The Committee received two briefings by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The first was the responses to the question the Committee had posed to the Department during the 2012 and 2013 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Reports. The Committee was pleased that the Department was implementing some of the proposals that they really advocated for such as the developing a mechanisation system to ensure accountability and consistency in the programmes and projects of the Department.
Members were displeased that the report by the Department seemed to infer that the Committee was responsible for the failures of Ncera Farms where as it was the body itself that had repeatedly come to the Committee to produce substandard documents and for years had nothing to show.
Filling of funded vacancies was still a concern for Members as there were just fewer than 900 vacant posts in the Department; however it was assuring that the Department was taking initiative in dealing with the matter. Another concern raised by the Committee was that millions of tax payers’ money was wasted and no one was held accountable or accounted as to how that money was spent in provinces and in the projects by the Department.
A Member of the African National Congress felt that there were little of the Department’s plans that had been implemented and were in practise, and would like to believe what he saw in the presentation but what was happening on the ground was no reflection of what the Committee had in front of them in reports. By the time the Committee intervened, the MEC in the last five years had barely attended meetings of the Committee. The MEC did not answer to the National Assembly but only reported to the NCOP and had made it clear to the Committee that they did not answer to them, yet funding was passed by the National Assembly. He said the issue of how the provinces spent their budget would persist if not dealt with more ardently.
The Committee was also concerned about the funding model of the Department as it seemed that programmes that were budgeted for were draining funds from CASP which was a key entity for DAFF.
The Director General told the Committee that agriculture was noted by Cabinet as a game changer in 2013 and could be a catalyst in the growth of the country. It was proven in Malawi that if the country invested 10% of its fiscal budget in Agriculture there would be impressive growth in the economy of the country.
The performance report for the Department for the second quarter highlighted the successes of the Department and some of its shortfalls. A Member of the Democratic Alliance commended the Director General for being strict in ensuring that there were strict measures in place when it came to reporting by the directorates and unless a directorate complied they would not be scored for whatever achievements that they said they produced. The Auditor General (AG) had raised the issue of reliability and verification of the information provided by the Department, which was the same problem she had had since she had been on the Committee. The Department had to provide explicit information on what they had done, where they had done. It was unacceptable to be only informed that the budget was spent but there would be no evidence on what it was spent on, and yet the Committee was supposed to support the Department with National Treasury for a budget year after year.
A Member asked about an issue which occurred over December 2013 period, where illegal vessels were captured by the Department. The Chairperson said that the Department should be commended that with the problems that they were facing they were still effective and delivered. The Member from the DA felt that it was yet another failure that three of the captured vessels had escaped from the custody of the Department. The Department clarified that the vessels were not under its jurisdiction when they were under the authority of the port harbour.
The last report on fishing right was not heard by the Committee as majority of the Members felt it was a self-defeating process to discuss a document about a process that was on going. Members of the DA wanted it to be on record that they were not happy with the decision of the majority as the matter was a crisis and fishing communities that had lived off fishing for all their lives did not have rights to fish and did not know how to go about the appeals process. A DA Member said that the rights allocation process was broken on so many avenues and no one in the Committee had full information of the process and what was going on except for what was in the media. The Chairperson said that if anyone had information on people that were appealing, then they be directed to the right officials to assist them.
The Chairperson said the last oversight visit undertaken by the Committee was to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and its campuses, and the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) which was a very fruitful visit. The reports from these visits would be worked out and presented to Parliament. The Chairperson read through the apologies from Members and welcomed the officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). He called on the Department to brief the Committee.
Response by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on the Recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee in the 2012 and 2013 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Reports (BRRRs)
Prof Edith Vries, DAFF Director General, read through the document containing the recommendations and responses.
The Committee had recommended that there should be a policy developed for mechanisation to ensure consistency and accountability. The recommendation was noted and the Department was developing a policy which was currently in draft form and ready for consultation.
The Committee proposed that there should be a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) plan for conditional grants to increase productivity and food security. There had been consultation with Heads of Department (HODs) and other provincial bodies and there was a draft M&E framework in the consultation phase. The leadership in provinces was reflected in the success of the relevant provinces.
Regarding the recommendation to dissolve Ncera Farms, Prof Vries said the entity had a turnaround strategy however it was rejected by the Committee. She could not vouch for this response as written in the report.
On providing pre-settlement budget support to land reform beneficiaries, the pre-settlement mandate was with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. DAFF only had a supporting role in the process.
The Committee had proposed that there should be a mentorship programme and strategic partnerships. DAFF had a mentorship programme in partnership with community organisations and was managed by provinces while the national Department only did monitoring and evaluation. The programme was funded through the training programme of Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP).
On the filling of vacancies, DAFF had set this as a Human Resource priority to reduce the vacancies. There had been a reduction in the vacancy rate between April and December of 2013 with a focus on senior positions. However, the public service vetting process was causing delays.
The Committee suggested that there should be coordinated collaboration between ARC and OBP. Prof Vries said since then, there had been a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the entities regarding research and development. There was cooperation between the entities but there was room for DAFF to enhance its oversight role. There was also a concern over the protection of intellectual property. OBP staff had signed contracts in this regard.
Concerning fisheries, the sector was an area of job creation and there were interactions with the Department of Public Works (DPW) to get more funding. What was absent in the plan for the Department was the target for job creation in the sector.
As recommended by the Committee, DAFF was moving away from using consultants especially when there were people employed to do the jobs. There were, however, still highly specialised areas where consultants were required.
Prof Vries said if governments in Africa invested 10% of the fiscal budget in agriculture, there would be a 6% growth in the economy. The study by the World Bank on how much money was actually invested in agriculture would paint a bleak picture as less than 1% was invested in agriculture.
The Chairperson said the Committee had gone through the BRRR process and in doing so had taken into account the previous year’s BRRR. The intention was to comprehensively look into the whole process.
Ms A Steyn (DA) raised a point of order against the DG. The comment saying she could “not vouch” for the statement made the report about Ncera Farms and their turnaround strategy was concerning. This was like saying that if someone came to Parliament to present something on behalf of the Department it needed a stamp of the Director General (DG). It was also concerning that it seemed like the Committee was blamed for the failure of Ncera. Even on the report by the DG, it sounded like Ncera failed because the Committee did not approve their turnaround strategy. However, Ncera kept bringing poorly prepared documents to the Committee of strategies that were not implementable. They were constantly sent back for that reason by the Committee. While everyone was still waiting for what would happen to Ncera, she asked how long would it take for things to be finalised and what was their current status. Were people still being paid or had things been moving along as they had for the last 15 to 20 years.
Prof Vries withdrew her statement about not being able to vouch for the Ncera report and their status. She was uncomfortable with the inference in it. She knew of the turnaround strategy presented to the Committee and there were also annual performance plan. In January 2014, she met with the food security branch and the CEO and CFO of Ncera were present and could report. Despite the uncertainty of their future, they were still functioning and had reports on land and animals that were thriving and the reporting almost begged that the decision on Ncera could be reconsidered.
Ms Steyn said in 2013 she read that money being used for FETSA TLALA came from CASP funds. There was no provision on the budget for FETSA TLALA so where did the funds for the project come from? When the Committee visited the Free State there were projects that were specifically targeted towards CASP. The HOD said over a two to five year period, they would continue funding projects through the CASP fund to ensure the projects became viable. So, if CASP funds were used for other programmes what would happen to the projects that fell under CASP?
Prof Vries replied that there had been admission and understanding in government that there had not been sufficient investment in Agriculture. There were two bits of funding; there were equitable share that provinces received for agriculture and then there was a conditional grant as the conditions were agreed upon, beforehand, with National Treasury. However, there were provinces that did not want the equitable share and the provinces had the power to decide what to do with that. Several of the provinces almost exclusively relied on CASP funding for their agricultural investments and that was what the World Bank study would reveal and it was part of the work that was being done with the ten by ten, which was a meeting of the DAFF DG and all the nine HODs with the DG of the National Treasury and all the nine Provincial HODs. Therefore, it was assumed that to increase production and to increase food security, some money should come from somewhere. There were no extra funds for FETSA TLALA thus the CASP money for planting was applied to that project.
Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, DAFF Chief Financial Officer, said that the Department had not used any of its money to fund the Vrede Farms. Funding for FETSA TLALA came from CASP and the Department had engaged with National Treasury to say that the funds they had for CASP were not sufficient and asked for more funds. There was a ten by ten team that was established to carry out the negotiations.
Ms Steyn said she was not happy with the response on pre-settlement support. She knew there were meetings on the top level where DGs and DDGs sat down, but the problem was what was happening on ground level. There was little or no assistance from extension offices to land beneficiaries. One of the reasons why land reform was a failure in certain areas was because the extension support was so poor. In 2013, the Committee asked the Land Bank how many of the new farmers could not repay their loans and the response was that the Land Bank was seen as the sole responsible body and the extension offices of the Department were non-existent. If the Land Bank was supposed to be a financial institution but had almost taken over the functions of the Department, it became problematic. Meetings on top level may happen but the problem was what was happening on ground level. Perhaps the problem also lay in that the Committee had not received a report on the extension offices and maybe the extension offices were failing because they were not equipped but the Committee had no knowledge of that.
Regarding the mentorship programmes between the provinces and the Department, Ms Steyn asked for a list of which provinces and which commodity organisations had signed agreements and where were they struggling. She said she had meetings with commodity organisations on a regular basis, most of the engagements had been with them voicing their frustration with the DAFF but they would mention a good relationship with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and they had agreements with them but not DAFF.
Prof Vries said she could not speak on the subject of little or no support to land reform beneficiaries, but it would help to work with the Department of Rural Development to look at what had happened to the beneficiaries of land reform. She could only speak of a few examples she knew first hand but perhaps there had to be a deeper understanding of what happened with the beneficiaries.
Ms Steyn asked which of the senior management positions were not filled.
Mr Sipho Ntombela, DAFF Deputy Director General of Corporate Services, said the positions not filled were support positions. There were five in number and were in different parts of the country.
On the point regarding Monitoring and Evaluation, Ms Steyn asked where Annexure 1 was. One of her concerns was that she was not sure how the Department was doing its Monitoring and Evaluation, because the Committee would ask certain questions and would not receive satisfactory answers, if any, on Monitoring and Evaluation.
Ms Steyn referred to an article from Farmer’s Weekly which said Mpumalanga Veterinary Services were in disarray due to a lack of funding. What was worrying was that during December there was not a single inspection or vaccination against the “foot and mouth” disease. The Committee had visited the ARC and OBP last week, and asked about new vaccines that were being developed and new diseases that were coming into the country and the response from them was that the ARC and OVI needed the Department on the ground to do inspections physically and monitor new diseases and if the Department was not functioning and doing what it was supposed to do the country was again exposed to the risk of animal diseases. The response of the Department was always academic that things were happening at top level but the problem was not at top level, the concern was what happened on the ground.
The question was with OBP, OVI and ARC. Where did the buck stop? The farmers complained in 2010 during the Rift Valley fever outbreak fever that the vaccines did not work. Whose job was it when there was a crisis regarding vaccine development and research for animal health? Who had to take responsibility and say research must be done and what was happening with the body formed in Tshwane? It seemed like Department of Science and Technology took over because it may have identified a gap.
Prof Vries said that the country was still importing and using vaccines from Botswana for “foot and mouth”. However, the ARC as the research body received the delivery of the vaccine as they had the facility but the Department was still solely responsible for that function. She said the DG could not speak on the merits of the vaccine from Botswana but in the near future South Africa may not have to import vaccines any more.
Mr P Van Dalen (DA) asked where the 1 343 jobs that were created were and what kind of jobs were they. On the collaboration between the ARC and OBP, there was an amount of R492 million that had been spent on biological products for OBP however there was a rumour that OBP would be sold to a private company. If it was true, why would the government spend R500 million on a company and then sell it off?
Mr Desmond Stevens, DAFF Acting Deputy Director of Fisheries Management, said the working for fisheries programme was funded by the EPWP and the 1 343 jobs were made up of people that had worked for R136 000 in 160 job days which translated to full time job equivalents as per the public works definition.
Prof Vries said she could not comment on the sale of OBP as it was a state asset and a public entity.
Mr S Abram (DA) said a lot on the report depended on the following budget. On Monitoring and Evaluation for conditional grants, the problem was that the Department made available out of its almost R6 Billion budget substantial amounts of money to provinces. Once the money got to provinces, there was little monitoring taking place. It seemed the Department went about things how they deemed fit at the provinces. For example, on 12 March 2012 Mr Abram came to a meeting with photographic proof of millions of Rands of agricultural equipment lying in a field where with the stroke of a matchstick it could have been burnt down with no security. This was in the Free State, the DAFF promised a response within two weeks but to this day there had not been a single word in response. This meant that all the documents from the Department were merely for public consumption and little actually happened. There were allegations that some MECs of Agriculture would see to it that equipment designated for the province was given to people in the area the MEC came from. How was that monitored?
DAFF also said that they would develop a draft Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. However, it was yet to be seen by the Committee as the Committee did not have the mentioned appendix. The Department was judged not on what they said they would do, but rather on their performance. In this term of Parliament for instance, whatever Monitoring and Evaluation plans the Department had, did not work.
Prof Vries replied that contrary to the report that there was no monitoring, there was a land reform farm in Mpumalanga because of the leadership of the HOD there was an active community trust and a significant number of hectares were put under irrigation. The programme used an infrastructure component of the CASP budget to build a dam and a pack house. There were many more of such examples. R2 Billion of the R6 Billion budget was given to provinces according to their business plans and the plans had to make reference to the various funding categories.
If there was no monitoring and evaluation, then National Treasury would not continue to give the Department money for programmes that had no reports. The Presidency was in fact currently doing an external evaluation of CASP. There were mechanisms in place to monitor the budget to provinces and not just throwing money at problems. There were implementation strategies and follow ups, and provinces were held accountable. Prof Vries said that the annexure referred to was a draft and the final document would be circulated to the Members.
Ms N Twala (ANC) said as noted in the presentation, it had been realised that the positive achievements of the Department were not known by the public. What was the Department after this realisation? On the interdepartmental forum co-chaired by the Departments’ DGs, the forum had been there for some time, but the issue of pre-settlement had long been an outcry. What actions were taken to prioritise the matter?
Prof Vries admitted that the communications branch of the Department was weak and there needed to be a particular kind of skill to lead the communications of the Department. There were many good stories that the Department could share in provinces. DAFF had a recently appointed Chief Director for Communications and she hoped this official would start in April 2014.
Ms M Pilusa – Mosoane (ANC) said it could not be on record that the Committee brought about the failure of Ncera. The way it was written in the presentation was as though the Committee had a plot against Ncera but there were reasons that the Committee rejected Ncera’s plans. Year after year the entity was given a budget and all it went to was to pay salaries but no progress on the farms. Ncera failed, not the Committee. She asked about the late payment of R4 million to the Universities. What was the current situation? National Treasury allocated nearly R5 million to OBP, for 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. South Africa needed the entity yet the money was not enough for upgrades? What was happening in the entity?
Prof Vries agreed that the funds may not be sufficient for the infrastructure development that was needed.
Mr Hlatshwayo said from the finance point of view, if the Department had not received any confirmed and approved MOUs, it was inappropriate for the Department to release funds as there was no basis to release the funds. In this case, there was one MOU which was going back and forth with the legal team of the Department and that of the university due to certain concerns.
The Chairperson said the presentation made mention of the key principles of the CASP funding model where there was a provision of a percentage of the budget allocation to a mentorship programme. There were a number of programmes listed however there seemed to be an issue of duplication on the sources of funding. Regarding pre-settlement support, the report spoke of a relationship with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. When the matter was simplified it seemed that Rural Development prepared the land and ownership of the land then DAFF came and worked on the land. There needed to be a pre-settlement support programme to how things transpired from Rural Development and then how Agriculture tied up.
Mr Ntombela said the DAFF did not have a satisfactory answer regarding pre-settlement as legally it was the responsibility of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. DAFF was responsible for post-settlement. The approach that the Department had taken was that work between the two Departments was interlinked and there was a forum co-chaired by the DGs of both departments where mutual areas of concern were discussed. The matter would be taken up in the next forum meeting so that a comprehensive answer could be provided to the Committee.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) raised a concern on the policy on tractors, but said at last something was being done to assist people in the provinces with the policies being implemented. There were projects that the Department was involved in and while the Committee was on oversight, it was established that in some of them were failing as funds were disappearing. It appeared as though funds were embezzled. Were the investigations being done and what was the progress regarding those funds? There were public funds spent in the Ncera farm in the Eastern Cape so there needed to be accountability for that.
Ms Steyn asked for more facts on South Africa possibly being able to export red meat. Which countries could be exported to? Were there existing markets and agreements with these countries?
Prof Vries replied that if there was one branch in the Department she had extreme confidence in was the branch of Agriculture Production, Health and Food Security. The Department was also on top of trade and industry issues hence there was a known value of the R160 Billion of the country’s livestock industry. It wass not like there were no exports in livestock. There were exports and it was contributing in the country’s GDP. She said the whole system needed to be reviewed instead of dealing with issues as they came. The country had to work on the system so that it could get back its export certification and revive the market. The Department had realised that it needed a facilitator to re-establish the industry and see where the gaps and opportunities were.
Ms Pilusa - Mosoane said there was a concern with the filling of vacancies in the Department. Under which categories did the 875 posts fall?
Prof Vries replied that there was another view regarding the vacancies. She would rather not fill a lot of the junior posts and rather employ researchers. The fact that there were a lot of posts did not mean the Department had to fill them. The Department had to look at what it needed to do going forward and then create posts accordingly.
Briefing by DAFF on the Second Quarter Expenditure and Performance Report for 2013/14
The DAFF briefed the Committee on its Second Quarter Expenditure and Performance. The presentation was done in terms of the various performance programmes.
Programme 1: Administration
Strategic objective: Provide effective audit, investigative and legal, human resources and financial risk management.
The first Indicator for Programme 1 was an Integrated Human Resources Management Plan submitted to DPSA and implemented. The targets for quarter 2 were as follows:
Identifying and advising units with high vacancy rates
For Agriculture & Forestry, during the reporting period, directorates with a high vacancy rate were identified and advised on recruitment and selection processes. ODC meetings were held monthly to monitor the vacancies in the Department and to take action on posts where there was no movement. In Fisheries, the vacancy rate was 6.24% on 30 September 2013 which translated to 43 vacant posts from the total establishment of 705 posts.
The protracted delays in the verification of criminal and citizenship checks by the State Security Agency through the Directorate: Security Services impacted on the vacancy rate of the Department. Although SAQA had reduced its turnaround time on the verification of qualifications, it still took an average of 30 days to verify qualifications. In the Fisheries Management branch and its support functions, the vacancy rate dropped due to the cleaning up of PERSAL and abolishment of all unfunded vacant posts. The vacancy rate as at 30 September 2013 was still at 13%. The acceptable vacancy rate as per Public Service norms was 11% and the average vacancy rate in the Public Service was 23%.
Approved jobs evaluated
All requests received for jobs to be evaluated were subjected to the job evaluation process and the job evaluation results of 132 posts were approved by the relevant delegated authorities. In terms of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2012, all vacant posts on salary levels 10 and 12 in Programme 1 must be verified by the DPSA. This process currently caused delays of more than four months.
Improve turn-around times on verification process
The average turnaround time for SAQA to verify qualifications before an appointment could be made was reduced from an average of 38 working days to 30 working days. A verification agreement was signed with SAQA to commit them to improve turn-around times. Regular interactions were also held with the Director of Security Services to follow up on the delays in the criminal and citizenship checks by the State Security Agency. However, prolonged delays were experienced from the State Security Agency on the verification of criminal and citizenship checks during the reporting period.
Develop an approved training report submitted to PSETA, HRD Strategy and M&E report submitted to DPSA.
The first quarter of the 2012/13 training report was developed and approved during the period under review. The report was submitted to PSETA on 28 May 2013. The HRD Strategy and M&E report was also submitted to the DPSA on 30 May 2013. The second quarter training report was submitted to PSETA on 10 October 2013. Reporting dates given by PSETA and did not relate to the stipulated departmental reporting requirements. Therefore, the report submitted will always be a quarter late. For example, a Quarter 1 report would be a Quarter 2 deliverable.
Analysis report on alignment of Performance Agreements to APPs
A total of 78% of levels 1-12 employees work plans were received. Also, 85% of Performance Agreements had been finalised and filed with the Directorate of Employee Development and Performance Management. There was a required 100% adherence to Performance Management and Development System. Therefore, corrective actions included the issuing of written warnings to SMS members for non-compliance as well as follow-up on outstanding Performance Agreements and Work Plans.
Analysis report on alignment of Performance Agreements to APPs
The analysis on alignment of the SMS members Performance Agreements with the Annual Performance Plans was done in Quarter 2. The recommendations would be implemented in Quarter 3 during the first performance review process. The SMS moderation process was also finalised.
The Department planned to conduct a management intervention implemented in KwaZulu Natal region, communicate the approved plan to DEXCO and Monitor and Evaluate approved plans. However, there was lack of evidence to verify achievements of these targets.
No targets were achieved in improving the financial management controls.
Strategic Objective: Provide leadership and manage communication and information.
Master Systems Plan implemented
The ICT strategic plan was developed and approved by the DDG of Corporate Services. There were no deviation comments as the target had been achieved.
Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) Strategy implemented
The target was to implement the change management plan. The change management plan was drafted and forwarded to relevant stakeholders for inputs. The relevant Directorate had decided that the current Core Work Group be tasked with duties relating to change management. The KIM Strategy has not been implemented yet.
No targets were achieved for the implementation of the DAFF Communication Strategy.
Strategic Objective: Strengthen policy, planning, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and sector information
Programme/project decision support management system implemented
The Department planned to implement the programme decision support management system. The relevant directorate was given the responsibility to formulate the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), which delayed its work on the design and institutionalization of the programme and project management decision support system. Since the focus of the Directorate was on the finalization of the APAP for approval by Cabinet, the agreed target, namely to get approval and implement the programme and project decision support management system was not achieved in Quarter 2, but would be concluded in Quarter 4.
Policy analysis framework implemented
For the second Quarter the Department planned to review the status of sectoral policies. The status report on sectoral policies was being finalized for presentation to the DEXCO sub-committees before being presented to DEXCO for approval. However, due to the resignation of key staff members, therefore the project would not be completed in the current financial year.
Research and Development (R&D) programme approved
The Quarter 2 target was to monitor the implementation of the targeted R&D programme. R&D work has been commissioned to the ARC, the Consortium of Universities, and through the National Research Foundation. But there was a lack of evidence to verify achievement.
Strategic Objective: Improve departmental service excellence through implementation of quality standards, Batho Pele principles and the general legislative mandate.
Legislation review project completed
NEDLAC and government Cluster process followed and forwarded five Bills to the State Law Adviser (SLA) for pre-certification. Nine Bills were submitted to the relevant unit for submission to the Minister and to Cabinet for approval. The consultation process on a number of the Bills was halted as a result of a Ministerial instruction letter.
Programme 2: Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety
The Committee was further presented with the details on the sub-programme related to animal production and health. The strategic objectives included the following: promote efficient production, handling and processing of food, fibre and timber; and establish and maintain effective early- warning and mitigation systems.
The DAFF presented its performance in terms of programme 3 which spoke to food security and agrarian reform; programme 4 which related to economic development, trade and marketing; programme 5 relating to forestry and natural resources management; programme 6 covering fisheries management.
Expenditure Trends: Quarter 2 – 2013/14
Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer, took the Committee through the expenditure trends of the second quarter. Although the sector’s share of GDP was declining, agriculture was still a significant primary sector of the economy in terms of employment, backward and forward linkages to other sectors, export earnings and so forth. It was also a precarious sector subject to a wide range of risks. High and volatile fuel and electricity prices and increased labour costs posed a threat to the sustainability of the sector. The vulnerability to food insecurity was increasing and the food security status was deteriorating.
Going forward, there was a need to build consensus around a job creation strategy within agriculture, forestry and fisheries. It was also important to improve cooperation with provinces and local government to enhance governance in the sector and accelerate collaboration with stakeholders through existing forums.
The Chairperson said as the Committee did their year-end final report, this exercise was of great assistance. As the Committee did its oversight work they had to compare trends of the quarters reported on to those of the previous year to see if there had been progress or not.
Mr Van Dalen asked about the status of the Afrikaner vessel as it was not mentioned in the vessels on the presentation or had it been condemned. Regarding enforcement and compliance, how far had the Department come with the implementation of the Public Protector’s report on the findings and the recommendations to recover R50 million which was considered fruitless and wasteful expenditure by the Navy and shortening the period of handing over of vessels. These were yet another display of the Navy’s inability to get vessels up and running and keep them in class.
Mr van Dalen asked what was happening with the observer programme and was the DG aware that there were ten confiscated ships that were shipping on South African waters. Three had escaped from the harbour with no one knowing. The presentation spoke on rehabilitation of forestry plantation but there was no rehabilitation in Grabouw in the Western Cape, trees were removed and they were not replanted. He said that the Quarterly reports were thin on information. The AG also noted to the Committee that the information from the Department was unreliable and unverifiable, using the example of calling recipients and that did not even know there were funds being allocated to them.
Mr Van Dalen asked why the Department was doing so badly, they had only reached 26% of the second Quarter and 54% of the first Quarter target.
The Chairperson said the questions raised by Mr Van Dalen fell outside the report under review. The Public Protector’s report still had to be tabled and the Department was not asked to come to the Committee to discuss that.
Mr Van Dalen said the Chairperson had the wrong understanding of the Public Protector’s report. The Public Protector made findings based on information presented to her. Every party could answer to the allegations made and then came up with the final report. He said the Chairperson was totally wrong and did not understand the office of the Public Protector.
Prof Vries said that the level of detail regarding rehabilitation in Grabouw was not required in the current report, there were certain provinces where there had been rehabilitation in state forests and the team of the Department was on top of that. The Forestry Department had been able to provide for the targets that had been set per province.
Mr Desmond Stevens, Acting Deputy Director General: Fisheries, said the Department was not going to put dates to the repairs. The Afrikaner, Sarah Bartmaan and the Ellen Khuzwayo had gone to sea. The Department had seen Hake Saskia and had advanced with the MSC Certification. The Afrikaner and Sarah Bartmaan were in an advanced stage of reparation and there would be announcement soon on when they would be going to sea.
The Chairperson said what Mr Van Dalen was also referring to was that the Department had successfully captured ten boats that were illegally sailing on South Africa’s coastal lines. However three of the boats had escaped from custody of the Department. The Department needed to be applauded for what it had done and what it had continued to do even with the challenges that it faced. The matter resided outside the second quarter review as this happened in December 2013, however the Department should get an opportunity to answer about that.
Mr Stevens said sometimes it was unfortunate when things were not truthfully relayed. DAFF had arrested the illegal vessels. The ports authority in the Cape Town harbour and the National Prosecuting Authority had proceeded with the legal matters and confiscated the vessels. This was outside the mandate of DAFF. The vessels were under the authority of the NPA. The 75 fishermen that were on the vessels were under the auspices of the Department of Home Affairs and they had to deal with the illegal immigration aspect of the matter. There was a multi-departmental approach on the matter. When DAFF was informed that the vessels had escaped, all the law enforcement agencies were contacted including the navy and air force.
Ms Steyn said one of the biggest challenges she had with the Department had been with the reliability and verification of the information they provide. There had not been concrete evidence by the Department of what they report on which meant that the Committee could not monitor what they were saying they were doing. If the Department said they had done something then the Committee wants exact information of where they had worked and on what. She supported that the DG gave Monitoring and Evaluation got a zero. Until the DG was sure that she got reports that she could bring to the Committee and the Committee could do oversight, then they had to get 0%.
Another important aspect is policy and planning, there was a concern that policy and planning did not link. Last year the Department reported that they had spent 99% of the budget but only achieved 47% of their targets and of the 47% it was reported that they were not sure of the impact on the industry. She asked if compared to five years ago, did more South Africans have food security; if not then the Department had not met their target. Stakeholder relations were also not up to standard, the Member had written letters to the Minister and to the officials to the Department on queries from the public and she had never gotten a response.
Ms Steyn said another issue that spoke to the reliability of the information from the Department were the R10 million spent on food parcels, what was in the food parcels and who received them. There was never an official document from the Department on that. The AG admitted that the information from the Department was unreliable; the clean audit and unqualified audit then did not mean much in that instance.
Prof Vries said that the Department provided technical systems indicators, the Department did not do the implementation they contracted the provinces to do that. The provinces had to give the Department details of where the farmers that they were giving support were, the question after that was; what support was being provided.
There were three types of farmers that the Department supported; subsistent farmers, small holder and commercial farmers. The Department and the provinces then workout a criteria to describe each of those categories, then the provinces had to work out what kind of support they provided to each category. It was a concern to all that farmers had remained emerging and subsistent farmers for a decade, there had to be a way in which they graduate from one category to the other. That was an area that the DG conceded that the team had been failing, the mechanisms were there but they were not enforces and applied.
The Department had to find money to invest and upgrade the Agricultural Information Management Systems; the Western Cape system was great (80% dynamic and 20% hard coded, national systems were the inverse). Currently the Department only required the provinces to provide who they were supporting but not what support or services were being provided to the farmers. She said that she was not sure if the existing output targets were meant to measure impact, impact was a long term thing.
The DG could not say that there was more food security compared to five years ago, there was still a problem with food security. But looking at the household survey for the last two years the numbers had increase and it also lay with the definition of food security. According to the food policy; people were to be deemed food secure if they had access to safe and affordable food and nutritious food, this was a continuum. For example with the meat labelling debacle, the solution should be delivered by Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry and DAFF. There were many contributing factor like unemployment, poverty, people no longer growing their food, but she assured the Committee that she would provide an answer to that.
Prof Vries said stakeholder communication were indeed not up to standard, as she had said earlier she had a lot of confidence on the Agricultural Processing, Health And Food Safety Branch but could not say the same for Stakeholder Management and Communication, it was one of the weakest branched.
The question about food parcels was brought up last year as well. The only proof that officials could provide was if a person signed next to their name that they received a parcel. The piece of paper Ms Steyn was given was the only proof that could be provided it was unfair that the Department be branded as being completely unprofessional because of that.
Ms Steyn clarified that she did have the list of names of the people that received food parcels. The question was what the value of the parcels that people received was. The question was an example to attest to what the AG had said - that information from the Department was not reliable. It was known that the Department spent R10 million, there should be at least a list of what was in each parcel and their value.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked if the down payment to ARC was a mistake. Also she asked that the under spending be explain point by point as mention on slide 49.
Mr Hlatshwayo said the double payment to the ARC was per an existing agreement with the entity, it was not a mistake. Regarding the under spending, he said that normally funds were ring fenced for a particular programme, as per an agreement with National Treasury; if the funds had not been used up due to an on-going procurement process then those funds would roll over to the following year and still be used for that programme.
Briefing by DAFF on the fishing rights allocations and progress report on appeals
The Chairperson said this matter was still a work in progress. On 21 February 2014 was the deadline for all appeals to come before the Department. The Chairperson was of the view that it would be premature to engage in an exercise looking at how the rights allocation process went. The Department was ready to address the Committee they complied with the request by the Committee and sent a presentation to all Members. After consulting the Department, what was the current state of affairs regarding the process and
Mr Van Dalen said that the Department had finished allocating the rights and they had publicised the whole process in the media. However, there were problems in the whole process and the problems persisted to negatively affect the fishermen and their right to appeal because they did not have the right information. For instance, with the verification process, people were brought in to do that but applicants were not contacted to verify their information. Some people had gotten fishing rights but did not even have boats. The score sheets that were to be filled in during the process were incomplete or were filled in after, all these were factors that had to be discussed so that Members could go and assist the fishers that wanted to appeal armed with the right information.
Ms Steyn said her concern was that people were only made aware of their rights allocation status on the last date. Were the processes explain thoroughly beforehand of when the applicants would hear from the Department and if they had not heard by a certain date then there could be action they could take to ensure that they receive their rights. Ms Steyn did not understand why there was mass action from people at the end as though they did not know the process. What were the processes that were put in place by the Department to help people who did not get their fishing rights? People that had done this for their entire lives now did not have fishing rights to make a living, what was going to happen to them, would there be any assistance from the Department.
Ms Pilusa - Moaone said if the document was a work in progress she saw no need to go through it at this stage. The document was incomplete, the Committee should wait until things were concluded and interrogate the Department on whatever they brought to the Committee.
Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) agreed that the Committee could not discuss something that was still in progress.
The Chairperson said the other danger was to play with the sentiments of poor people. There were people who lived and relied on fishing, there was a responsibility to guard the interest of those people. The Committee should not to use the in a political game, if there were Members with numbers and information of people that needed assistance with the appeals process then the Members could forward those details to the Department.
Ms Steyn said that the Committee asked for the meeting because there was a crisis, the Department was in front of the Committee and the document was there. The Committee could go through the document and interrogate the Department. The Committee could discuss the process with the Department directly instead of relying on the media which had been the case until now.
Mr Van Dalen said after 28 February 2014 people that had lived as fishermen would be left with no income and would have to rely on social grants, there had to be answers to those people. The whole process was a disaster.
Ms Twala said what made things difficult was that the Committee saw this from the media, it could not be said that the Committee had facts. Perhaps Mr Van Dalen was fortunate to know directly what was going on with the communities. Discussing the document was haphazard, others were privy to certain information that others were not.
The Chairperson said that people were now using alarmist terms such as “there’s a crisis”. Words that were sensationalist like “national disaster”. That spoke to exactly what he meant when he asked that the Committee stop playing with the sentiments of the poor people.
Going through an incomplete report was not helping anyone; once the process was completed and closed on 28 February then the Department would come back to the Committee and give a report on the entire process
The Chairperson said more Members of the Committee were in favour of rescheduled the discussion with the Department regarding the matter.
Ms Steyn said she respected the decision of the majority of the Committee but wanted to put it on record that she was not happy. The Department was present in the meeting and had provided the Committee in a document reporting on fishing rights allocation. Some of the Members were not sure of the process, and only had information based on what was in the media. As a public representative it was her job to find out, verify and go out to assist communities in the right way. Whoever did not want the Committee to discuss the matter, they were blocking a process where the Members could have assisted where needed.
Mr Van Dalen asked that the Committee decide on a date very close to 28 February 2014 and have the assurance of the Chairperson that the meeting would happen around that date and not after the elections. It may not be urgent for the Chairperson but it was urgent for them and the fishing communities.
Ms Pilusa - Mosoane said the comment by Mr Van Dalen was out of order, as the ANC was the very party that came up with the process and put forward that there be allocation of fishing rights. The DA members had the document; they could go through it and later combine it with the final document that would be presented by the Department. The Committee could not discuss a process that was not finished.
The Chairperson said the Committee did have it in mind that Parliament goes away on 13 March. There was an existing programme that the Committee agreed upon, all that had to be done was to reconfigure the programme. It was in the interest of the entire Committee that the matter was dealt with.
There would be consultation with the Department on when they should come and report on fishing rights allocation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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