The Committee met with the Office of the Auditor-General on matters which the Auditor-General deemed necessary for the Committee’s preparation for the upcoming Strategic and Budget Planning briefings. After debate on whether the meeting should be open or closed to the media, the majority of Members voted to meet ‘in camera’. The Chairperson apologised to the media for not communicating the decision in time. After the media left the meeting, Members engaged with the Auditor-General on all aspects of the Department’s value chain.
The Chairperson accepted apologies for non-attendance from Mr L Tolo (COPE), Mr L Bosman (DA), Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP), and Dr Pieter Mulder: Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Nomination of candidates to serve on the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)
On the 17 March 2011, the Committee had received correspondence reminding Members that nominations of candidates to serve on the NAMC should reach the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) by 1 April 2011. According to the law that governed the NAMC, the Portfolio and Select Committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were expected to submit their nominations for consideration by the selection panel set up by the Minister and from the short-list the Minister would make her decision on the matter. The Chairperson proposed that the Committee should deal with the matter at the following week’s meeting. He asked if Members had any questions regarding the NAMC nomination process.
Mr S Abram (ANC) said that it was a pity that all the Members could do was to submit nominations. He asked if it was possible to get the CVs of all the current members on the NAMC Board, as he believed in continuity as well as bringing in new blood. Having their CV’s would be helpful and also be valuable to have should the Committee have to make decisions about the NAMC in the future.
Mr N Du Toit (DA) said that the CVs did not have to be extensive. A two or three page summary would be sufficient.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary and Researcher to provide the Committee with all the relevant documents- the current CVs of candidates, who could be nominated, who was running for re-appointment, what adverts had been posted and what the law stated in terms of continuity. He also urged Members to refer to the portion in the Act which related to the role of Members in this regard.
Auditor-General briefing on the Audits of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and its Entities
The Chairperson informed Members that the meeting that day with the Office of the Auditor-General (AG) was a means of preparation for the Stategic Plan and Budget briefings of DAFF, which would be on the agenda in two weeks’ time. He asked Members whether the preparatory workshop with the AG was too wide to be open for public consumption at the current stage. Once the entities were engaged, the processes would be public.
Mr Du Toit said that he believed that the AG would not be present in the meeting had they not already engaged with DAFF. He would be very disturbed to know that any information in the meeting would be kept from the media for a certain amount of time. It would ultimately be reported in the media anyway. He was happy with the media being present.
The Chairperson said that his understanding was that there was a process which began only when DAFF was to be audited. The engagement between DAFF and the AG that the Member was referring to had occurred without the Committee’s knowledge and the Committee’s engagement with the AG on outcomes and indicators at this stage was confidential. DAFF was not expected to respond in the discussions. The Committee was engaging with the AG on matters that the AG deemed necessary. This would empower the Committee in their public open oversight role on DAFF and entities. In preparation for the Strategic and Budget Planning briefing, Members would be engaging with the AG on all aspects of the value chain.
Ms N Phaliso (ANC) said that Members wanted to be empowered to make the right decisions when it came to the Budget Vote and for monitoring and oversight. She had believed that the meeting would be a closed session.
The Chairperson asked Members for a resolution on whether the meeting should be ‘in camera’ or with the presence of the media. The point of the meeting was to engage with the AG on any discussion point and without restrictions.
Mr Abram said that on principle, in a democracy everything should be open to the media. However, if the Office of the AG felt more comfortable to have an in-committee discussion to prepare the Committee with information for future debates, then the Committee should respect their view. He believed that it had to be for some good reason that the AG, an open institution, would request an in-committee session.
Mr Du Toit said that simply put, the Members were an extension of the public and should operate as an extension of the public. A closed meeting would be appropriate for discussion on sensitive cases, such as those which were sub judice. However he believed that even sensitive issues should be open to the public as much as possible. Otherwise, it would reflect on the Committee’s integrity.
The Chairperson asked Members to vote on the issue. The majority voted to meet ‘in camera’. The Chairperson apologised to the media for not communicating the decision in time. The media left the meeting.
PMG and the media left the venue at this point.
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