Recapitalisation and Development Programme public hearings: Committee's draft report

Rural Development and Land Reform

25 February 2015
Chairperson: Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The draft report on  the public hearings on the Implementation of the Recapitalization and Development Programme (RDP) of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) was presented before the Committee for approval and comments. The main issues that arose in the approval of the draft report were the oversight role of the Committee, sustainability and implementation.

The Committee had some discussion whether to include the findings and policy, summary and outline of implementation drawn by the Business Enterprise, University of Pretoria. The study report, covering the period from 2010,  was a joint effort between the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). There were concerns that by simply adopting and incorporating the findings and recommendations of the study report, the Committee would be delegating its oversight role over the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to the DPME. The study report, though conclusive, was viewed as a submission to the Committee, and though many of the findings of the draft report were aligned to the study report, it was decided that it should retain that status.

The Committee was also concerned with the issue of sustainability of the Recapitalisation and Development Programme. The concern was that the draft report did not include business indicators and  analysis that sought to support the programme once the funding had been withdrawn. In order to address the issue of sustainability, it was part of the recommendations that the DRDLR would issue a report on the farmers who would exit the recap and are independent.

The Committee also discussed the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Committee report by the DRDLR. The Committee was concerned that there was no mechanism that would track the implementation by the DRDLR. Systems should be preferred that would allow the Committee to monitor the progress of implementation of the findings and recommendations. The DRDLR should be bound to report to the Committee on a quarterly basis.

The Committee finally adopted minutes of the meeting of 19 November. Arising from those, the Committee discussed the impact of financial budget constraints and the bureaucratic allocation of resources to the Committee. It was pointed out that this Committee played a crucial role and both immediate financial constraints and the longer process of finance allocation directly impacted on its oversight role, which was to be carried out by visiting sites, not desktop research. The Committee of Chairpersons would be asked to take this up with the House Chair.
 

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks and committee membership
The Chairperson noted that a new Committee EFF member had replaced Mr A Mngxitama (EFF). He noted the apologies.

The Committee Secretary, Ms Pumla Nyamza, conveyed the apologies from the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and his two Deputy Ministers.

Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RDP or Recap): Public Hearings: Committee's draft report
The Chairperson noted that this was now the third meeting after public hearings on the 4 and 5 February 2015. It was noted that on 18 February 2015, the Department was invited to discuss in detail some of the findings from the public hearings. At this meeting, the Committee would consider the draft report and make any necessary amendments and additions. The most important parts of the Report were the findings and the recommendations. Once the Report had been tabled before the House and adopted, the recommendations may be forwarded to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department) for implementation

The Chairperson proposed that Part 1 of the Report, being the background and introduction, should include a list of the members who attended the public hearings, which had included farmers, academia, non-governmental organisations, beneficiaries of the Recap programmes already run, and officials from the DRDLR. The Chairperson further proposed that the introduction and background should include the dates when the public hearings were conducted.

The Secretary said she proposed to list the names of the public attending the hearing, as an annexure.

The Chairperson said Members would consider that, when discussing the introduction and background, and reiterated that the public must be aware of committee hearings and the dates.

Mr T Walters (DA) directed the Committee to the last bullet point of part 3.1, under the overviews of issues raised by Agri-business strategic partners, namely South African Sugar Association (SASA) and Grain South Africa (GrainSA). The bullet point read, they (Agribusiness Strategic Partners) pleaded with the government not to discontinue with the Recap funding”. Although the sentence reflected some emotive content of the submissions, the sentence created the impression that the Agri-business strategic partners were "down on their knees pleading". He would have preferred a less strong word than "pleaded". The point that the clause sought to convey was that the Agribusiness strategic partners were in support of recap funding, and thought that the recap funding could be useful, and should not be discontinued but instead some adjustments made, along with consideration of issues that Agribusiness had raised.

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) supported these proposed amendments by Mr Walters, and further proposed that the word “funding should be replaced with the word programme

The Chairperson invited the members to propose amendments to the Findings section, which was a very important part of the report.

Mr Walters was concerned that although the Committee received the views of people attending the public hearings and expressing the need for Recap funding, the Committee did not have any comprehensive academic research study that had been conducted on recap funding. Although it was not suggested that the Committee should dismiss the inputs made, and although he himself was not suggesting that any of the views was necessarily wrong, he had understood that there was such a study carried out by the University of Pretoria (UP), about successes and the failures of recapitalisation funding, which was entitled: “Business Enterprise University of Pretoria Policy Summary Executive Summary and Outline: The Implementation, Evaluation of Recapitalisation and Development Programme from its inception in 2010 to June 2012” (study report). He was concerned that the Committee was missing out by not including such a comprehensive report, and he wondered whether the point about including a comprehensive study could be raised in the Report.

The Chairperson added that the study carried out by the University of Pretoria was a joint study between Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the UP. The report on the study was circulated to members.

Mr Walters again asked whether it was possible to include the study report in the considerations, even though it had not been part of the public hearing process, and whether to do this would assist the quality of the Report.

The Chairperson said that, upon reading the Report, it was clear that some of the input and comments made by the beneficiaries and farmers during the public hearings were aligned with the findings in the study report by DPME and UP.

Mr T Mhlongo (DA), in support of Mr Walters, noted that the study report was an independent view from outside, since it was submitted to the Committee by the DRDLR. However, he questioned whether the study report submitted was indeed the full report, since only four pages of the actual report and findings were submitted by the DRDLR.

The Chairperson reminded Members that there was a report directly submitted by DPME and UP, and not the DRDLR. The DRDLR was one of the stakeholders, since some of the officials involved in the recap project were interviewed in the study. However, the study report was not a DRDLR departmental report, but a direct report by DPME and UP. 

Ms N Magadla (ANC) was in agreement with the Chairperson, and agreed with the inclusion of "working together with UP", as reflected in the last paragraph of page 1. Mr Walters seemed to want the Report to reflect in writing the contributions of UP.

Mr Walters agreed that the question of whether the study by DPME and UP belonged in the Report was answered by the Chairperson. It was proper to take cognisance of the study report and look at the recommendations made, since that was the most important part of the report, incorporating the idea of proper research solutions from what the Committee picked up.

The Chairperson directed the Committee to subsection 5.1 at page 7 of the draft Report which read: “5.1 Endorsement of a recommendation by DPME evaluation of RADP to redesign and overhaul all public agricultural support programmes, to end current implementation silos, as the best possible option. This, he pointed out, clearly showed that the study report by DPME and UP  was taken into consideration.

Mr Mnguni acknowledged that the other members’ proposal for the inclusion of the study in the Report sought to deepen and make sure the Report by the Committee was anchored. However, the Committee must also be aware that it could not delegate responsibility to academia and other institutions. The nature of governance was both political and administrative. The political functionaries would design a programme and the administrative and management functionaries would make sure it was implemented. Academia studied leadership trends and the political function of governance, not the other way around. Therefore, it should be adequate to have a programme designed at the administrative level of government, and then have the Committee oversee and call stakeholders. It was only in certain cases, involving very intricate circumstances, that even the political office bearers, through Committees, would have to rely on the study to conduct their own oversight. The public hearings had a definite scope. So far, this Report, in its findings, seemed to be correctly setting out what happened in the public hearings. He added that although it may be too late to comment on this issue in the findings, the Chief Director had said that there seemed to be gross underspending on the Recapitalisation and Development Programme,  which seemed to receive a quarter billion rands as opposed to the previous amount of above one billion. He wanted to state that there was no gross under expenditure there.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that the first paragraph of page 5, which read 4. Findings of the Committee: Having considered the submissions, the Committee recorded the following successes and challenges of the RAPD could be a useful example. He .thought the study report should be considered as a submission. The paragraph should read, “having considered some submissions..” as the original wording of "the submissions" inferred that all submissions were factored into the report. Secondly, if the DRDLR could take the trouble to ask UP to carry out the work it did, a light reference to that study by the Committee tended to imply that the  study by UP does not warrant inclusion. He also had a problem in merely referring to the study report and not including it. The DRDLR spent quite a large amount (which was approved by the Committee) to sanction the study which the DRDLR considered important. It would be useful, not only for parliament records and for the general public, if the Report was incorporated by being attached to the study. This would also indicate that the Committee took the matter as seriously as did the DRDLR. He therefore strongly recommended that this study be included as part of the report.

Mr M Matebus (EFF) was pleased that the question of whether to include the study report by DPME and UP was now resolved. He also commented on the remarks of Mr Filtane, concerning paragraph 5.1, concerning the endorsement of the recommendations by the study report, and recommended this be included, as something this Committee wrote. The DRDLR responded to and affirmed all the recommendations in the draft Report save for one or two on which they had expressed concerns. The draft Report reflected the work of the Committee during the public hearings, and not the work of the DRDLR. The DRDLR was a stakeholder and had duly responded. The recommendations of the Committee in the draft Report did not take anything away from the study report by the DPME and UP.

Mr Walters notified the Chairperson that the issue of including the study report by DPME and UP had now been resolved so it was not necessary for Members to continue to debate something that was since resolved.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) cautioned members of the Committee to refrain from exchanging political remarks as this created unnecessary tension in the Committee. Although members belonged to different parties, and may not always agree on the same issues, they should not rely so much on their political affiliations. Furthermore, Members should remember that in the previous meetings, no discussions were held on the study report by DPME and UP and if members were willing to discuss the report then they must do so separately. The current meeting was about whether the issues raised in the public hearings were captured, and whether the recommendations reflected the issues that were raised. The study report by DPME and UP was within the public domain and the Committee cannot sever parts of the report, as UP would not allow that. The study was not sanctioned by the DRDLR but by DPME. DPME was responsible for monitoring and evaluation of all government departments concerning challenges and remedial action.

The Chairperson reiterated that she has answered the issue of inclusion of the study report by DPME and UP and requested the members not to waste any more time discussing it. The focus of this meeting was to deal with the report on the public hearings, although some of the findings of the draft Report were similar to the study report by DPME and UP; some of the presenters were included in the both reports. If the members wanted to deal with the DPME and UP report then the recommendations must be the same but the draft Report now being considered was a Committee report and not a DPME report. However the Committee could refer to other reports where necessary

Mr M Filtane (UDM) was of the view that anyone who wanted to apply their mind to read the report had to be able also to see where the annexure could be found.

The Chairperson asked if Members wanted to include, as annexures, all reports presented to the Committee. However, if someone wanted to access the study report, then they should visit the DPME website and get it from there. His view was that it was not  practical to include a report that was presented to the Committee as an annexure.

Mr T Mhlongo seconded the proposal by Mr E M Nchabeleng to discuss the DPME and UP study report in the next meeting. In order for the Committee to have enough time to effectively hold oversight, the Committee visited sites selectively due to financial constraints. The discussion of the study report in the next meeting was thereafter proposed.

Mr E Nchabeleng did not agreed with Mr Filtane’s proposal to annex the study to the Report, as he thought this cumbersome and it would bulk out the report so that nobody would read it.

The Chairperson urged the members to move on to the rest of the Report.

This study report was discussed by the members, and the DRDLR was invited and presented its views on the report. Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) also appeared both before the DRDLR and the Committee. This was when the DRDLR indicated the recommendations, and the Committee could not, at this stage, re-discuss the Report again and recall Departmental officials for questioning.

Mr Mhlongo asserted that the Committee should discuss the study report, since there were some issues that were not agreed to by the Department. The Committee might not, from the Department's version, be privy to all findings - such as those relating to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). The Committee would not be effecting good oversight if it agreed to the findings of the Department without a deep discussion of them.

The Chairperson asserted that the DPME must not do oversight work on behalf of the Committee. If the Committee wanted to visit the projects of SASSA then it should be part of the Committee’s programme to do so.

Mr Walters stated that he brought up the issue of referencing of the study Report and was happy with the response that the issues will be picked up under the recommendations section. The discussion seemed to take a life of its own.  The issue on alignment with the study report could be picked up under under clause 5.3 (e) which stated that “A revised RADP policy is be further presented before the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, jointly with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The study report was information, not policy and it was up to the Committee to make policy.

The Chairperson directed the members to page 7, sub-clause (f) ,which reads Farmers and strategic partners have accused the DRDLR of instituting cumbersome reporting mechanisms.. The farmers had not “accused” the DRDLR they have stated the DRDLR should reconsider the current reporting system.

Mr Walters reminded the Chairperson that Members had discussed how the reports seemed to miss basic business indicators and ratio analyses that spoke to the viability of the project being supported. There was no indication of sustainability, which could be determined through basic business indicators, once the funding had been withdrawn,  The words “sustainability measurements” should be included under monitoring and evaluation, as this had been previously raised in the reports as well.

The Chairperson stated that one of the recommendations was to get a report from the DRDLR concerning the sustainability of the farmers who would exit the recap and do business on their own. The Committee should get a sense that after five years the farmers can be able to sustain themselves.

Mr Nchabeleng pointed out an error in page 4, under the clause referring to Ms Marinda from Northern Cape. The sentence under the description read “she is the only beneficiary on the livestock farm, specializing in sheet and cattle”. The word “sheet” should be replaced by “sheep”.

Mr Filtane wondered whether the Report should acknowledge that the DRDLR had been redrafting policies to improve on some issues raised in the public hearings, to put more context to the relationship between the Committee and the DRDLR being one of oversight,. The draft report did not have any reference acknowledging the redrafting of policies, and its insertion would show that the Committee was happy with progress being made.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr Filtane’s proposal, and proposed to include it under paragraph 4.1, on success of the recapitalisation and development programme, or under the findings.

Mr Mnguni did not understand what Mr Filtane was saying. He asked whether paragraph 5.3(e) which states “a revised RADP policy is be further presented before the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform jointly with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. could rather address what he was asking.

The Chairperson clarified that Mr Filtane was basically saying that the DRDLR had realised that there were some loopholes in the programme, and the Committee should appreciate the progress that the DRDLR has started to review the policy. Paragraph 5.3 (e) mainly showed that the revised policy must be presented to the Committee.

Mr Walters thought that it was important for the recommendations to reflect the findings and this principle could direct the Committee.

He pointed out that clause 5.1 which read, “Endorsement of a recommendation by the DPME evaluation of RADP” could be better drafted to clarify the full title of the DPME report that was evaluated.

Furthermore, the last sentence of clause 5.1 should be amended to include the findings of the Committee in addition to the public hearings. Reiterating what Mr Filtane had said earlier, he agreed that the quality of the Report was much better than previous reports by the Committee.

Mr Nchabeleng proposed amendments to clause 5.3 (e) which read “a revised RADP policy is be further presented”. The use of “is be was erroneous and should be rectified.

Mr Walters referred Members to clause 5.2 which includes the phrasee “…finalising the integrated Funding Model for agriculture support for implementation, and further ensuring policy synergy and coherence in relation to farmer support across government. He made the point that it was not just the Funding Model that the Committee should look at, but also should consider the support mechanism and institutional setting within which the funding model should be working. The words how it will be implemented should be included after the words "Funding Model".

At the end of clause 5, the issue of sustainability was to keep agricultural ventures running, therefore sustainability measurements - and there were many simple business ratios that were easy to use. He suggested the addition of a further paragraph 5.3 (g), stating what measurements the Department would l be using to determine viability of projects, including after recap funding had been withdrawn. Further, if the recommendations in the draft Report and the presentations by the DRDLR led to a comprehensive support model for land reform, and eliminated the fragmentation that stalled projects currently, then this would demonstrate that the Committee was doing good work.

The Chairperson replied that the major amendments were to determine the viability of the projects, especially for those who had exited the recap finding. However the issue on sustainability was covered in the integrated model, and of the overhauling of the whole agricultural support programme.

Mr Filtane reminded Members that there was a presentation made on the second day of the presentations pointing to the perception that the recap programme was only being utilised for agricultural programmes  and that many of those who were supposed to benefit were excluded because they were not dealing with agriculture. Bearing in mind the mandate of the DRDLR, but looking also at the broader picture of the state, he thought that the Committee must factor in a statement that non-agricultural programmes should also be funded through this programme.

The Chairperson asked Mr Filtane which non-agricultural programmes should be included. He reminded the Committee that there were three main objectives - firstly, to support small scale farmers; and secondly to decrease the rural migration; thirdly to support farmers to be part of the economic stream. Therefore, the Committee should specify the other beneficiaries of the recap programme. Within the DRDLR there was the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP), which considers other non-agricultural issues. Recap only focused on distressed and struggling small scale farmers who needed core settlement support in order to improve production. CRDP also addressed the issue of rural migration and proposed economic development where rural people are located instead of moving from rural areas to town.

Mr Filtane noted the Chairperson’s input.

Mr Mhlongo also questioned the criteria of funding. The criteria for selection of farmers should be a recommendation, since the DRDLR had failed in implementation.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mhlongo that the criteria for selection of farmers was one of the sensitive issues raised, but thought that it would be part of the review of the policy. This was the reason Mr Walters raised the issue of effective implementation, without which the programme would be a futile exercise. There were many issues raised which were highlighted in the previous meetings. These issues would form part of the whole overhauling of the policy. The Committee was responsible for making sure that when they undertook their oversight visits after the policy has been revised, the Members would listen to the beneficiaries and ascertain whether there was real change. The Members’ term ran for 5 years and the Department was also there for 5 years, therefore the DRDLR is always a call away when the Committee encountered issues.

Mr Mhlongo, in support of his earlier question, referred the Committee to clause 5.2 and proposed the inclusion of the words selecting farmers criteria.

The Chairperson responded that the issue of selection criteria was covered under clause 5.3, and he found the policy clear in regard to selection criteria. The challenge lay in the implementation of the policy which the Committee needed to monitor intensively .

Mr Walters reiterated that the Committee should not rewrite the Report in the recommendations section.  The issues raised by the Committee were sustainability and beneficiary selection. These had come up in the body of the report, and should be referred to as part of "dealing with the findings and recommendations under clause 5.3 (e). Clause 5.3 (e) should read “A Revised RAPD policy, responding to the findings and recommendations. This would allow the Committee, when looking at part of the Report, to focus on whether the findings and recommendations were covered in the revised RAPD policy, without mentioning each recommendation and finding again.

Ms Magadla also wanted to speak to 5.3(e). If the Committee did not adhere to the relevant policy, then it would fail, so the Committee must urge the DRDLR to stick to the policy.

Mr Filtane read out the opening sentence of clause 5.3 and thought it should include a time frame for reporting. Bureaucratic interpretation of the sentence could indicate that reporting was not mandatory.

The Chairperson responded that the DRDLR was supposed to issue quarterly progress reports to the Committee on the implementation.

Mr Mhlongo supported Mr Filtane's suggestion to amend the sentence to read that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform must respond within three months.

The Chairperson said that the opening sentence of clause 5.3 already affirmed a time frame of three months in which the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform must respond.

Mr Walters, supporting Mr Filtane's points, proposed that should consider” in clause 5.3 should be changed, since it was not of  a binding nature. The words “should consider” should be amended to “should ensure”.

Mr A Madella (ANC) referring to the proposals of both Mr Filtane and Mr Walters, clarified that the amendment changed the sentence from being suggestive to instructive.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee had agreed that, within three months after the adoption of the Report, the DRDLR should issue a progress report on its findings. It was the responsibility of the Committee to track the progress made on the implementation of the findings and recommendations. 

Mr Mhlongo insisted that the Committee should have a tracking system that would allow the Committee to set the agenda and follow on issues raised in previous meetings. The minutes of the meetings from November 2014 had not been approved and there was no follow up system.

The Chairperson agreed that the Committee should have its own way of tracking resolutions that it made. This would allow the Committee then to review whether the DRDLR was implementing the recommendations. However, when a report was referred to the DRDLR arising out of the resolutions of Parliament, the Office of the Speaker also assisted by reminding the DRDLR about submitting the report.

The report was adopted, with amendments.

Orientation, oversight and financial constraints
Mr Nchabeleng recalled that since several members were new to the Committee, there were suggestions for orientation of the members. Members had only had one trip, to visit the Surveyor-General, as part of their orientation. It was important that the Committee's visits should include offices involved in the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD), as both part of oversight and orientation.

The Chairperson agreed with the calls for orientation, but reminded Members that the Committee had already indicated that it could not carry out the oversight visits, due to financial constraints. The Committee could only carry out the allocation after budget allocation in the next financial year. Although the Committee’s main function was oversight, (which could only be relied upon by visiting relevant sites and not relying on reports) those oversight functions could only be informed by the availability of finances. The Chairperson said that the question of visiting sites was not on the agenda.

Committee Minute adoption
The minutes from 19 November 2014 were tabled. The Chairperson referred Members to an error on paragraph 2 of the draft minutes on the second page and asked that the word “Committee” should be included.

Paragraph 3.3.4 should be amended to read: “The SAHRC reported that the hearing was satisfactory according to the procedures prescribed in page 25 of the report and that the CLRs participation was also effective.

She further directed the members to paragraph 4.2, which read: 4.2 An update in terms of the content of the oversight was also presented and that included distances to be travelled especially from Upington to Kimberley which led to the elimination of the drive to Kimberley. The paragraph should indicate the reason for the elimination, which was that the Committee needed to reduce the long-time spent on driving instead of being on site.

Subject to those corrections, the Minutes were adopted.

The Chairperson asked that the Committee move on to adopt the minutes from 4 and 5 February, but noted that not everyone seemed to be in possession of those minutes.

The Committee Secretary confirmed that the minutes had been distributed in the previous meeting.

Mr Mnguni suggested that the Committee defer the adoption of the minutes of the meetings on 4 and 5 February 2015 to the next meeting, supported by other Members.

Matters arising from minutes of 19 November
Mr Mhlongo directed the members to paragraph 6.1 which read: “The second leg of the oversight visit would be conducted on 26-30 January 2015 and that the political approval was granted but a funding application was being processed awaiting approval.

He asked whether indeed any funding was allocated. He asked the Secretary to explain the process of allocation of funding that led  to oversight.

Mr Mhlongo asked whether there were any minutes arising from the previous meeting and recalled that this is was an illustration of the tracking system mechanism that he had earlier raised.

The Secretary explained that the Committee adopted the programme, which included activities of the Committee, specifically oversight. The programme was approved by the House Chair, but applications must be made for oversight trips, and a political approval was needed where the Committee sitting would not take place in Parliament. The approval was intended to cater for both political and administrative reasons. The political approval was granted without noting the funding, because there were two separate administration parts of parliament. The political administration was headed by the presiding officers and the second administration fell under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Secretary to Parliament. After the political approval, a separate application for funding was done, since Parliament decided that no political heads should be involved in funding. When the house chair approved an application, he is not aware whether there were available funds in that Committee.

In the current case, the Committee went for an oversight visit in the Northern Cape and the application for funding was thereafter prepared. The financial statement of the Committee was not updated and the Committee thought that it had an estimated R450 000 in the coffers, and the application was refused, only for the Committee to discover later that it had only R54 000.  Therefore the application was not approved since the statement was updated then the Committee realised that it only has R54 000. The parliament only started late in 2014 and therefore the interim budget allocations that were offered according to the status of the Committee and Rural Development and Land Reform had priority over other Committees. Therefore, this Portfolio Committee was usually allocated a high budget, but, given that it was an interim budget, it was less than the actual amount required by the Committee and was therefore finished before the financial year.

Mr Mnguni noted two issues around tracking. Firstly, in legislative governance, there was room for a contingency when budgets are exhausted. The Secretary to the Committee should apply for such contingency. Secondly, referring to a matter raised in earlier meetings, he noted that he lives in a deep rural area and was spending more than R4 000 on fuel for Committee travels. He also noted that Members could not claim for money spent after a period of three months.

The Chairperson reiterated that according to the policy, claims must be made within three months. If there was Committee expenditure. then the Secretary should make a follow up, since the political approval must be attached. The delay in approval occurred where the political approval was not attached.

Ms Magadla thanked the Chairperson for the information on the approval of expenditures. She asked whether the members had access to funding of the Committee, so that they could know how much was in its coffers. She also enquired whether the Committee's budget could be raised,  given the importance of this Portfolio Committee. Some committees were trying to spend right at the end of the financial year, to avoid losing money, but Parliament must then try to accommodate the issue of unused funds. It was not proper if the Chairperson of Committees was not allowed to know about the financial position of the Committees.

The Chairperson noted the issues raised and suggested that some matters should be forwarded and considered in other forums such as the Committee of Chairpersons.

Mr Mhlongo requested the Chairperson to forward the matter to the Committee of Chairpersons.

Mr Mhlongo referred to the procedure for approval of oversight expenditure by the Members of the Committee, noting that there were no time frames set for such approval, which was probably why there were delays. He wondered who reviewed and updated statements on budgets and who assisted to push the approval of the applications.

The Chairperson added that the issue of availability of funds included logistical issues.

The Secretary notified the Members that she had applied for some funding but it was not approved. She was not sure of the criteria used to replace depleted funds.

Mr Filtane again stressed the view that Parliament needed to be sensitised on the importance of this Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform as one of the senior Committees. The State could not exist without land and therefore this Committee could not simply be compared with others, except perhaps the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, with a very important oversight portfolio.  The citizenry and the land were what defined a state, according to political science. Given the importance of the Committee's work, he urged that the Secretary must have every right to approach the House Chairperson and ask for funds to carry out the Committee’s oversight, also indicating that if applications were not approved, this would have an adverse effect on the running of the country.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that there was nothing much they could do when the funds were not available, and but acknowledged the issues that may be raised in other forums.

Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Washington DC
The Committee Secretary reminded Members that if they submitted an application for funding, it should be sent via the Secretary first, so that it could be approved by the Committee as absence with proof that the Member was attending to Committee work. The claims made when travelling with the Committee differed from a claim for refund of personal travel expenses. Delays could be caused where the claim was not approved by the Committee. She was still waiting for the approval from the House Chair.

The Chairperson requested members to be patient but assured them that she would follow up too.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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