Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) & South African Veterinary Council on their 2012/13 Annual Reports

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

09 October 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) briefed the briefed the Committee on its 2012/13 Annual Report.  The entity was allocated R496 million over the MTEF from Treasury to upgrade and modernise itself and R34 million from the Tshwane Animal Health Cluster mainly for 13 research and development projects. 

The organisation’s market share remained relatively unchanged although the market and revenue declined substantially. Revenue was R89 million, R9 million less than 2012 due to market conditions,  cost of sales had been curbed from R37 million to R31 million – this includes the cost of producing the vaccine, materials and HR; capital expenditure of R20 million for the initiation of upgrade of the facility; operational expenses had increased from R62 million to R73 million, notwithstanding the curb in HR expenditure; and investment income dropped from R7 million to R3 million due to the drop in interest rate and income generated from capital reserves. In summary, revenue was R30.8 million below budget and R9.4 million less than the previous year; gross profit was R57.4 million and the net loss was R21.4 million. The 19% increase in expenses was primarily due to electricity, water, internal audit fees and repairs and maintenance. OBP had received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for two years in a row. Predetermined objectives remained a challenge but these were being significantly improved year on year.

Members asked if OBP equipment was operational and ready for the season’s delivery of vaccines; why OBP appeared to use the multinational company, Bayer, exclusively; what the OBP’s market share was; what level of support was received from state and provincial departments in terms of purchasing of vaccines; what percentage of vaccines OBP provided for the ordinary poor farmer; why only 27 out of 60 targets the farmer’s day events per quarter, were achieved; what had been the reaction to the AG report on leadership on July 2013 and how the shortcomings had been addressed.
Members also asked if the OBP required assistance with setting the targets; why there was no draft action plan, IP and IT plan; if OBP needed to establish a Committee to be able put plans in place; which vaccines were currently not available; for an update on the status of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD), Rift Valley Fever, African Horse Sickness and other disease areas; why it took more than a year to respond to farmers who had complained about Rift Valley Fever; how the OBP was assisting communities and how many children were being assisted in the primary school.

Members then asked how the OBP dealt with this people leaving the OBP with IP to establish new entities; why a colleague had resigned; what progress had been made with implementation of compulsory veterinarian service by new vets; if the OBP had established vaccine banks; why the OBP had not formally adopted and implemented the IT governance framework; what OBP was doing to encourage students to study in the veterinarian field; and if there were any vacancies and if so, why those positions were not filled.

The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) also presented its 2012/13 Annual Report.
Some of the highlights for the 2012/13 financial year were publication of the Amendment Act, Act No 16 of 2012 and finalisation of the compulsory community service regulations which was in the process of finalisation and was expected to come into operation around the end of 2013. The SAVC anticipated that the recently published regulations would result in the roll out of compulsory veterinary services to all communities.

The SAVC had published Rule 10, which determined that veterinarians were the end users of highly scheduled medicines for purposes of anaesthesia drugs on animals. However SAVC was facing a court challenge from the Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) to obtain approval for game capturers and game farmers to anaesthetise game animals. The SAVC felt that they should make their case in terms of Act 101, whereby medicines were regulated. Another challenge was the guideline of tariffs, which was dealt with annually by the Fees Committee. The SAVC was in a court case with the Competitions Commission which felt that the SAVC was not being competitive by setting minimum and maximum standards. The SAVC felt that it needed to have this guideline to ensure that veterinarians were not over- or under-charging members of the public.

A total of 4 993 veterinary and para-veterinary professionals were registered with the SAVC on 31 March 2013 and 370 persons were authorised to perform veterinary or para-veterinary professional services.

The surplus of R2 million as at 31 March 2013 made provision for the SAVC’s new building to accommodate an increase in staff and for IT development. The SAVC was not a profit organization such as OBP, and relied on maintenance fees for income.

Members asked what the SAVC had done to correct the fact that a member of the Investigation Committee had not attended a single meeting; why there was a delay of 16 months in the appointment of a permanent registrar; how the legal advisors had advised the SAVC on the TOPS issue; how many black students were enrolled in veterinary science at the faculty; which body the SAVC would consult on the World Organisation on Animal Health (OIE) audit report on the performance of veterinary services in the country; and if the Committee could see the report.

Members then asked if the lack of availability of vaccines affected the SAVC’s operations; why 1861 veterinarians were non-compliant; what the SAVC’s view was with regard to the constant threat of FMD, what the root causes were and what role the SAVC could play; if extension officers should assist the resource-poor people in the rural areas; if the SAVC had statistics on the number of animal health technicians employed by the various provincial and national entities in the country who assisted the rural poor; what the SAVC was doing to ensure that the veterinarian’s role was ethical; and how many anaesthetists were in the country and if it was a specialist veterinary profession.

Members also asked for clarity on how the DEA’s view on TOPS had become an obstruction in the SAVC’s work; what the Committee could do as a form of intervention; how widespread rabies was in the country; for comment on the issue whereby vaccine production being a health issue of animals did not fall under the DAFF and where vaccines were not registered.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that Ms A Steyn (DA) and Mr Bhanga (COPE) had tendered their apologies. The former was attending the Agri-SA conference in Gauteng and the latter was attending an academic conference.

Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) Annual Report 2012/13 Presentation
Dr Steven Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer, OBP, briefed the Committee on the organisation’s historical perspective, mandate, governance and workforce profile, performance report and financial performance report. The primary objective of OBP was to produce quality vaccines for prevention and control of livestock diseases in South Africa, Africa and globally. It operated as a business in a competitive environment with many other entities and multi-national companies, using income to pay salaries and operational costs. OBP had its own OBP Incorporation Act (OBP Act 19, 1999). OBP became a state-owned 3B entity under the PFMA and Treasury Regulations in 2000 and received a grant of R9 million for OBP’s Small Animal Unit in 2001. It achieved a revenue milestone of R100 million in 2010 and R150 million in 2011, primarily due to the quantity of Rift Valley Fever Vaccine sold due to the outbreak.

The non-financial performance highlights for the 2012/13 financial year included the following:
-Allocation of R496 million over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) from Treasury for the upgrade and modernisation of OBP
-Allocation of R34 million from the Tshwane Animal Health Cluster mainly for 13 research and development (R&D) projects
-Review of the strategic direction of OBP
-ISO 9001:2008 successfully maintained
-The Quality Assurance Department continued with the implementation of ISO 17025:2005
-Various activities to improving the production efficiency were implemented in the various production and packaging departments
-A plan was initiated to upgrade and replace various critical equipment in line with the MTEF allocation
-The R&D section solidified relationships with local and international research institutes, through collaborative research projects
-OBP’s market share remained relatively unchanged although the market and revenue declined substantially
Globally, 2012 was a difficult year for the pharmaceutical industry and for OBP revenue. The entity’s market share remained relatively unchanged although the market and revenue declined substantially. Financial report highlights were: revenue was R89 million (R9 million less than 2012 income of R98.4 million) due to market conditions, particularly the pharmaceutical industry; cost of sales had been curbed from R37 million to R31 million – this includes the cost of producing the vaccine, materials and HR; capital expenditure of R20 million for the initiation of upgrade of the facility; operational expenses had increased from R62 million to R73 million, notwithstanding the curb in HR expenditure; and investment income dropped from R7 million to R3 million due to the drop in interest rate and income generated from capital reserves.

In summary, revenue was R30.8 million below budget and R9.4 million less than the previous year; gross profit was R57.4 million and the net loss was R21.4 million. The 19% increase in expenses was primarily due to electricity, water, internal audit fees and repairs and maintenance. OBP had received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for two years in a row. Predetermined objectives remained a challenge but these were being significantly improved year on year.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked if the OBP equipment was operational and ready for the season’s delivery of vaccines.

Dr Cornelius replied that the upgrade to the freeze-dried products facility had been completed and was up and running. OBP had pre-emptively interacted with all industry players to indicate that the product would be rolling out from the middle of October. Industry had time to plan accordingly. Since completion of the facility, OBP had invited 120 co-ops on a three-day exercise to show them the upgrade and share information on the freeze-dried vaccines. Feedback was very positive.

The Chairperson asked why the OBP appeared to use the multinational company, Bayer, exclusively.

Dr Cornelius replied that one of the reasons the OBP stuck with Bayer was that it mainly looked after commercial farmers and veterinarians, while the OBPs brief was the developing farmer and establishing new contributors - the emerging black companies. The OBP was interacting with the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) for assistance with start-up capital for small distributors and exports. The OBP maintained international markets and there was considerable sales growth opportunity within Africa.

The Chairperson asked what the OBP’s market share was.

Dr Cornelius replied that the current market share was about 13%. The top companies were Pfizer and MSD (Pty) Ltd.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that over the past few years the OBP leadership had done its utmost to turn it around yet it was still not the veterinary medication supplier of choice. This would require an intense effort on the part of all role players. It was now the season for inoculation, but the majority of livestock/cattle farmers did not have ready access to financing for purchasing of medications for their livestock. He asked what level of support was received from state and provincial departments in terms of purchasing of vaccines; what percentage of vaccines were acquired by the state from other sources which OBP may not manufacture, and what percentage of vaccines the OBP provided for the ordinary poor farmer.

Dr Cornelius replied that indeed there had been turnaround and Treasury had come to the table, assisting wherever necessary, on a quarterly basis. The DAFF had also recognised their responsibility with respect to vaccine reserves and to subsidise the orphan vaccines – those that were less profitable and that no other company would manufacture. The OBP had an agreement with six of the provincial departments for them to preferentially buy some vaccines from OBP. In a good year, the OBP received an income of R15 million from provinces. However, when companies tendered better than the OBP, then it lost out. Hence, the OBP had engaged with Treasury to try to convince it to support the state-owned entity rather than open the tender so widely to competitors.

One of the focal areas, the developing market and small holder farmer, was under-developed and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) submission that over and above supply of vaccines, the OBP should be subsidised to baby-sit and mentor the farmers on how to use the vaccines. This would enhance their off-take of herds to abattoirs and markets and then after two or three years, once they were established, they would be loyal to buying vaccines from the OBP. The OBP also wanted to extend its service to other inputs such as other pharmaceutical products so that the farmer had a programme to follow. The other multinationals were not playing in the small holder farmer field. Bayer distributed to the commercial farmers. In terms of percentage, many developing farmers did not vaccinate at all or did not have input on pharmaceutical intervention. Currently it was at about 6% and there was opportunity to grow that.

 Mr Abram asked why only 27 out of 60 targets for farmer’s day events per quarter were achieved.

Dr Cornelius replied that farmer’s days were conducted each quarter. The targets needed to be reduced and streamlined and such a target would be consolidated into the category of teaching and development.

Mr Abram asked what had been the reaction to the AG report on leadership in July 2013 and how the shortcomings had been addressed.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) said that 62% of targets were not specific or measurable. While there was nothing bad in the AGs report, it could be a clean audit if the targets set were measurable. He asked who set the targets and if the OBP required assistance with setting the targets as the problem persisted year after year. He also asked why there was no draft action plan, IP and IT plan and if the OBP needed to establish a Committee to be able put plans in place so that it could align with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and be accountable to the Portfolio Committee. He also asked how the irregular expenditure and internal control issues were being addressed.

Dr Cornelius replied that the audit Committee and CFO had engaged on the report. There had been 110 targets, which was a horrendous amount. The internal auditors advised that the operational targets should not be included with strategic targets and the OBP had reduced the number of targets to 30 strategic targets. The new shortlist of smart targets had been submitted and PWC, the OBPs internal auditors, had a unit which dealt with government targets and was giving the OBP feedback on the targets. Better targets would be presented in the OBPs strategic plan. The CFO would also take the internal control issue of daily, weekly and monthly reconciliations under his belt and had submitted a plan to the Audit Committee to address internal controls and irregular expenditure. The process had been tightened.

The OBP had a strategic plan with an out-dated IT policy and needed an IT strategic plan with an IT Committee. The IT draft plan submitted to the Audit Committee had been returned to the OBP as it was not comprehensive enough. It was a huge policy which dealt with aspects requiring specialist input. The OBP had resubmitted its plan to the Audit Committee for approval and had initiated an IT Steering Committee. The AG also sat on the OBPs Audit Committee to ensure that issues were corrected.

Mr Abram commented that since its inception, the institute had been recognised as the premier institute in Africa. He asked if the relationship had been maintained with other countries in Africa.

Dr Cornelius replied that internationally, the OBP had a tremendous reputation and as a collective. Notwithstanding some isolated problems that were being dealt with, it was very highly regarded. Future sustainability of the OBP focused on the African continent and small holder developing farmers.

Mr Abram said that although the GDP for agriculture was not comparative to mining, it played a major role as a national key point. The OBP was a strategic facility. However, it had not being recognised in terms of its need to upgrade its facilities despite years of working under trying circumstances. Government needed to support the OBP to ensure that it could impact on those farmers who did not have the financial muscle to afford the vaccinations and medications that were required.

Dr Cornelius replied that the OBP had received good support from the DAFF and Treasury. The team from Treasury discussed all issues relating to performance with the OBP on a quarterly basis. The DAFF had also been supportive of funding for the OBP’s public good ‘orphan’ vaccines and vaccine reserve. There was an indication from Treasury was that it was considering the budget submitted for these vaccines very favourably.

The first phase of the facility upgrade for freeze-dried viral vaccines, the OBP’s core competency, had been completed. Hopefully 60% of the internal upgrade would be completed – some equipment took up to 18 months to arrive in South Africa. There was pressure from Treasury to spend funds and meet targets. While 80% of the tranche allocated by Treasury had been spent, some funds were earmarked and set aside for equipment which was paid in full once the equipment was operational.

Mr Van Dalen asked which vaccines were currently not available as farmers vaccinated at certain times of the year and if they missed that opportunity, there was a window period during which the animals were at risk. While he supported the upgrade, the OBP had promised the Committee that the upgrade would not interfere with stocks of vaccine. He also asked how the OBP would ensure that this would not happen again.

The Chairperson asked for an update on the status of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD), Rift Valley Fever, African Horse Sickness and other disease areas. The Committee would like to visit the areas where diseases were out of control. Ms Twala also asked what diseases and the risks were.

Dr Cornelius replied that during the upgrade the OBP did store product but intended to complete the upgrade earlier. Due to the breakdown of equipment and people from France having to come to South Africa to repair the equipment, there was a delay. The OBP was a national key point and upgrade continued piece meal. Bluetongue product had been a concern but was ready for all farmers from mid-October. The FMD vaccine was with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) as the OBP was not geared to handle that.

Dr T Smit, Chief Operations Officer, OBP, added that upgrades started in December 2012 with the intention to be completed by June 2013. Unfortunately it took longer due to down time on the freeze-dried facility, and it was completed in July 2013. Production of all freeze-dried products was started in the 2nd week of August with only minor glitches here and there. Products were being released onto the market, with some still in quality control and others still to be produced. The current plan ran until 13 December with at least two batches going in every week.

Dr Smit said that there were no issues with the Horse Sickness and Lumpy Skin vaccines. There was initially a quality control issue with Bluetongue vaccine but the product was currently being packed and would be available on the market in the next two weeks. There were still some challenges being addressed on B-Phemeral. The demand for Brucella S19 had suddenly increased due to issues with the alternative RB51 and a couple of batches were lined up and would come out of quality control at the end of the next week. Before the end of November, most products would be available or would be becoming available.

In terms of plans going forward, this was the first stage of OBPs upgrade. It intended to replace other filling lines in the packing area, to have an automated packing machine - the new machine could fill 24000 vials per hour as opposed to the previous machine’s 6000 vials. While saving on production costs and ensuring quality requirements, the cost of cleaning and set up time had tripled. The facility was a huge improvement and a boost for morale of staff. The next priority was upgrade of the bacterial fermentation plant, for which specifications were currently being drawn up. This would be an 18 to 24 month project and would address many issues of the old plant. There would always be interruptions and breakdowns from time to time.

Mr Van Dalen said that the values of the OBP were accepted, but questioned whether it was fulfilling its responsibility if it did not respond to complaints (by paying customers). It took more than a year to return to Aberdeen after farmers complained about Rift Valley Fever. He asked for an explanation as to why this had occurred.

Dr Cornelius said that the OBP had engaged Prof Bob Swanepoel, a veterinarian regarded as the international Rift Valley Fever expert. He was very sought after and it was a matter of being able to make an appointment to visit the areas together with Prof Swanepoel. As soon as the report from the visit available, it was sent to all the complainants, as it was sent to the Committee.

Ms Nyalungu asked how the OBP was assisting communities and how many children were being assisted at primary school level.

Dr Cornelius replied that there were about 150 children at the primary school benefiting from the vegetable garden. On various occasions, the OBP augmented the vegetables with meat as part of its corporate social investment to ensure that the children received protein and vegetables. Apart from the school, the OBP had three or four food gardens in the rural farming areas. The exact locations for corporate social investment could be found on page 20 of the Annual Report.

The Chairperson asked how the OBP dealt with people leaving the OBP with serious IP to establish new entities.

Dr Cornelius replied that the OBP had strengthened its approach to ensure that no IP left the institution. When staff members resigned, their computers and access to information was immediately blocked, inventory was taken, and they had to clear their office before the end of the day. In their contract of employment, restraint of trade was emphasised and under the initial agreement, if the OBP became aware of IP being used to the benefit of another organisation, the OBP had the right to pursue the matter in a legal fashion.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) asked why one of the emplyees had resigned.

Dr Cornelius replied that the staff member resigned for better pastures at a competitor company. The OBP then advertised positions in the R&D section. It was agreed that the TIA money, meant for operational issues, would then be used to appoint new staff members. The new Chief Scientific Operations Officer would start on 1 November 2013. He was African male and would take charge of the R&D section. The R&D team had further been strengthened by the appointment of six black candidates, four of whom had PhDs and two of whom had MSc degrees.

The Chairperson asked what progress had been made with the implementation of compulsory veterinarian service by new vets. 

Dr Cornelius replied that he was aware that the DAFF was running with implementation of the service. The OBP had indicated to the DAFF that it would be interested in placing veterinarians with a focus in production of vaccines with the OBP during their year of compulsory service.

Mr Mannya added that the regulations and logistical arrangements for the compulsory veterinary service supported the rural areas, as did the establishment of mobile clinics to ensure facilities were accessible in the rural areas.

Ms N Twala (ANC) asked if the OBP had established vaccine banks.

Dr Cornelius replied that a vaccine bank required huge deep freezes, minus 60 degrees and space age technology. This was on the cards in the long term planning. The OBP stored vaccines in a vaccine reserve specifically set aside for the DAFF in the case of an outbreak. The DAFF agreed to pay for the vaccine reserve as the OBP could not sell them. 

Ms Twala asked for more information on the Disease Monitoring and Response Plan and the Diseases Awareness Campaign.

Dr Cornelius said that the OBP worked with each province and as soon as the provincial department went on a vaccine campaign, the OBP jumped on the bandwagon and took vaccines to the party and highlighted the need for vaccinations. The Board had agreed that developing farmers could receive vaccines at low cost or cost recovery which were six months away from expiry date and therefore would not be purchased from the commercial sector. The bond between the departments, the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute and the OBP had been enhanced while working together on the Joint Disease Monitoring Plan.

Ms Twala asked why the OBP had not formally adopted and implemented the IT governance framework. While being a national key point, the entity had not been able to establish it, although it had been developed and approved by the Department of Public Service Administration.

Dr Cornelius replied that a year earlier, the IT person who accepted the position then turned it down because the salary was too low. The CFO then took it upon himself to cover the job. The existing document did not meet the specifications of the framework and a specialist was aligning it with the framework to take to the next audit Committee meeting.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked what the OBP was doing to encourage students to study in the veterinarian field.

Dr Cornelius replied that the DAFF had issued an advert for a range of bursaries, including veterinary science. The OBP offered students experiential learning and training for a week. The OBP employed struggling black students who attended the OBP faculty across the road to expose them to the work of the entity. The OBP was also looking at providing bursaries to biochemists or anyone who would want to work at OBP. Internships were also offered.

Ms Twala asked if there were any vacancies and if so, why those positions were not filled.

Dr Cornelius replied that the previous year, through a survey he conducted, staff raised the issue that they would like to develop themselves within the company. He supported the approach and had subsequently advertised internally to absolve those in the entity who wanted to develop themselves prior to advertising externally for critical areas that could not be filled. The staff feedback was that they were very pleased with the new approach.

The Chairperson concluded that it was evident that agriculture had not transformed along the whole value chain, whether looking at fertilizer and feed, mechanisation, or production of vaccines. It would be prudent on the entities themselves to play their role. A session with the AgriBEE Charter would give the Committee an update on related issues.

Dr Cornelius responded that in the OBPs new target and corporate plan, it had committed to three new BEE small enterprises, especially to deal with the developing farmers.

Briefing by South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) Report 2012/13
Dr Boitshoko Ntshabele, President, SAVC presented the SAVC’s Annual Report for 2012/13. The Council’s core functions were to regulate practice; determine the minimum standards of tuition and training; exercise effective control over the professional conduct; determine the standards of professional conduct of persons; encourage and promote efficiency and responsibility; protect the interests of the veterinary professions and para-veterinary professions; maintain and enhance the prestige, status and dignity of the veterinary professions; and advise the Minister on matters connected to the profession.

Highlights for the 2012/13 financial year
The SAVC was grateful for publication of the Amendment Act, Act No 16 of 2012 and the finalisation of the compulsory community service regulations which was in the process of finalisation and was expected to come into operation around the end of 2013. The SAVC anticipated that the recently published regulations would result in the roll out of compulsory veterinary services to all communities and the more effective functioning of the SAVC. The SAVC’s responsibility was also to ensure that those who had completed their compulsory service were registered as fully functional professional veterinarians.

After a number of years in discussion with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), during a meeting held on 17 July 2012 with the DG of DEA, the SAVC objected to the requirement of permits for veterinarians rendering veterinary services to Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS). However, the most recently gazetted regulations restricted what veterinarians ordinarily could do in terms of the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Act. Veterinarians had to have a permit before they could give assistance to TOPS. The Committee may need to engage the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs on the issue to get clarity on what DEA aimed to achieve. While the SAVC appreciated the DEA’s concerns, for example, its impact on rhino poaching, the SAVC believed that there was a better way of managing it.

The SAVC had published Rule 10, which determined that veterinarians were the end users of highly scheduled medicines for purposes of anaesthesia drugs on animals - during relocation and other activities done to them. The SAVC had restricted the use of these drugs to veterinarians only, but had pending legal action from the Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) to obtain approval for game capturers and game farmers to anaesthetise game animals. The SAVC felt that if they wished to have access to these highly scheduled medicines, they should make their case in terms of Act 101, whereby medicines were regulated.

A core function of the SAVC was to conduct inquiries into the professional conduct of members.

Temporary external services had been appointed to address the unfortunate backlog in this area. Subsequently, of the 24 backlogged inquiries, 17 inquiries had finalised within a period of three months.

SAVC had also succeeded in appointing key staff members and a permanent registrar to establish capacity within the ranks and improvement of service delivery, mainly to SAVC’s members who SAVC maintained through registration. SAVC had also improved IT technology to improve communication with members and other stakeholders and anticipated having a web interface from which members could log in, update their information and for registration. SAVC had also seen improved enrolment for veterinary science by black students at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science due to successful marketing.

Ms Lynette Havinga, Registrar, SAVC, described the functions of its Committees on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Education, Fees, Finance, Inspections, Investigation, Registration and Authorisation and Specialisation. The challenge, and perhaps where the Portfolio Committee could assist, was the guideline on tariffs, which was dealt with annually by the Fees Committee. The SAVC was in a court case with the Competitions Commission which felt that the SAVC was not being competitive by setting minimum and maximum standards. The SAVC felt that it needed to have this guideline to ensure that veterinarians were not over- or under-charging members of the public.

A total of 4 993 veterinary and para-veterinary professionals were registered with the SAVC on 31 March 2013 and 370 persons were authorised to perform veterinary or para-veterinary professional services.
The surplus of R2 million as at 31 March 2013 made provision for the SAVC’s new building to accommodate an increase in staff and for IT development. The SAVC was not a profit organisation such as OBP, and relied on maintenance fees for income.

Discussion
Mr M Cele (ANC) asked what the SAVC had done to correct the fact that a member of the Investigation Committee, Dr B Modisane, had not attended a single meeting.

Dr Ntshabele replied that Dr Modisane had submitted written comments to the Committee meetings as he had a number of other responsibilities.

Ms Nyalungu asked why there was a delay of 16 months in the appointment of a permanent registrar.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the previous registrar resigned amidst allegations and therefore legal ramifications had to be taken into account. The deputy registrar graciously accepted the position of acting registrar during that time.

Ms Nyalungu asked how the legal advisors had advised the SAVC on the TOPS issue.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the SAVC lawyers believed that the SAVC had a ‘good case’. The crux of the SAVC view was that it was their responsibility to ensure that anaesthesia as a veterinary function, could only be performed by a veterinarian.

Ms Nyalungu asked how many black students were enrolled in veterinary science at the faculty.

Dr Ntshabele replied that there were 106 black students enrolled- 45 males and 61 females.

Mr Van Dalen asked which body the SAVC would consult on the World Organisation on Animal

Health (OIE) audit report on the performance of veterinary services in the country and if the Committee could see the report.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the OIE had defined delivery of veterinary services beyond the state to the private practitioner. South Africa did not have a collaborative approach in this regard. Consultation would be with all stakeholders but it was vested with the DAFF. When the report became available, the SAVC would be consulted on how the issues would be dealt with going forward.

Mr Van Dalen asked when the compulsory veterinary service would start, what the outstanding issues were and if they had been dealt with.

Mr Van Dalen asked if the SAVC was concerned about diseases such as brucellosis and how the lack of availability of vaccines affected the SAVC’s operations.

Dr Ntshabele replied the SAVC was concerned about disease. The lack of vaccines did not affect SAVC operations, but was a risk. Therefore the SAVC used persuasion in terms of how it interacted with the DAFF.

Mr Van Dalen noted that veterinarians were given ample time to comply with SAVC accreditation conditions whereas in the past disciplinary action was taken. He asked why 1861 veterinarians did not comply.

Dr Ntshabele replied that Continued Professional Development (CPD) was an important tool for qualified veterinarians to continue to be updated in terms of knowledge and scope of practice. It appeared that the challenge was that people were reluctant to go through an intense process of learning something new. Members had to keep a log of their records as proof of how they kept abreast of updated knowledge.

Mr Abram asked what was actually meant by veterinarians having restricted registration.

Dr Ntshabele replied that this was where a person was registered only for certain activities and could only do those particular activities for a limited period of time, such as when a foreign veterinarian visited South Africa.

Mr Abram said that sporadic FMD had been re-occurring in the country with drastic economic implications. He asked what the SAVC’s view was with regard to the constant threat of FMD, what the root causes were and what role the SAVC could play.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the SAVC would wait until it received the OIE report before taking a view on the threat. The root causes were that there were not enough people on the ground doing surveillance, not enough inspections and reporting on the cases and no smart partnership between state and the private sector and abattoirs. Once the additional 150 compulsory service veterinarians were implemented, the SAVC could offer a better service as veterinarians were duty bound to report an animal disease.

Mr Abram asked if it should perhaps be in the domain of extension officers to assist the resource-poor people in the rural areas who chased numbers rather than genetics and where many animals were infected and diseased. He further asked what the SAVC was doing to help people understand that it was better to have a limited number of good genetic quality animals. Lastly, he asked if the SAVC had statistics on the number of animal health technicians employed by the various provincial and national entities in the country who assisted the rural poor. 

Dr Ntshabele replied that the control of breeding was more a function of farming systems. Where animals were allowed to roam and became on heat, the first bull that arrived would affect the genetic herd. Animal Health Technicians and extension officers should offer proper advice on how to improve management.

Mr Abram commented that several veterinarians had been arrested and were facing charges for being accomplices in rhino horn poaching as certain medications to anaesthetise animals could only be found in a veterinarian’s fridge. He asked what the SAVC was doing to ensure that the veterinarian’s role was ethical. Crooked people would find other species if they were stopped from rhino horn poaching. He also asked for the SAVC’s view on whether rhino horn harvesting would be a solution to limiting the extent of rhino horn poaching.

Dr Ntshabele replied that there was no SAVC view on harvesting of rhino horn. It was his personal view that legalisation of the trade would reduce prices and the propensity for people to go out in the middle of the night to shoot rhino. Conservationists would have a firm view and the SAVC would support them. SAVC was responsible for the conduct of veterinarians. If they were found guilty they would serve before the SAVC and would be given a fair hearing. The SAVC waited until a person was found guilty as then the burden of proof had already been made and the person would then try to plead innocence. The SAVC was in the process of amending fines to be more prohibitive in nature.

Ms Twala asked how many anaesthetists were in the country and if it was a specialist veterinary profession.

Dr Ntshabele replied that there was an anaesthetics specialisation but all veterinarians could anaesthetise animals. The matter referred more specifically to TOPS wildlife regulations.

Ms Twala asked for clarity on how the DEA’s view on TOPS had become an obstruction in the SAVC’s work and what the Committee could do as a form of intervention as it would be necessary to meet with the DEA to know the other side of the story.

Dr Ntshabele replied that he would be guided by the Committee on how it could intervene when one department’s legislation impacted on another. The SAVC had used persuasion and written submissions but had been assured that they would not get a favourable response.

The Chairperson asked how widespread rabies was in the country.

Dr Ntshabele replied that there had been cases of rabies in KZN, Free State, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and it remained a world-wide problem. 27 September was declared World Rabies Day. It could be beaten if owners responsibly vaccinated their dogs, which was offered for free by the state. There had been efforts but more organised programmes to highlight and promote vaccination of dogs should be implemented.

The Chairperson said that the issue of regulations was that it was a matter which resided in Parliament. They gave meaning to and operationalized an act. He asked for comment on the case of vaccine production being a health issue of animals and not falling under the DAFF, but where vaccines were not registered.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the challenge was that drugs could be registered through Act 36, the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies with DAFF or Act 101, the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. However, there were other instances where veterinarians were allowed to constitute a vaccine on a once-off basis for a patient. That dispensation created a vacuum. Where in the past there may not have been vaccines available and where certain diseases could only be treated with the creation of that vaccine, there was now a loophole in legislation and exploitation. The fundamental basis for resolving it would be for the DAFF and DoH to decide where the legislation would reside. This had previously been raised under the Sub-Committee on Food Safety and Security.

The Chairperson asked what the core focus of the SAVC was.

Dr Ntshabele replied that the SAVC’s core mandate was to maintain a register of veterinary professionals. It registered and de-registered veterinarians. In terms of the law, before they could practice they had to be registered. The SAVC also set norms and standards and the code of conduct for practice and adjudicated between them and the public in terms of the law when necessary. The SAVC also had the mandate to advise the Minister, in terms of delivery of veterinary services in the country and influence and recommend to the DAFF to act on specific veterinary issues.

The Chairperson concluded that it would have been useful to have had the ARC, OBP and SAVC together at the meeting. The reason that the Committee called for briefings in clusters was that they could ask each other questions. The following day, the Committee would engage the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB).

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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