The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) was considered and deliberated upon by the Committee. The Chairperson encouraged Members to comment and effect changes where they so wished, more specifically to suggest recommendations to be incorporated within the BRRR. One of the recommendations made was that even though the Auditor General’s Office had stated that the Department had achieved 49% of its targets it should be reflected in the BRRR that the Committee felt the Department had not reached its targets. Members also felt that financial information on the Ministry- it being a sub-programme under the Administration Programme of the Department- should be made available to the Committee. Another issue which needed to be translated into a recommendation was that the Department should monitor and evaluate the manner in which conditional grants were spent by provinces. Having done that, the Department should provide a report in this regard to the Committee. The Committee was in the unfortunate position of not being able to call on provinces themselves to account on how conditional grant funds were spent.
Other recommendations included the following:
The Committee recommend that more funds be set aside for fisheries research.
The Committee recommend that penalties for poaching should be tightened.
The Committee recommend that the Onderspoort Biological Products should be provided with more funding.
The Committee recommend that the Agricultural Research Council should work with the livestock industry on the issue of the registration of animals.
The Committee decided to adopt the BRRR on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 after changes and recommendations made were incorporated within it.
The Chairperson provided the Committee with figures on how much funds was at present available in its budget, the cost of undertaking an oversight visit and what remained over from the budget which would have to last until March 2013. He also informed members that he was also thinking about the Committee undertaking a study tour which according to the Committee Secretary, Ms Albertina Kakaza, was paid with funds from a consolidated fund and not the Committee’s budget.
Ms A Steyn (DA) referred to an oversight visit to the North West Province which the Committee had undertaken earlier in the year and stated that apparently Parliament rules stipulated that Committees had to at least stay in accommodation that had a four-star rating. However on the trip in question Members had to travel 300km to get to the accommodation and when they had arrived the place had already closed. The next morning the Committee had to travel all the way back another 300km to get on with the task of oversight. The four-star rule was all good and well for committees who did oversight in urban areas but not for those having to visit rural areas. Travelling huge distances was a costly exercise and ate into the budget of the Committee. The rules needed to be reconsidered. The Committee should be able to stay in accommodation which was closest and safest for Members.
Mr S Abram (ANC) agreed with the sentiments expressed by Ms Steyn and suggested that the Committee discuss the matter the following week.
The Chairperson agreed to Mr Abram’s suggestion. On the North West Province trip, drivers had to drive all the way from Johannesburg to transport Members. The drivers themselves did not know the North Wet Province area and their vehicles were not suited for the roads. Local transport companies should be used. The transport costs for the North West trip had been huge as the drivers had to drive all the way from Johannesburg and back without passengers.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR)
The Chairperson placed the BRRR before the Committee and asked Members to comment and effect changes where they so wished.
Mr L Van Dalen (DA) asked who did the budget of the Ministry. In the Budget Vote the Ministry was a sub-programme located within the Administration Programme of the Department. He asked why the Ministry sub-programme had not appeared in the BRRR. Did the Committee not perform oversight over the budget of the Ministry?
The Chairperson proceeded to take the Committee through the BRRR page by page and asked Members to comment where necessary. He noted that Mr Abram had on a previous occasion stated that the Department had only achieved 20% of its targets. The Auditor-General (AG) on the other hand had said that the Department had achieved 49% of its targets. Having achieved 49%, the AG’s Office considered the Department to have achieved its targets.
Ms Steyn disagreed with the AG’s Office. She had gone through the Strategic Plan of the Department herself and was of the view that the Department had not achieved its overall targets. Even if 60% or 70% of the Department’s targets was achieved it could not be considered as having achieved its targets as it fell short of the 100% mark. She wished it to be reflected in the BRRR that the Committee considered the Department not to have achieved its targets.
Mr Abram concurred with Ms Steyn and said that you either achieved your targets fully or not at all. He went further to say that he considered the Department to have even achieved targets even below the 20% mark.
Mr Van Dalen noted that the AG had stated that because there had not been enough information his Office could not make a proper determination on the achievement of targets and hence the 49% figure was given. He added that the Department had in a press statement responded that it had not only achieved 20% of its targets. The Department had also confirmed that the AG’s Office did not have all the information to make a proper determination, hence how could the figure of 20% have been come up with.
Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) emphasised that the Department had not even achieved half of its 144 targets.
Ms Steyn said that the Committee was trying to give the Department a message that it should meet its targets. The Department alleged that 5% of land or 200 hectares of land was under irrigation. If this was the case how much land in total should have been under irrigation? The Committee should in the BRRR state that the Department’s Annual Report said that the Department had achieved 49% of its targets but that the Committee felt that it had not achieved its targets.
The Chairperson added that the issue was whether the performance of the Department translated into benefits for the citizens of South Africa.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane did not believe that the Department could have spent 99% of its budget as the AG had stated. On what had the Department spent the funds? She further asked why the Land Bank had received funds from the Department when it did not report to it. The Land Bank reported to National Treasury.
Mr Abram explained that the Land Bank provided loans to farmers which needed financial assistance. To qualify the farmer should not have assets exceeding R3m. Interest was charged at prime minus four percent. These were the funds that the Department allocated to the Land Bank. He felt that the Land Bank should be accountable to the Committee since it received funds from the Department.
Ms Steyn said that she differed a bit on what Mr Abram had said. She asked what the role of the Department in assisting struggling farmers was. The Department left it up to the Land Bank and the Department of Rural Development to assist struggling farmers. She added that the Department and the Department of Rural Development had set aside funds for the recapitalisation of farms which were in financial trouble.
The Chairperson said that the Land Bank had more of a guarantee function. He agreed that the Department and the Lank Bank should appear before the Committee to explain its programmes.
Mr Abram spoke to the recommendation by the Committee that the Department should come up with a plan to address the recurrent problems of provinces in spending conditional grants. He was concerned by the fact that provinces refused to account to the Committee on their spending. Provinces said that they were only accountable to Parliament via the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). A mechanism was needed so that provinces could be called upon to account to the Committee. There were millions of rands allocated to provinces and some of it was being pilfered.
On the issue of monitoring and evaluation he asked who was monitoring the Department. Monitoring and evaluation in the Department was lacking, especially the monitoring of achieving targets. He recalled that it was either during 2010/11 or 2011/12 that both the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development had not appeared before the Standing Committee on Appropriations. It was considered important that the two departments should appear before that Committee.
He also pointed out that the recommendations in the BRRR spoke to fishing but not to forestry. Forests in SA were becoming depleted and greater emphasis should be placed on smaller growers. Forestry programmes ran over 20-30 years.
The filling of vacant posts in the Department mentioned in the BRRR should be expanded upon. The main problem in the Department was instability as posts were often empty. The Director-General of the Department, Mr Phil Mohlahlane, had also been suspended; the Committee was still waiting for an explanation. Had the reasons for the suspension been forwarded to the Committee as yet?
He added that Mr Rams Mabote had been brought in as a spin doctor/advisor and was later full time employed. But at present he was no longer employed by the Ministry. These issues were concerning to the Committee as funds were being spent all over. The Committee needed to check on how funds were spent by the Department. The Ministry was top heavy. The instability in the Department was impacting upon delivery.
The Chairperson said that concerns by Members had been captured and would be reflected as Committee Recommendations in the BRRR.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane said that if the Department had failed to spend R36m, how was it possible for them to have spent 99% of its funds. Where was the R36m? The issue should somehow be captured in the recommendations of the Committee.
Ms Steyn pointed out that the R36m did not include funds that had not been spent by provinces. The Committee needed to get clarity on the funds not spent by provinces. She had calculated the unspent funds by provinces to amount to R272m. The Department needed to provide the Committee with a report in this regard. A report on how the Department was aligning its programmes with that of provinces should also be provided to the Committee. It should provide the Committee with insight into how capital funding and conditional grants were being spent.
Ms N Twala (ANC) agreed that the way the Ministry spent its funds should be looked at by the Committee.
Ms Steyn referred to the Annual Report said that of the R1.6bn allocated to provinces only 87% of disaster funds had been spent. A total of R393 000 was not spent by provinces.
The Chairperson said that the Committee should come up with concrete recommendations as the Committee could not do oversight over provincial spend. An alternative was for the Department to directly allocate funds to projects in provinces rather than transferring the funds to provinces. The Department relied on information that was provided to it by provinces. The Department was not involved directly in the programmes in provinces.
Ms Steyn noted that the Department needed to monitor the spending of conditional grants that was given to provinces. In turn the Department would be able to report to the Committee on how spending was taking place. Monitoring and evaluation of provinces by the Department needed to be done.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane pointed out that the Department had in the past not had a policy on mechanisation which included the use of tractors in farming. The Department apparently now had a policy in place. She went further to ask what the Minister was monitoring and evaluating.
Ms Twala stated that each province had its own policy on mechanisation.
Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Committee Researcher, informed the Committee that the Department had a Monitoring and Evaluation Branch headed by a Deputy Director-General. The Committee could check on the efficiency of the Branch. There was a departmental director allocated to each province.
The Chairperson suggested a recommendation along the lines that perhaps the Monitoring and Evaluation Branch should be strengthened.
Mr Van Dalen emphasised that the Department should brief the Committee on what it was doing and Members could in turn advise it on what it should be doing on monitoring and evaluation.
Ms Twala added that the Committee should be given quarterly reports.
Ms Steyn said that provinces should provide reports to the Department on how provincial grants should be spent. In turn the Department should provide the Committee with quarterly reports on the monitoring and evaluation of provinces.
The Chairperson agreed that when funds were disbursed to provinces there should be monitoring and evaluation.
Ms Steyn added that the Department should also provide the Committee with its plan on how it intended to increase market access.
The Chairperson reminded Members that in the Committee’s BRRR of 2011 one of the recommendations made related to the Marine Living Resources Fund. The Minister had been reminded about the Committee’s recommendation. Perhaps the Committee should once again include it in its current BRRR. The recommendation was about the duplication of duties that was taking place.
Mr Van Dalen noted that if the recommendation was to be realised the Marine Living Resource Act needed to be amended. He stated that there was a report that had been compiled relating to the issue. The Committee should make a point of obtaining that report. Perhaps the Department could elaborate on what the outcome of the report had been.
The Chairperson was weary about “operationalising” matters in the recommendations of the Committee. The Committee in its recommendation should only state that there should not be duplication of duties and that there should be one department. The problem was that the Marine Living Resource Fund seemed to be a department on its own in Cape Town.
Mr Van Dalen responded that there were Marine and Coastal Resource Funds in other provinces like the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. The Committee should check on the legal implications of recommendations which it made.
The Chairperson said that the Committee should not get into too many details. All that was being recommended was that there should be one department and not a duplication of duties.
Ms Mgxashe explained that the Marine Life Resources Fund was an entity on its own. There was a branch which was part of the Department. At present the Department’s branches of Agriculture and Forestry had its own operations in Pretoria but there was no Fisheries Branch. The reason for the recommendation in last year’s BRRR was that there should be one department incorporating the Fisheries Branch. The Fisheries Branch did its own thing and only reported to the Department. It was not for the Committee to deal with the details of whether the incorporation was to take place. The Committee only took policy decisions. The operationalisation was not the responsibility of the Committee.
Mr Van Dalen observed that there were many separate entities and making policy on one would mean that it applied to all. The fact of the matter was that the Marine Resources Living Fund and the Fisheries Branch were two separate entities. Each had its own board.
The Chairperson explained that all that was being recommended was that the Fisheries Branch be incorporated into the Department.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane suggested that the issue of the Fisheries Branch be shelved to check on the actual recommendation that was made in the 2011 BRRR. She also felt that the Fisheries Branch should be part of the Department. She further noted that there was an amount of R28m that had been refunded to the Department by the provinces. The Department should inform the Committee as to what had happened to the funds.
The Chairperson agreed that the Department should account for the unspent funds that had been refunded to the Committee. Of the R36m unspent funds by the Department, R35m had been accounted for. The Committee still needed to know what happened to the remaining R1m plus funds.
Ms Steyn recommended that the Department keep to a standard of governance and that adjustments should be kept track of.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane agreed with Ms Steyn and said that records should be kept monthly or even weekly so that spending or underspending could be monitored.
She asked when vacant posts in the Department were going to be filled. There were always persons in acting positions.
Ms Steyn expressed satisfaction that a recommendation was made for vacant posts to be filled but emphasised that timeframes for the filling of posts needed to be set. The Committee additionally should be given details of disciplinary actions and investigations. She furthermore wished for the Committee to recommend that in the Strategic Plan of the Department for the upcoming year that targets set should be aligned with the Department’s budget.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane noted that the AG had also recommended that targets be aligned with the budget of the Department.
The Chairperson suggested that the AG’s recommendation be mentioned in the recommendation of the Committee.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane furthermore added that the AG had also pointed out that the Department did not abide by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). She suggested a recommendation that the Department should follow the PFMA.
Ms Steyn brought some issues to the Committee’s attention. Firstly, she said that the Department should be encouraged to deal with legislation that needed to be reviewed. Secondly, the Committee should receive a progress report from the Department on the upgrade of colleges. Thirdly, the website of the Department was not relevant or user friendly and did not provide any information that would assist farmers.
The Chairperson confirmed that the Department had a mechanisation policy.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane also confirmed that the Department had a mechanisation policy but highlighted that the Committee had not seen it as yet.
Ms Steyn explained that there had initially only been provincial policies on mechanisation. A national mechanisation policy had only recently been developed by the Department.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Department needed to collaborate with the Department of Rural Development on areas of commonality.
Mr Van Dalen referred to the issue of fisheries management and said that the Department should provide the Committee with a plan and budget on the allocation of fishing rights. There should also be a strategic plan for small scale fishing policy and budget. The Committee should be supplied with the report about the corruption allegations against the company Smit Amandla Marine. The Department should furthermore provide the Committee with its turnaround plan for fishing harbours. It should additionally supply the Committee with the report on the possible moving of the Fisheries Branch to Pretoria. On the issue of the Marine Stewardship Council, the Department needed to report to the Committee on international agreements and in the event that they were not renewed what would the consequences be.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane said that the Committee needed to come up with a recommendation on forestry as the Department had not achieved any of the seven targets set.
Mr Van Dalen suggested that the Committee recommend that more funds be set aside for fisheries research.
The Chairperson added that another recommendation could be that penalties for poaching should be tightened.
Mr Van Dalen stressed that the disbanded Green Courts had been effective in combating poaching. It had apparently been closed down in 2005 due to a lack of funds.
The Chairperson said that penalties should act as deterrents.
Mr Van Dalen said that what worked in the past should be reconsidered, which most probably meant that the Green Courts should be reinstated.
The Chairperson asked whether the Department had training programmes.
Mr Van Dalen added that the Department needed to inform the Committee on how it intended to incorporate the National Development Plan into its own plans.
The Committee agreed to incorporate oversight visit recommendations into the recommendations made in the BRRR.
The Chairperson referred to the earlier discussion which he and Mr Van Dalen had over incorporating the Fisheries Branch into the Department and said that it needed to be continued on another occasion as they had different opinions on the issue.
Ms Mgxashe pointed out that the recommendations in the BRRR did not mention entities.
The Chairperson, speaking about entities, noted that Onderspoort Biological Products (OBP) was using obsolete equipment and facilities. There was a need for greater funding to be provided to OBP.
Mr Van Dalen referred to the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) and said that the Board checked the quality of products exported but not of those being imported.
Mr Abram noted no matter what was said about OBP, it was a national keypoint. It did not receive the support it deserved and it should receive additional funding.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) did not work with the livestock industry on the issue of the registration of animals. There was a need for the two parties to find a workable solution.
Mr Abram remarked that the Committee should be able to point out the shortcomings of entities by the manner in which there boards were put together.
Ms Mgxashe noted that it was not a departmental shortcoming. It could be captured in a report of the Committee. She added that entities mostly spoke about highlights and not about targets. Entities needed to include financial information in their annual reports. Entities should also have programmes and set targets. The Department had in the week before distributed a mechanisation policy which covered tractors and other forms of mechanisation. She informed members that unspent conditional grants from provinces were sent back to National Treasury and did not end up with the Department.
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee Secretary and the Committee Researcher be tasked with incorporating the inputs and recommendations made in the Draft BRRR into a Final BRRR. Once the final document was complete the Committee would adopt the BRRR. He said that a half an hour could be set aside on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 to adopt the BRRR.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked why the Committee could not at present adopt the Draft BRRR as amended.
The Chairperson responded that he wished to see the actual text incorporated within the final BRRR.
The Committee agreed to adopt the BRRR on Tuesday, 23 October 2012. It was also agreed that only half an hour would be spent adopting the BRRR.
The meeting was adjourned.
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