Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the new organogram of the Department: briefing

Committee: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Chairperson: Mr L Johnson (ANC) and Ms A Qikani (ANC; Eastern Cape)

Date of Meeting: 15 Feb 2010

Summary

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs on the new organogram for her Department. The Minister wanted to ensure full consultation with both Committees before submitting the organogram to the Department of Public Service and Administration. Furthermore, she indicated that there would be consultation with the relevant labour unions before again referring the organogram to the two Committees for their further consideration before its submission to the Department of Public Service and Administration. Because the Minister lacked powers over the totality of the Fisheries mandate, the Fisheries aspect of the organogram still posed a challenge. Explanatory note 3.3 of the Proclamation explained that there would be further negotiations between the stakeholders. The media had, however, focused on the Proclamation itself. It was her understanding that the Proclamation’s intent was to ensure the transfer of the budget of Fisheries be transferred to the Department.  This was a change from responsibility for aquaculture and mariculture to assuming 80% of the functions of Marine and Coastal Management. The remaining 20% was seen by the Department as an economic function, not a conservation function. The legal advisor to the President had assured the Department that a team of experts would be established to hear representations and discuss the remaining 20% of the functions of Fisheries. The Minister further suggested that the two Committees, and constituencies, should make presentations to the Presidency. She appealed to Members that there should not be communication through the media. Members should rather voice their opinions to the team of experts. The Department had also indicated to its State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that they must align their outcomes to the 12 outcomes accepted by Cabinet. The Department had already consulted the Provinces. 

The Department added that reconstituting the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had required intense effort. The aim was to maximise service delivery and to ensure that finance was available to the farming community, forestry and fishing sectors. Above all, it was essential to ensure that micro financing in the rural areas was strengthened. The Department secondly sought sustainable management of the use of natural resources, and to ensure food security. Thirdly it sought to ensure that sufficient fishery scientists, veterinary scientists, microbiologists, food technologists, and agronomists were trained within the next three to five years.

Members complained that they had received late and incomplete documentation. The Minister said that she had made a special effort to ensure that documentation had been sent to the Committees; the Co-Chairperson from the Portfolio Committee said he would investigate. To enable complete documentation, including copies of all the applicable legislation and regulations, to be furnished to Members, the meeting was adjourned until Monday, 08 March 2010.


Minutes

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries oral submission
Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that the post of Director-General had been advertised. For this reason the Department was determined to complete its organogram, but before submitting it to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), she felt that it was most important to confer with the Portfolio Committee and Select Committee to obtain their suggestions. This was preferable in order that the Committees would not have to react to the organogram retrospectively once it had been passed. Furthermore, she indicated that there would be consultation with the relevant labour unions before again referring the organogram to the two Committees for their further consideration before its submission to the Department of Public Service and Administration. The Minister wanted to provide a presentation to Members, not just a document, in order to give them an idea of the thinking behind the organogram. She thanked the Committees for allowing the Department the opportunity for such a meeting so early in the year and on a day when Members were expected to attend a plenary session in the afternoon.

The organogram included Forestry and Fisheries, and because the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries did not have powers over the totality of the Fisheries mandate, the Fisheries aspect of the organogram still posed a challenge.

The Department had also included in the Members’ package, the explanatory notes and the entire proclamation which had been signed by the Deputy President, who was at that time Acting President. Explanatory note 3.3 explained that there would be further negotiations between the stakeholders. These further negotiations were supposed to be highlighted in terms of the way forward. The media had, however, focused on the Proclamation itself; however, it was the Department’s understanding that the Proclamation as it was signed was to ensure that the budget of Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). This represented a move from the previous position where the Department was concerned with aquaculture and mariculture, to a position in which about 80% of the functions of Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) would be transferred to the Department. About 20% of MCM was seen by nature conservation and water affairs as a conservation function; however, the Department maintained that this 20% constituted an economic function, because if it was decided to give fishing quotas to a particular area and conservation claimed that it was a protected area, it meant that in the final analysis the Department would not be allowed any final say in the total amount of the catch allowed. Those elements were still being debated. However, the legal advisor to the President had assured the Department that a team of experts would be established to hear representations and discuss the remaining 20% of the functions of Fisheries.

The Department wanted to ensure that the views of the two Committees were heard, together with views from the constituencies. The Minister further suggested that the two Committees, and constituencies, should make presentations to the Presidency. Even if submissions were received at the Minister’s office, she would ensure that they were forwarded to the Presidency. She appealed to Members that there should not be communication through the media. Members should rather voice their opinions to the above-mentioned team.

The Department was now engaging the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) with these developments and had advised them that they should align their plans to 12 outcomes as accepted by Cabinet. She asked that the Committees consider holding a workshop on these 12 outcomes of the Cabinet, and suggest to her a suitable date, if they agreed. The Department had already consulted the Provinces. 

The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister, Mr Pieter Mulder, if he had anything to add.

The Deputy Minister replied that he had nothing to say at this time.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked the Department to proceed with its presentation.

Mr S Abram (ANC) objected that the hard copy documentation that he had received contained references to two Acts – the Marine Living Resources Act and regulations thereto, and the Sea Fisheries Act, but not all Members had the Acts in front of them. It was necessary for Members to know the provisions of the various Sections. He asked that this documentation be made available.

The Chairperson said that he had noted Mr Abram’s objection – he himself did not have a copy, but wanted the Department to proceed.

Mr Abram believed that the lack of documentation might put Members at a disadvantage.

The Chairperson conceded that because of the depth of the implications of the existing legislation, it might not be possible to conclude the discussion in the current day’s session. However, he pleaded that the Departmental team be allowed to deliver the presentation in its entirety.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) oral submission
Mr Richard Soleka, Deputy Director-General, DAFF, referred Members to their documents, the information technology (IT) equipment being dysfunctional.

Details had been outlined as above by the Minister. The work of establishing the macrostructure of the reconstituted Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been intense. All concerned senior officials in the Department had been consulted thoroughly. Industry had made intensive input. The aim was to maximise service delivery. He sought to outline the strategic focus areas of the new Department. Key to the challenges facing the new Department were issues concerning financing, the renewal of efforts to establish sound funding mechanisms and ensuring that the Department engaged in negotiations with such organisations as the Land Bank. The overall aim was to ensure that finance was available to the farming community, forestry and fishing sectors. Above all, it was essential to ensure that micro financing in the rural areas was strengthened. 

The second area of focus was sustainable management of the use of natural resources, and to ensure food security.

The third focus area was the strengthening of human resource development. For the past three years there had been talk about scarce skills in agriculture as a limiting factor in terms of performance. The Department sought to assemble a scarce skills development programme to ensure that fishery scientists, veterinary scientists, microbiologists, food technologists, and agronomists were developed over a three to five year target period.  

The Department sought to increase employment; it recognised that this could be done only through partnerships with the private sector.  Key to the success of this was co-operative development programmes. Moreover, distribution and access to markets were important, as was the availability of sufficient implements such as tractors.

The Department had also identified infrastructure development as an important area.

The Minister had worked hard to increase intra-African trade and overall productivity.  The Department sought further to increase access to foreign markets. Existing production capacities needed to be increased, especially that of fallow land in the former ‘homeland’ areas. Those areas would be given serious attention.

Also the Department would give attention to the colleges of agriculture and to the retraining of extension officers. However, the extension officer concept would be extended to the forestry and fisheries sectors.

The Department then sought to explain the draft organogram. 

Discussion
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) interrupted to complain that she was dissatisfied with the presentation because Members did not have the relevant Acts available for reference.

Mr Johnson offered an apology. The Committee Secretary had received the presentation only on Friday, 12 February 2010 for distribution on Monday, 15 February 2010. He admitted that it was a major internal problem that must be resolved. Late distribution of documents did not allow time for Members to study them and understand them. Another issue was that ideally Members should have the Acts and regulations for reference. However, he advised Members to allow the Department to complete its presentation.

An NCOP Member pointed out that Mr Johnson could not decide unilaterally on whether to proceed with the meeting. Members could not continue without having sufficient information, although it might be useful to see if the presentation would be fruitful.

The Minister accepted responsibility for the lack of documentation. She thought that Members had copies of all the Acts concerning the jurisdiction of her Department. These should have been with all the Members from the start. The organogram was based on a many laws. There were 14 Acts predating 1994 but still in effect, some from as early as 1934; they needed to be reviewed and updated. This was why the organogram upgraded the legal section. All Members must therefore familiarise themselves with all the relevant Acts.

A Member said that only a few days were available to Members.

Ms M Mabuza (ANC) stated that in order to understand the organogram, Members needed a fuller understanding of the background. She did not object to the Department’s intentions, but failed to understand what was being presented.

Mr Johnson proposed that the meeting be suspended given that Members did not have copies of the relevant legislation. When Members met again they would have read all the legislation and documentation. It was important to understand all the issues that provided the context of the organogram. He would instruct the committee staff to circulate copies of the legislation and regulations to Members.

The Minister assured Members that she stood by her commitment to hand the organogram to the DPSA until the Committees had considered it. It was not the organogram that came into law on 01 March 2010, but the proclamation over which the Department no longer had control after it had been published in the Government Gazette. The Minister thought that the committee staff had given Members copies of the Gazette. However, she would ensure that Members were so provided.

Mr Abram asked if the Departmental officials could advise Members about the various sections and their contributions, whether the Department would have the necessary authority, and whether those maritime resources could be adequately harvested. He further asked if the Department had sufficient resources to ensure harvesting, and if it had the right to control the resources in the sea. He was asking these questions ‘in a friendly way’. In future, he required that presentations must not just include good intentions which meant nothing to the community as a whole. He wanted to know what the models meant. He had heard the same thing ‘year in and year out’. Instead, he wanted a listing of problems identified together with proposed solutions. Also he wanted to know the legal import of all these sections that were to be transferred.

The Minister said that she had a serious problem with the committee administration, since she had made doubly sure that email correspondence had been sent and received. 

Mr Johnson said that this was not the first time such a problem had occurred, and asked if he could deal with the matter later. 

Mr O de Beer (COPE; Western Cape), whose constituency was rural and depended 90% on the Department, could not understand the cut off date. He emphasised the importance of Members’ oversight role.

Mr Johnson said that the research team was not providing Members with sufficient support. Documents were not reaching Members early enough through the secretariat, thus Members were disadvantaged. He therefore proposed rescheduling the presentation. He noted that the NCOP had an outreach program the following week.

Ms Mabuza protested that ‘if the slate is not clean’, a forensic audit was required.

Mr Abram proposed on the contrary that while the officials were present, they be permitted to provide Members with information, for example, on the consideration of applications for fishing permits.

Ms Mabuza recommended that the Committees conduct a joint a workshop before this should happen.

The Minister agreed with the idea of rescheduling the presentation and the need for a workshop on the Department’s new mandate. The explanatory document was indeed an attachment. If she had known that there would be a problem in opening the attachment, she would have ensured the sending of hard copies. She accepted full responsibility. She further said that the Department’s officials had given their inputs to the Presidency, and asked Members to do likewise.

Mr Johnson proposed Monday, 08 March 2010 as a date for the rescheduled presentation, although permission would have to be obtained to meet on a day normally designated for constituency work.

Mr Thabethe said that he would ensure that the Department packaged the documentation with all the Acts, relating to agriculture, forestry and fisheries by next week; the files would be large.

Mr Johnson sought clarity on when the fishing permits would be issued.

Mr Thabethe replied that permits would be issued by the Department after the prescribed date.

Mr Abram complained about the Department’s responses. He had expected a synopsis on the effects of various clauses. He reminded the Department that Members would hold it to account, and that constituents required an explanation. There was time to hear an explanation, but all that Members had heard was that permits would be issued. He informed the Acting Director-General that this was not enough.

Mr Johnson asked Mr Abram to reserve his questions for the rescheduled meeting. He said that there were administrative inefficiencies and that some of the information required should have already been in his possession. 

Ms Mabuza objected that the Portfolio Committee had not adopted its minutes. She asked for a day for the adoption of the programme and other issues.

Mr Johnson replied that the Portfolio Committee had already schedule a meeting for 23 February 2010 to deal with the adoption of minutes, discussion of the Committee’s programme, and the report on the oversight visit. He thanked the Minister and Department.

The meeting was adjourned.