Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on First & Second Quarter performance report

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

19 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr M. Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department presented its mid-term report to the Committee, highlighting its performance and spending. The Department had spent just over 50% of its target budget by the six-month mark. The Department had identified its weaknesses in the areas of planning, monitoring and evaluation and had already discussed how it was going to deal with them.  The Department had decided to hold two meetings, one to deal with performance progress and the other to deal with policy. The Department would liaise closely with the Audit Committee to see how to assist the Department to monitor its progress. The report of the Auditor General had determined that the financial performance was not bad, but that the achievements and narrative did not match the financial report, as it had not reflected a lot of the successes and their impact on the lives of the people the Department served. This conclusion also applied to the report that was being presented to Parliament.

The Members raised concerns about issues such as tractors that had not been distributed when the country was already well into ploughing season.  Issues with the Land Bank were also holding back efforts that should have been well under way during the planting season. The Mechanization Plan needed to be firmly in place, stating what needed to be done in order to guide the Department at various levels of government in the distribution of tractors. 

 

The Committee also urged the Department to revisit its vision in order to come up with exactly what the Department needed to do to set an enabling environment for funding in the country. It was pointed out that the current vision was about creating employment, which should be secondary, with the primary vision related to agriculture. . It was also suggested that the Department needed to look at targets, budgets, indicators and ensure harmonisation of all of these in their plans, as what had been presented to Parliament so far did not speak to each other.

Meeting report

 

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members to the meeting and announced that there was only one item on the agenda – the report of the DAFF for the first and second quarter of the year. He also asked if they should deal with the item of the Committee study tour to Chile.

Ms A Steyn (DA) apologized for being late saying that it was because she had to deal with distressed farmers who had called her about a huge fire that had spread and had affected 50 farms in the Northern Cape. The farmers were unable to stop the fire and had called Ms Steyn to ask the DAFF if they could possibly assist them through the Disaster Management Centre.  Ms Steyn also asked if the Department would ever give the Committee the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) documents that the Committee had asked for, for a long time.

The Chairperson replied that the reason the documents had not been tabled was because they needed to go back to the report where it had been requested, to see if the concerns had been addressed.

The proposed Committee study tour to Chile was supposed to be from 26 January to 9 February, via Brazil. The Committee needed to motivate for funds to cover the two countries.

Ms Steyn was happy to support it and said that the Committee needed to apply, as their applications had not been received favourably.

DAFF Presentation: First and Second Quarter Reports
Mr Sipho Ntombela, Acting Director General, delivered the presentation of the Department. He communicated apologies from Dr Bothle Modisane and the Chief Financial Officer, who were not available due to unavoidable reasons.

He referred to the Annual Report that the Committee had dealt with a few weeks, saying that there were worrying factors arising from the audit.  The Department had identified its weaknesses in the areas of planning, monitoring and evaluation and had already discussed how best it was going to deal with them. The Department had decided to hold two meetings, one to deal with performance progress and the other to deal with policy. Other interventions would be introduced. The Department would liaise closely with the Audit Committee to see how it could assist the Department to monitor its progress. The report of the Auditor General had determined that the financial performance was not bad, but that the achievements and narrative did not match the financial report as it did not reflect a lot on the successes and the impact on the lives of the people the Department served. This conclusion also applied to the report that was being presented to Parliament.

DAFF had already developed an audit matrix to address areas needing attention, with a plan on how to address them. Most of the matters related to governance, monitoring and control structures.  The Department was also working on improving service delivery to commodity groups and had already assigned a department official to each commodity group, and also fisheries-related matters, in order to bring the service closer to the community.

DAFF Budget
The Department’s budget total for the year was R5 798.8m.  Spending for the first quarter was R1 371.7m, which constituted 23.7% of the total budget, which was under the target of 25%. In terms of programmes, administration spending was 27.3%, Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, 26.8%, Food Security and Agrarian Reform, 20.4%, Trade Promotion and Market Access, 39.2%, Forestry 19.1% and Fisheries 20.8%.  By economic classification, 21.7% spending was for compensation of employees, 21.3% for goods and services, 37.0% for interest and rent on land, 25.3% for total transfers and subsidies, and 15.5% payments for capital assets.

 

Spending for the second quarter was R1 596m, which constituted 27.2%. Both quarters added up to 50.6% expenditure – slightly over the target 50%.  In terms of programmes, administration spending was 22,4%, Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, 27,5%, Food Security and Agrarian Reform, 27,8%, Trade Promotion and Market Access, 18,1%, Forestry 31,8% and Fisheries 22.8%. 

 

Discussion
Mr S Abram (ANC) said that he had a lot of empathy for the Acting DG, as he got the impression that he was trying his best under the circumstances. There was a lot of rhetoric but not much achievement. He admired the Acting DG for admitting that there were failures.

He asked about the draft mechanisation policy that had been distributed to the Committee on 9 October. He was reading in the presentation that the policy has been refocused to support household food security, and was wondering if this was the same policy.  He pointed out that the Department had reported on 503 of the 504 tractors and asked what happened to the other one. He wanted to know who had received the tractors that had been delivered and the location to which they had been delivered.

Mr Abram told of a programme he had seen on SABC TV about unused tractors that had been just standing idle since delivery in Limpopo. There had been an interview with a provincial department official who had admitted that the tractors were still there as they were still trying to work out how they should be distributed. It was not good that the tractors were still standing idle, baking in the sun, while the farmers were well into the ploughing season.

He expressed his disappointment that the Zero Hunger Programme had been discontinued given the importance of food security in the country. He was not satisfied about the answers given on why it had been discontinued and asked about how the funds originally earmarked for it had been used.

Mr Abram wanted to know about the small-holders’ strategy, if it was an integrated one.

Mr Abram said he was still unhappy that not enough information had been given about the suspension of the previous DG, and how much it had cost the Department.  The Department had also conducted previous suspension in a similar manner, where those who left did so with no reasons given to Committee, and were also offered packages.

He also asked what the latest figures were in terms of employment within the agricultural sector, as it seemed like a lot of work opportunities were being lost. The Department of Rural Department had been buying up farms without a thought given to farm workers and what happened to them, when the first thing they needed to do was to see to it that the farm workers were alright.

Ms N Twala (ANC) asked about the difference between the 165 permit holders reported on page 72 of the report, and the 74 referred to on page 65.

Ms Steyn said that she had just received information from the Department of Labour on the farm workers, stating that there were 790 000 in 2009, and now there were only 600 000.  She had read that there were 60 farmers a month leaving South Africa to go into other parts of Africa to farm.

Ms Steyn said that SA farmers were not trading on an equal footing in the world, as they were competing with farmers who were heavily subsidized in other countries, and that these were the issues that they needed to discuss. She had the feeling from the presentation that the Acting DG was trying to put things into perspective. She was not happy about the Strategic Plan and the reports they got, because they did not match what was happening on the ground.

She had been phoned by the media about the tractors and their status and had explained the situation to them. She asked if the paperwork was still being discussed, because SA had no agricultural plan.  If the country was sitting with vast tracts of land that had been neglected over the years and left to the point where they could not be farmed anymore, then drastic things needed to happen in order to change the situation.  She gasped with frustration, saying that the reports she was getting from the Department were not speaking to the realities on the ground.

Ms Steyn advised the Department to go back to its vision. The current vision was about creating employment, which was not the mandate of the Department of Agriculture and should be secondary. The vision should more be about creating an enabling environment to farm. She had spent time asking people if they knew about the policy of SA on agriculture, and no one seemed to know. She could see that there was some movement, but if there was no clear plan, provinces would not be able to follow suit. She referred to the example of the Mechanization Plan, saying that because there was no plan at national level, the provinces did not know how to deal with it. The plan needed to include everything, how to deal with land, maize, grazing, etc.

She asked the Department to provide the Committee with information on who from the Department was linked to which commodity.

She asked about the website, as she saw it was still under construction after a long time.

She also asked the Department again for the reports requested by the Committee when the entities came to see the Committee.

She asked the Department if all moneys had been paid out to those who were affected by animal diseases, as the last time she had followed up, some of those in the ostrich industry had not received their money.

Ms Steyn said she was worried about money being transferred to agricultural colleges, and asked why this had not happened.

Could the problem with the Land Bank funding be sorted out, as it was now planting season?

Ms Steyn said she was concerned about not seeing DAFF on the ground, especially at the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform farms.  She urged the Department to get involved again, to ensure the small holders were productive in agriculture.

Mr L van Dalen (DA) said that the biggest problem of the Department was the targets it set. They were outcomes based, not output based, which would say what difference they would make to the lives of the people.  The budget was also not linked to the targets, so that when they were set, the question of being able to fund the targets should be answered. The targets and indicators did not speak to each other. Full time jobs also needed to be stated as targets, and not jobs for one day, as these would not change people’s lives.

Mr Van Dalen also pointed out that the it was still not known whose responsibility it was to set up fishing harbours, and that if it was known, the Department should sit down and draft a relevant law

He also referred to the reports recently about the biomass declining, while poaching was increasing. He asked the Department why the total allowable catches (TAC) should remain the same.

Mr Van Dalen also asked if the people fighting crime had the right tools and the right skills. People needed to know how to investigate a syndicate, and how to take them to court. They needed to be resourced, therefore targets needed to be set and the Department needed to come up with a plan.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE) asked about the senior management levels and how the Department was maintaining the vacancy targets. He also asked about the output of the training programmes, and whether it was true that the Higher Education Officials did not want to go to schools. He also asked if there were more consultants working for the Department.

He asked where the customer services office of DAFF was.  If it was in Port Elizabeth, where could one get a package, and was it reliable?  Was there someone responsible for managing and monitoring the office?  Would there be fish farms in Port Elizabeth?

Mr Bhanga asked the Department if they had a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) programme, given that they were experiencing problems. He also asked about how the Department would go about improving coordination with the provincial government.

Mr Bhanga said he was embarrassed that the President was not aware of the case relating to the Africana and Ellen Khuzwayo vessels. He asked the Department who was responsible for informing the President on such matters.

The Chairperson said that he did not want to call Mr Bhanga to order, but the matter belonged with the Minister.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) said there had been a lack of reporting on the establishment of the small-holder fishers’ association, and she needed clarity on that. She asked if the association would be for SMMEs, or if there would an additional establishment of small-holder producer association and what the timelines would be.

How many vessels did the Department have, and how many did not belong to them.

She asked about the inspection of the fishing establishment on land and sea, given that there were not many inspectors along the coast. She asked if the processing establishments accommodated small right and interim right holders, as they were living hand-to-mouth and not making a profit.

Was the performance review of offshore fisheries a “one size fits all”, as they did not have the necessary equipment.

Ms Phaliso asked about the harbour at Port Nolloth, as she had been part of the negotiations and it had still not been developed.

She asked if the inspectors worked during the December holidays, as poaching was rife then.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) said that cooperatives needed a lot of assistance to reach their potential, and asked how the Department would go about doing that.

Mr L Gaehler (UDM) thanked the Department for being frank.  Some targets were not reported in the review, but appeared on the report. The land and airport was an issue concerning inter-government relations, and was very important.

He asked the Department what plan it had to deal with the misuse of CASP money transferred to provinces.  What was the Department’s plan for trout farming in rural areas?.  He said fisheries was basically a Cape Town affair. It was not in Port Elizabeth, or anywhere else.

He asked the Department if there was a hotline for poaching.

Subsidization was needed in agriculture, on the same basis as farmers in the EU area.

Mr Gaehler said that the partnership between the Department of Rural Development and DAFF needed to be formed through either a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or another instrument.  He asked how the Department would improve the situation relating to budget constraints for improving social working conditions in the provinces, and what the plans were for addressing them.

He asked about the increment of investment in agriculture and what plans the Department had.

He asked why there were only 14 landcare areas, as there was so much degradation around.  Land care could help people get their pensions, as people aged 40 to 65 working in the mine industries, for example, had been laid off and had lost their pensions.

He also pointed out that the 150 000 irrigation schemes were not spread evenly throughout the country, and this needed to change.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) asked what had happened to the 45 emergent farmers that had been taken to the ABI conference. Had there been progress, as she was aware SA was importing more chicken into the country?

The Chairperson referred to the point raised by Ms Steyn about going back to the vision of the Department in order to begin to talk about making an impact. He urged the Department to think outside the box in looking at the vision and what informed it and what programme would be needed to carry them out.

Mr Abram said that this is what Mr Ntombela, the Acting DG would need to do, to give his vision of where he would like to take the Department.

Mr Van Dalen agreed, and said that there was a need to go back to the basics and start from scratch as this was a big Department, and little was working. It was not reaching its targets.

Mr Bhanga proposed that the Department give written responses to the questions raised, as there was not enough time.

The Chairperson and the meeting agreed. The next and last session of the Committee would be held at NCERA farms, where the Committee would conduct a field visit. 

The meeting was adjourned.

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