Meeting report

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (previously Department of Land Affairs): Annual Report 2008/09
Report by Auditor-General
A representative from the Office of the Auditor-General (AG) briefed the joint committees in respect of the financial performance of the Department of Land Affairs (as it was then named).

Parliamentary Monitoring Group was not present at this part of the meeting, which commenced before the time advertised.

The Auditor-General’s Report was included in the Annual Report of the Department, and was qualified in various aspects. Some of the issues had recurred from previous years.(Please see Annual Report for full details).

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department): Presentation
Mr Thozi Gwanya, Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, presented the Department’s forward strategy and accounted for the Audit Qualifications it had received.

Mr Gwanya briefly outlined the strategic context of the Department. The core strategic objectives were then discussed, which included the redistribution of 30% of white-owned agricultural land by 2014, the provision of efficient land use and land administration services, and the provision of efficient State land management that supported development.

Mr Gwanya went into great detail on Programme 1, which dealt with administration. This included a number of sectors of the Department including the Office of the DG, the Gender Unit, Monitoring and Evaluation and the Internal Audit. In this programme, a Gender Responsive Framework had been completed, the Department produced an improved Monitoring and Evaluation framework, 246 interns were recruited, and 203 beneficiaries were trained in conjunction with Fort Hare University.
Mr Gwanya noted that 2.4% of the Department’s staff were people with disabilities. 440 employees were trained on customer care, and 153 on complaints handling and management. The Department had a four year graduate programme aimed at addressing the high vacancy rate.

The Department had drafted the policy framework and Bill in respect of regulation of ownership by foreigners, and the third draft of the Willing Buyer-Willing Seller Review was complete. It was noted that the Department had reduced its vacancy rate to 16.7% overall.

Programme 2 dealt with mapping and surveys, where the National Control Survey System had improved in availability to clients, Trignet stations had been installed and upgraded and 2146 maps were produced.

Programme 3 dealt with cadastral survey management. Here, six offices throughout the country had processed 328 869 property units, 67 pupil survey officers had received training and the Auto E-mailer system had enhanced delivery time.

Programme 4 dealt with Restitution. The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) settled 653 claims and dismissed 108, which resulted in 394 000 hectares of land being restored to approximately 30 000 households. 4 296 claims were still outstanding. An agreement entered into with AgriSETA (the Agricultural Sector and Education Training Authority) would ensure that beneficiaries received necessary training to fully utilise the land.

Programme 5 dealt with land tenure and reform. It was noted that the original target had been decreased to 608 060 hectares in order to align with the budget allocation. The implementation of Pro-active Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) allowed access to land through lease agreements. It was noted that the Land Rights Management facility (LRMF) had continued providing support to people living in insecure tenure conditions. A breakdown of the number of projects transferred per province was given.

Programme 6 dealt with spatial planning and information, and it was noted that there were now offices in all provinces. Public hearings had been held for the Land Use Management Bill and continual support was given to the South African Council of Planners.

Programme 7 dealt with deeds registration. It was noted that there had been an increase in registered land parcels, that requests for registration information had increased, and the quality of deeds were not challenged in court, and 19 interns were employed.

The financial performance of the Department was discussed. There had been only 0.1% under-expenditure, which amounted to R4.7 million. Spending per programme was discussed in some detail, with the majority of funds being spent in programmes 4 and 5. The shifting of funds was also discussed.

Mr Gwanya also explained the qualified audit opinion that the Department received. The AG’s findings were set out. He noted that in regard to the qualification for receivables from leased land, progress had been made and a new debtors system had been developed, which would provide for complete and accurate data and management of revenue collection. In regard to the qualification on tangible capital assets, it was noted that the Department had failed to produce a complete asset register but that it was embarking on an exercise to clean this up as well as verify the title deeds owned by the Department.

The Chairperson noted that the staff plan relevant to the report was the previous plan and not the current one.

Ms N November (ANC) noted that in programme 1, students were given bursaries, and asked how this was spread among the provinces.

Mr L Tolo (COPE) cited a number of problems that people faced in rural areas and in that context, he asked what type of development happened in those areas, as it needed to be assured that the Department was doing something there.

The Chairperson said that the delegation was not reporting on the current Department of Rural Development, but on the past year’s performance by the Department of Land Affairs. However, he would allow the question because it dealt with the strategic objectives of the Department.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) said that she hoped the shifting of funds adhered to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) guidelines. She requested that Mr Gwanya indicate whether there were any success stories regarding the Land Rights Management Facility.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila noted that page three of the Annual Report indicated that during the year of reporting, the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Director General: Corporate Services had all been listed as 'acting' posts. She asked whether those posts were still 'acting' posts, how long they had been so, and what the impact of this was on service delivery.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked what support programmes there were for assisting people with disabilities, and whether the existing infrastructure was accessible for them. She asked at what levels these people had been placed, as there was a tendency to place people at low levels.

Mr M Swathe (DA) noted that Programme 4 dealt with an agreement with AgriSETA, and asked if the Department actually checked if this agreement had been implemented.

Mr Swathe said that the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) had begun replacing another programme and information from that programme had not been completely captured. He asked if that had been dealt with.

Mr Swathe also said that it was indicated that the asset register had been completed but not all the land had been surveyed. He asked how long it would take to properly register all the land.

Mr Swathe noted that there were problems with the powers that had been given to Premiers and asked how this would be dealt with.

Mr S Abram (ANC) asked for information to be made available on PLAS, specifically on how many farms had been purchased, and how much they had cost, and where they were situated.

Mr Abram noted that the list of concerns seemed to be growing. The Department had received qualifications on five issues in the previous year, and two again this year. He said that more qualifications were to be expected because there were growing concerns where movable and immovable property was involved. He asked how many of these growing concerns were taken over by the new Department. He said that he had asked a similar question in November last year, and only received a response on 14 October 2009, which had been only a list of names of farms, and broad figures amounting to R7.9 million, but no information was made available on exactly how this was spent. He said actual information of farms’ locations, and monies spent needed to be provided.

Mr Abram said that land had been restituted to a community in the North West, and when he attended the restitution ceremony only two junior officials had been sent from the Department. The  people of the community complained that after restitution the Department had given them no further assistance. This was a problem. He said that the Department did not spend its funds judiciously, and should begin providing assistance the moment that farms were taken over.

Mr Abram said that Mr Gwanya had said a few months ago that 49% of farms restituted were not successful. He asked how the Department had come by that figure, which also seemed not to change from one year to the next, as it seemed the percentage was much higher from the ground.

Mr Abram said that funds provided by the fiscus should be spent wisely, and the Department should not embark on wasteful expenditure.

Ms A Steyn (DA) was concerned by the AG’s report that the Department had made commitments of up to R8.8 billion. She asked if the Department actually knew what commitments it had, and if it was in a position to deal with them.

The Chairperson asked what exactly the commitments in the AG’s report referred to.

Ms Steyn said that the commitments referred to were the third issue under the title 'Prior Year Audit Report' in the report from the AG. It indicated that the Department had essentially overspent its budget because it had signed commitments valued at R8.8 billion. She said that the issue needed to be clarified.

The Chairperson said there was a need to look at the content, and the Department would need to answer questions also about the value of the commitments. He said the Department could not answer on behalf of the AG.

Ms Steyn asked if the Department knew what outstanding commitments there were, beyond the AG’s findings, and if there was a system in place of keeping track of them.

Ms Steyn was concerned about farmers being paid. She said that when she had visited a farmer in Limpopo, he claimed not to have received money that was owed to him by the Department, but according to the Annual Report that money had been paid, and the farm was toted as one of the success stories in Limpopo. When the Chairperson asked her to clarify this, she stated that she was not convinced that the Annual Report statements about the payments made to farmers were correct. The farm in question was 'Diggers Rest', and it was mentioned on page 36 of the Annual Report.

Mr S Ntapane (UDM) asked if the framework for monitoring, under Programme 1, could be provided to the Committee.

Mr Ntapane asked if there were any prior qualifications for beneficiaries to be able to enter into the training offered at Fort Hare.

Mr Ntapane asked where the 440 employees for customer care and the 153 for complaints handling were based, and what their contact information was.

Mr Ntapane asked what the 'Trignet stations' in Programme 2 were, and whether they were necessary, given the financial constraints on the Department.

Mr Ntapane asked if AgriSETA provided any forms of monitoring in terms of the agreement, which he felt to be very necessary.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) was happy to learn that there was now tangible evidence that farmers who were approached under the willing buyer / willing seller principle were taking advantage of the State, and charging up to three times as much to government as they would to a private buyer. Given that situation, he asked what was going to be done, and if the stakeholders had been approached, because the whole land acquisition process had been slowed, and it had driven Government to consider expropriation, which the farmers opposed.

Mr Msimang noted that Mr Gwanya spoke about evictions, but that these were restricted to KwaZulu Natal (KZN). He asked if there were solutions to the problem in other provinces and, if so, if these could be applied to KZN.

Mr P Pretorius (DA) read a paragraph from The Sunday Times around the issue of the redistribution of agricultural land by 2014. The article, by Mr M Makhanya asked: “Should we be spending so much energy and effort on land redistribution when the instinct of rural South Africans is to head for the city to seek employment and upward mobility there. Should we be taking land from successful commercial farmers when many peasant fields are lying fallow throughout the South African countryside? Is it in the interest of food security to keep our farmers in a permanent state of uncertainty? … Land redistribution is sucking up physical and intellectual energy. This needs to be given much greater priority, and more effort must be put into making agriculture as sexy as investment banking. It is the only sustainable way we will reverse the terrible legacy of apartheid land distribution. Not by trying to take a horse to a river it does not want to drink from”. Mr Pretorius asked the Department to comment on these views.

The Chairperson said that this question was unfair. Members should confine their questions to the presentation and reports presented by the Department. Mr Makhanya’s comments did not find universal agreement. He noted that Mr Gwanya should not answer that question.

Ms P Xaba(ANC) asked a question in Xhosa pertaining to the Communal Land Rights Act (Act 11 of 2004) in Programme 5.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked what the reasons were for the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) dismissing 108 claims.

Mr Zulu was concerned with the high vacancy rate, and asked if this existed because there was a lack of resources, or because the Department was unable to get qualified people to fill those positions.

Mr Zulu asked why there was a need to have a register for State land in three spheres of government, namely provincial, municipal and national. He asked if it was possible to have a single national register and indicate on that register which department or municipality controlled the land in question.

Mr Zulu was concerned that when people claimed land, the farmers were advised not to make improvements to their land, which left them with no source of income, sometimes for extended periods of time, while the claims were under consideration. No South African citizens should be left in that position. In addition, the value of the land decreased if it was not worked and maintained.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) noted that there was an internship programme, and there were bursaries given to students but they did not address the issue of vacancies and capacity. She asked if any contracts were signed to ensure that those students who received bursaries worked in the Department after studying.

Ms Matlanyane said that there seemed to be a situation where people were registered as owning government land and asked how that had happened, and what could be done to remedy the situation. She asked what cooperation there was with the provinces, in terms of the asset register.

Ms Matlanyane noted a problem of fruitless expenditure, where the Department ended up paying for land and something else that did not have anything to do with the Department, such as tourism land. She asked for clarity on that point.

Ms Z Balindlela(COPE) said that Page 25 of the Annual Report spoke to the situation where old land had not been fully separated from new land. She said that during apartheid there had been an issue regarding property and assets that were lost. She asked if that situation had been remedied.

Ms Balindlela noted that since the 2007/08 financial year, there had been consultants helping the Department. She asked what skills had been transferred and if there had been any visible improvement.

Ms Balindlela agreed with other Members that
not having a permanent Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operations Officer (COO) was problematic, particularly in view of the AG’s comments on the lack of accuracy in information, due to insufficient financial systems and the no complete asset register. Given that every Ministry had responsibilities in terms of the Land Act, she asked how coordination between these occurred, and asked what the Committee could do to assist in the process.

The Chairperson noted that there were still a number of members who wanted to ask question but requested that these be submitted to the Department in writing.

Mr Anton Van Staden, Acting Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, DRDLR, commented on the questions to do with his programme. He noted that the process for recruiting interns and graduates was advertised widely at a provincial level, using local media. When bursaries were awarded, they were awarded to those who would benefit the most from them, with emphasis given to women and people from a rural background. The internships were national government programmes, and in that case a person would be obliged to work for the Department for 12 months. If that person was thereafter employed, he or she would be asked to sign a normal employment contract. The graduate programme was a four year programme, which included intensive training, and these individuals signed two and a half year contracts, to ensure that the Department did get a return on its investments. Past experience had shown that, owing to the effectiveness of both programmes, the Department did end up employing people on a permanent basis.

Mr Van Staden said that disability management was one of the 'flagship' programmes in the Department and there was a disability forum, which was chaired by a disabled person, and that this worked in line with the national and international slogan, 'Nothing about us, without us'. This work was applied successfully to the Department. There were two senior managers who were disabled, and there was an equitable distribution amongst the different levels. In levels five, six and seven, for example, there were a number of disabled individuals who had potential for future promotion. There were adequate facilities in most of the Departments buildings, but some did not cater for disabled people. A complete audit of the buildings had been done, and a project with Department of Public Works was underway to address this problem over the next few years, but it would be expensive.

Mr Van Staden said that the monitoring framework had been developed in the Department and it focused on the operational plan, where different areas of delivery were highlighted according to the strategic and operational plans. These were then independently monitored within the Department. Managers were required to report on a quarterly basis and write evidence, for example, on the approval of number of hectares. Their reports were interrogated fully.

Mr Van Staden said that no prior qualifications were needed for the training of managers at Fort Hare. This course was designed for presentation to individuals with Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) levels three or four. The presenters were chosen for their proven competence in putting matters across to adult learners who had not had formal training.

Mr Van Staden said that individuals that had been trained for complaints handling were based throughout the Department. When the training programme was done, individuals were nominated for each component, to ensure that valuable people were gathered. There was also an IT system being developed to assist in managing and monitoring complaints, and it was hoped that the efficiency of the system could be reported on by the end of the year.

Mr Van Staden agreed that the vacancy rate was still too high, but said that work was being done to remedy the situation. The reasons for the high vacancy rate were that skills were needed at a higher level, around salary levels 9, 10, 11 and 12. Continual recruitment was done, but the necessary skills had not been found. There had been discussions with the Department of Public Service and Administration around possibly having a more attractive remuneration package to draw people at those levels into the Department. The intentions of the internship and graduate programmes were to ensure that the Department had skills in the future, but those individuals were not yet at the necessary skills levels.

Mr Van Staden said that there had been three attempts made to employ a permanent CFO. It had been agreed that a chartered accountant could fill the position of the CFO, and the post had been advertised, but only people with two or three years practical experience had applied. This was a problem, because the figures and transactions with which they would be working were massive and complex. A further process would be conducted with the Minister within the next few weeks, and it was hoped that a chartered accountant would be employed. The positions were being tracked very carefully to ensure that no time was wasted and the necessary skills were found.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had had discussions with the AG in two areas related to Programme 1. The Committee had noted that the lack of monitoring and control of systems had been addressed. However, the question arose whether the success could be sustained because of the high vacancy rate. The Department did not seem to have a solution to the problem. He noted that recently the Provincial Treasury, Eastern Cape, had been looking for six chartered accountants, had contacted the South African Institution of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), and within a few months, with SAICA’s assistance, had managed to fill all six posts. He would be able to give Mr Gwanya a contact number.

The Chairperson also said that the area of commitments had been raised, and that Members had also asked questions on that.

Mr Gwanya assured the Committee that the Department was still going to answer the financial questions that had been raised, and commitments would be dealt with under that topic.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked how long the Acting CFO had held the position.

Ms Balindlela said that the Department would suffer as long as it did not have a full time DDG, CFO and COO.

The Chairperson said that the Committee wanted to see a zero vacancy rate. He asked what happened to the money that was budgeted for the vacant posts. He said the Department was left with R4 million at the end of the financial year, but the Committee was not told where this had come from. He asked for a clear plan on how the vacancies would be filled, and by when this would be done, because it reduced the capacity of the Department to perform its functions.

Mr Van Staden said that the Department followed a recruitment programme, which was based on priority. The Department was continually reviewing areas where posts became vacant, and the important posts would be prioritised in the recruitment process.

The Chairperson interrupted and said that the Department needed to clearly answer the question and avoid creating further problems. He asked how there could be vacancies that were not priorities. If posts could go unfilled, the question was whether those posts were necessary in the first place.

Mr Van Staden said that the recruitment of the chartered accountant would happen in the next few weeks. As far as the other positions were concerned, some were affected by the structural changes in the Department, introduced by the Rural Development programme. The position of CFO would not appear in the new structure, and the DDG of Corporate Services would be a new position. Because the former Department was currently in the transitional stage of moving over to the new Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, there were some recruitment areas where the emphasis had altered. For example, in the area of Restitution of Land Rights, there were 352 vacancies, but since this programme was to be scaled down, not all posts were being filled urgently. On the other hand, the unit for post-settlement support was being upscaled. For this reason he could not give a firm answer now. Current vacancies would be filled before the end of the financial year, especially at a senior management level.

Mr Gwanya added that the Department would make use of any recruitment process that would help fill vacancies, including head-hunting.

Mr V Mahlangu, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DRDLR, said that there was compliance with the PFMA and there was interaction with the National Treasury.

Mr Mahlangu said that Slide 24 reflected the shifting of funds between programmes, and this explained where the funds went to and where they came from. He said that the Department tried to spend the funds allocated to it. He noted that R1.4 billion had been spent on PLAS for approximately 204 farms. Detailed information could be made available on how many assets there were. In respect of the questions raised on commitments, he explained that the commitments, especially those under restitution, were never approved for farms, which were dealt with in terms of grants. The Department had done what it needed to, to clarify the position.

Mr Mahlangu said that when PLAS started, there was some fruitless expenditure, because some things were bought that the Department did not have knowledge of. Investigations were under way on some farms that were bought on speculation. The Department’s employees here had not done a proper job, and the people involved had been suspended.

Mr Mahlangu noted that one of the qualifications raised by the AG related to the issue of documentation. When a farm was to be handed over, a particular agreement needed to be entered into, but this was not always done doe to lack of availability of Departmental officials. This was also being attended to.

The Chairperson asked what the timeframes were for the issues that had been discussed, and when reports could be expected. The major concern was that the State was unable to determine what land it owned, especially since the delegation had said that some land was reflected in the register as being owned by private citizens. He said that State land needed to be registered as such, regardless of which department it fell under. He asked when information would be delivered to the Committee regarding the breakdown of all the assets purchased, which had been raised by Mr Abram. He said that the question asked by Ms Steyn about the commitments was an in-depth one, and the delegation had not given sufficient detail in its response. The question had been very specific, and had asked if the Department knew what the commitments were. He asked that officials should not simply brush the issues aside.

Mr Gwanya said that the CFO was dealing with the financial aspects of this, and most questions would be answered by Mr Shabane later.
The Chairperson said that that excuse had been made when the issue was raised earlier after dealing with the questions around Programme 1.

Mr Gwanya said that there was a list of commitments, but this was done on an Excel spreadsheet and not on a systems base, which the AG would have preferred. This was an area needing improvement. The Department was waiting for the AG to advise it on what system it should use. He assured the Committee that the Department did know what commitments had been signed for. He said that the confusion arose where some transactions were concluded before commitments were made, and in some cases farmers agreed to sell before deeds of sale were signed. In those cases the PFMA dictated that the Department could not sign agreements because essentially it involved money that the Department did not have.

The Chairperson asked for clarity as to whether the R8.8 billion worth of commitments had been signed for.

Mr Gwanya said that it was, and that it was on the schedule. He said that the list of commitments had been notified to the National Treasury.
The Chairperson asked for clarity if these fell within the category of commitments for which the Department had no money.

Mr Gwanya said the Department did not have funds for the R8.8 billion worth of commitments, which was why it had reported the matter to the National Treasury. The R8.8 billion had been signed for. Most of the money came from developmental grants. The money had not been transferred because there were no developmental plans for the beneficiaries. Discussions were being held with the National Treasury as to when the commitments would need to be paid, if developmental plans were forthcoming.

The Chairperson said that the more that Mr Gwanya spoke, the deeper he seemed to fall into problems. It seemed that commitments were made although the Department did not have the money to pay for them, because they hinged on developmental plans. National Treasury might give funds if and when a development plan was put on the table. He noted that the signing of such commitments had now stopped, but he was concerned that the interest on the R8.8 billion would result in the Department incurring additional costs. This meant that the Department would have another qualification in the next year for fruitless expenditure.

Mr Mahlangu said that no interest was accrued, as indicated on Page 87 of the Annual Report.

Mr Gwanya explained that the funds did not attract interest because it was a developmental grant, as set out in the Restitution of Land Act. No money was owed because it was a supporting grant.

The Chairperson asked for clarity whether the R8.8 billion was therefore owed to beneficiaries, and not to farmers.

Mr Gwanya said that this was correct.

Mr Gwanya said that if the 'Trignet stations' were shut down, then the census could not be conducted. He added that Statistics South Africa made use of these results, and that they were critical for planning for a number of departments.

Mr Gwanya said that there were some challenges around the timeframe for surveying State land, and the problem needed to be quantified.

The Chairperson said that the qualification was more serious than first seemed to be the case. The Committees had discussed this issue with the AG. The registering of State land had been going on for far too long, and the Department had the responsibility to survey and register the land.

Mr Andrew Mphela, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, said that it was indicated on page four that the AgriSETA had committed R20 million for training of beneficiaries.

The Chairperson was not satisfied with this response. He noted that a specific question had been asked on whether there was the ability to monitor the training being undertaken by AgriSETA.

Mr Mphela said that the SETA did not have sufficient capacity, but the agreement was that the Department would identify service providers.

The Chairperson said that AgriSETA relied on a third party, and that monitoring of that third party’s delivery would be the responsibility of the Department.

Mr Mphela said that monitoring capacity was being built within the Department. This would be done differently from the past, and according to the internal framework of the new Department.

The Chairperson said that timeframes needed to be given. He asked if the new structure of the Department would happen within the financial year. He said that the Committee would like to know whether it could rely on the promises, and asked by what date there would be sufficient capacity. He said that the training of beneficiaries was being looked at, and the CFO had said that post-settlement support was being up-scaled. However, he wanted to know when this would happen.

Mr Gwanya said that there was a monitoring and evaluation board, who had written reports. There were two reports that reviewed restitution and the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) and these had identified the shortfalls in performance.

The Chairperson interrupted and said the question was whether the Department had capacity now to deal with the matter.

Mr Gwanya said that there was capacity, but improvements were being made on the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component, as this checked if the programmes were being implemented properly.

The Chairperson said that there was a need for clear answers. Mr Mphela had said that AgriSETA did not have the capacity. He had not made it clear whether the Department had that capacity.

Mr Mphela said that last year, when a claim was handed over the community in the North West, the problem was a lack of support. This was due in part to the details of an agreement with the North West Parks Board who were to provide support.

The Chairperson said that questions were asked to point out weaknesses in the system. He  implored the delegation not to 'beat around the bush'. The example just given of lack of support confirmed the point that Members were making. Monitoring and Evaluation referred to the Department’s internal capacity to monitor programmes and projects, and the question had now been raised about how many other programmes or contracts fell under M&E. A list of those needed to be provided, so that the Committee could measure the Department’s capacity to perform that function properly. He said that this information should be included in the Department’s report for the next year, showing that evaluation had been done, that the Department had received value for its money and that the beneficiaries had actually benefited.

Mr Mphela spoke about general support that was given to beneficiaries. Sometimes it was the fault of the partners involved, where beneficiaries were 'taken for a ride'. The way that deals were structured was problematic.

Mr Abram interrupted and asked where the M&E was in respect of such deals.

The Chairperson asked Mr Abram not to interrupt.

Mr Mphela said that the 108 claims by the CRLR had been dismissed for various reasons, either because they did not comply with Section 2 of the Act or because the claimants did not supply sufficient information to support the claim.

Mr Mphela said that, as far as the Department was aware, the farm, 'Diggers Rest' had been paid for, but that a follow-up would be made.

The Chairperson said that it might be that the farmer had employed a lawyer to do the transaction, and that money was still sitting in the trust account, pending registration. This issue would be easy to sort out.

Mr Mdu Shabane, Deputy Director General: Land and Tenure Reform, DRDLR, said that the Department had the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF) with a panel of 100 employees, which helped to conduct interviews on cases of eviction, and over 500 cases had been dealt with. There had been successes, and even large organisations such as Mondi had gone to court. He said that obviously not everyone was aware of the LRMF, and there were challenges popularising and familiarising people with it. The Department was busy coming up with a publication to assist in that regard.
The Chairperson noted that Mr Msimang asked specifically about evictions in KZN. There was a report that in fact stated that it was KZN, the Free State and the North West that had this problem. He asked what the plan was to deal with this issue.

Mr Shabane said that the majority of the panel in the LRMF were in KZN. These issues were being dealt with and there were people tracking the issue on the ground.

The Chairperson said that a date must be set for the Department to come back and report on how labour tenants and people on farms would be able to access that information.

Mr Shabane commented on the effectiveness of post-settlement support. Since the review of LRAD had been done, it was highly likely that more projects had collapsed. For a number of years the provincial Departments of Agriculture had been solely relied on to provide support and it was only now that the Department had decided that it would supply post-settlement support. There was a medium-term plan, and this involved moving money from PLAS projects and getting permission from National Treasury to supply people with their needs. He added that it was necessary for the Department to work with National Treasury. He said that some projects may have failed since 2007.

The Chairperson said that the Chief Directors in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Free State had confirmed that there was a moratorium on LRAD, so Mr Abrams’ question was more potent in that light.

Mr Shabane said that the Department had a baseline allocation, and at any given time each and every office received more applications than it had baseline allocation to deal with. The Department could not process applications in excess of its budget. This was the problem that was experienced in the Free State, Limpopo and KZN, where the State could not commit because it did not have funds. So there was not a moratorium on LRAD.

The Chairperson asked under which unit communications services fell.

Mr Gwanya said that it in terms of that report this fell under the office of the Director-General, but that it would move to the office of the Deputy Director General for Corporate Services under the new structure.

The Chairperson said that it was extremely important to have good communications. In this case there were three letters that confirmed that there was a moratorium on LRAD.

The Chairperson also noted that in some cases deals were signed elsewhere, and some of those were fraudulent. He asked if the Department could submit a report of its findings on this in writing.

Mr Shabane said that the former Department of Land Affairs had over 200 000 parcels of State land, which it had checked and tried to verify. There were major problems in terms of surveying in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga. He said that there could not be an asset register if land was not surveyed, and the legislation required that this was done by qualified land surveyors. The Department could not act in this role because it needed to perform oversight of the process. A lot of energy had been put in from the Department’s side to determine what land still needed surveying.

Mr Shabane said that legislation required each and every State department to have a complete asset register, but it was unlikely that this information would be obtained within the financial year, because the Department was entirely dependent on contracting surveyors. He said that he could not give a timeframe for this process, and would rather return at a later point to give clarity on that issue. He doubted that any sphere of government would have a complete, accurate register of immovables in place. All the work had to be started from scratch because there was no register in place.

The Chairperson asked for clarity if there was a register that existed prior to 1994.

Mr Shabane said that there was no such complete register, adding that in 1998 the Department had spent much time looking for title deeds that had been lost, and applying for new ones. In all of the former homelands there were hardly any records kept. He said no one really kept those records until 1994.

The Chairperson said that he appreciated Mr Shabane's honesty. He noted that the AG had stated that qualifications would not be imposed on any department for the failure to have an immovable asset register, until  2008, since it recognised that a lot of work was needed. He said that there must be a point at which a plan could be made for that programme. The government had set aside R789 billion for infrastructure that would stimulate the economy in the whole country, and it could not be said that the government was not putting together some of that money to finalise this programme. He noted that this Department handled issues that were one of the five main priorities of government, and there was a need to do away with the lingering issues of the past. A realistic plan was needed, and if the Committee could help, then it would do so.

Mr Shabane respectfully requested to prepare something in that regard and to return at a later date with a plan about what was reasonable and what could be done.

The Chairperson said that the AG would also be called upon to provide advice in that meeting, and asked what date would suit the Department.

Mr Gwanya requested that the meeting should be held in the last week of November, or the first week of December, because there was a task team composed of the Department of Public Works and his Department’s officials, who were looking into problems at provincial, municipal and national Department levels. The team was addressing the problem, and would report on this and provide a plan by the end of November. The Department's plan would be more concrete if it was aligned with that of the task team.

The Committee suggested the date of 23 November for the preliminary plan.

Mr Gwanya said that any date from 20 November would be fine.

The Chairperson said that a letter of confirmation would be sent when the Parliamentary schedule was confirmed. The Portfolio Committee on Public Works would also be notified, so that its members could be present.

The Chairperson asked the Department to submit written answers to unanswered questions within two weeks, specifically on the issue of farmers continuously asking government for higher prices to be paid for farms.

Mr Abram said that the list of proactive land restitution, as well as the list of growing concerns, must also be given.

The Chairperson noted that the CFO did promise to provide this, and it had been noted. The Committee would write a report based on the meeting, noting that there was unfinished business.

The Chairperson then noted that the Minister, replying to question 73 in the House, had indicated that land had been registered in March 2008. The current meeting showed that this was not the case. The information had therefore misled parliament and the Nation, and this was serious, and this must be corrected urgently.

Mr Gwanya said that it was necessary that questions in the House must be very specific. The question had asked whether the Department had done an audit on State land. The Department had understood this to mean an audit as explained in this meeting, and a report on this was available and could be shared with the Committee. Further interaction with the AG had revealed that State land fell under numerous categories. It would have helped if the question had also referred to State land held by other departments.

The Chairperson argued that the question had clearly stated “all State land. There was nothing referring to “land under your Department” He requested cooperation to correct the matter.

The meeting was adjourned.


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