The Chairperson kicked off the meeting by apologising to Members for the absence of the panel of experts who (as agreed at an earlier meeting of the Committee) were to assist the Committee in its assessment of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s (the Department) work so far and come up with specific recommendations on the Committee’s oversight functions. He explained that the draft report which the Committee was to consider could not be delayed as it was soon to be debated in Parliament and that the Committee would meet with the panel of experts at a later date to discuss only its oversight functions. Delegates from the Department were present to provide clarification to the Committee as needed.
Report on Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and Ingonyama Trust Board
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration.
The Committee thoroughly reviewed the contents of the draft report before it and Members made a number of corrections relating to syntax.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC), suggested that the questions framed in the draft report as the Committee’s questions under Paragraph1 (Introduction) be rephrased as statements.
The Chairperson concurred with this but stated that the questions could remain but phrased differently, highlighting that the Committee used the questions as a guide in its consideration of the Department’s report.
Mr A Trolip (DA) suggested that the report should register concern about the significant decrease in the financial allocation to the sub programme of Registration of Deeds Trading Account highlighted under Paragraph 2.3- Programme 2: Geospatial and Cadastral Services.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on this issue from the Department
Ms I Singho, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DRDLR, explained that usually the sub programme on Registration of Deeds Trading Account generated its own revenue and had only a nominal allocation from the Department’s budget with which the Department augmented whenever it had a shortfall through the adjustment estimate process. There was however an increase in the amount allocated by the Department to it under the Department’s budget in the 2011/12 financial year, through adjustment estimate process, because it had worked on the E Cadastre project in conjunction with Programme 2 of the Department (Geospatial and Cadastral Services). She suggested that the Committee’s report raise the view that allocations be made to the sub programme upfront rather than through the adjustment estimate process when it had a shortfall.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Singho. This should be included in the report in addition to the initial concern of the Committee about the significant allocation decrease.
Ms A Steyn (DA) raised two issues under Paragraph 2.3- Programme 3: Rural Development. On the issue of technological improvements and research in agriculture there was no indication on who was responsible and exactly what research was being done. On establishment of 395 Cooperatives in the Department’s plan, the cooperatives were a duplication of already existing programmes which just had their names changed and not new cooperatives per se.
The Chairperson responded that although Ms Steyn’s observations were correct, they did not entirely capture the full scenario. On the issue of agricultural research, National Treasury allocation budgeted for research across all Departments. Therefore, what the Committee’s report might need to highlight would be a coordination of research across departments to avoid duplication. On the Cooperatives, the Department had in its earlier report to the Committee alleged that the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) youths were trained and then formed into cooperatives and these cooperatives were placed into pre existing projects as Ms Steyn had rightly observed.
Dr Moshe Swartz, Deputy Director General for Social Technical Rural Livelihood and Institutional Facilitation (STRIF), confirmed that the views articulated by the Chairperson were the actual situation. He added that these initiatives were not limited to NARYSEC and agriculture only, but extended to other fields and projects of the Department including the arts, crafts and provision of infrastructure programs. He however conceded that the caution on duplication of projects should be noted.
Ms L Archery, Deputy Director General, added that the Department was already in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Science and Technology and with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to set up a rural research forum, to ensure that all research carried out under its auspices were coordinated rather than duplicated.
Mr Trolip observed that the section of the report that covered Land Reforms under Paragraph 2.3- Programme 5: Land Reforms was not detailed and needed to be fleshed out.
The Chairperson agreed with the suggestion.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila questioned if under Paragraph 2.3, Programme 5 the recapitalisation and revitalisation target of 525 distressed lands highlighted were for the 2012/13 financial year or under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) scheme as the Department’s APP provided for only 416 lands to be revitalised in the current financial year. This created some confusion among Members as to whether the 525 lands were the sum total, previous years included or represented only the lands to be recapitalised in the current financial year.
Ms Archery confirmed that the 525 lands represented those to be recapitalised and revitalised in the 2013/14 financial year and 416 lands in the current, i.e. 2012/13 financial year.
Members questioned the budgetary allocation under the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), especially its reserve funds, as the reserves of the ITB under the financial year in review was greater than the amount allocated to it by the Department. Members noted that the policy of the Department seemed inconsistent in budgetary allocation to its entities, i.e. the sub programme of Registration of Deeds Trading Account in contrast with the ITB.
The Chairperson advised the Committee to consider the recommendations that should be included in the report.
Mr Trolip noted with concern that an important aspect of the Committee’s observation in a previous discussion on the Green paper had been omitted. The Committee had specifically asked for feedback/reports from the six stakeholder groups involved in developing the various policies on the Green Paper.
The Chairperson added that the Committee’s report should clearly state that the Committee disagreed with the Department’s piecemeal approach to the Green Paper and recommend that the Committee requests reports of the six stakeholder groups.
Mr Trolip suggested that the Committee’s recommendation under Paragraph 5.1.2 be rephrased to a definite instruction rather than a recommendation.
The Chairperson suggested that added to the recommendations already listed in the report, further recommendations by the Committee should include : (i) coordination between Departments on the creation of cooperatives and for research purposes; (ii) the ITB submit to the Committee its proposed expenditure plan on the 90% of its generated income. Ms Archery suggested that this recommendation should also state that the plan be aligned with the Comprensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP); (iii) the Department submits a standalone report (separate from the commission which it had absorbed into one of its programmes) or sought for the amendment of the law to reflect this.
The report was not adopted.
The Chairperson informed Members that an updated version of the report reflecting all proposed amendment would be forwarded to Members for further comments before adoption.
The meeting was adjourned.