Three entities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) recently appeared before the Portfolio Committee to present their annual performance plans and budget for the 2015/16 period. Whilst the full budget plans were presented, there was little discussion on that aspect, other than noting that the budget of the entire DAFF had been cut substantially.
The Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) took the Committee through its five strategic goals to illustrate what it had achieved so far and what it intended to achieve. A new organisational structure aligned to strategy had been approved and implemented. The turnover rate of staff was to be maintained between 4% and 12% and the plan was to develop and approve a Succession Planning policy and a retention strategy. It hoped to see an increase in client and stakeholder satisfaction by 2017/18. The marketing strategy had been approved, but still needed to be implemented. A Customer Relations Management strategy would be developed and implemented. A communication strategy had been developed and implemented. The OBP wanted to retain the two new international markets that it had managed to develop each year, and said that it had managed to identify and recapture five lost markets. The annual sales volume, judged on number of doses sold, had increased by 3%. The distribution strategy and its implementation plan have been approved. OBP was targeting support to three projects that assisted the market of smallholders and emerging farmers. It planned to facilitate 22 training sessions or events with smallholder farmers and technicians every year, and to support two agricultural co-operatives (as defined by the Department of Trade and Industry) in rural areas.
Members enquired if the OBP had a strategy on learnership and internship and questioned if its drawing up of a fraud prevention plan was in response to a specific problem, or if it was being proactive. They questioned the status of the 2014 agreement that the OBP signed with DAFF, wanted to know how the upgrades were going to be done and equipment maintained if there was a decrease in the budget, and asked if OBP was aware that the private sector was doing research to develop its own vaccines. Members called for clarity on plans and time lines for attaining Goods Manufacturing Processes. They questioned whether there was a reason why the OBP should remain as a state entity and whether it was not being given an unfair advantage in doing so, and questioned the problems last year with delivery of vaccines.
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) highlighted some concerns that hampered the workings of the organisation. These mostly revolved around divisions within the profession, budgetary constraints; and legislative issues. In order to address the lack of unity, the Joint Public Relations Committee and Heritage Committee would be revived to promote and unify the veterinary professions, and involve all stakeholders. It wanted to mobilise its resources properly to create an effective administration and to find the balance between operations and strategy, and improve human resources. For the whole country, there were only 5 845 practitioners, including veterinarians and veterinary specialists and para-professionals, and later, during the questions, indicated that a major concern was that state veterinary services were not situated where they were most needed, and that there was little incentive for state veterinarians, who were being paid on a similar scale to librarians. The SAVC had too few powers to make meaningful interventions into problems besetting the profession and industry. The Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS) regulations published by the Minister of Environmental Affairs prevented veterinarians from doing their work, as it took months to acquire permits, and the SAVC strongly believed that requiring permits on top of registration was not justifiable. There were also problems relating to two pieces of legislation regulating medicines - the Medicines and Controlled Substances Act and the Fertiliser and Feeds Act, whose amendment had still not been put into operation, whilst the regulations to allow for compulsory service of newly-qualified veterinarians were still not developed, with concerns also around the financial implications. The SAVC was concerned that lack of control of veterinary medicines and stock remedies poses a serious risk for food safety and security. It was also involved in litigation over the change to its rules that stated that only veterinarians may be responsible for distribution of certain drugs, and not game farmers. Members wondered if the SAVC had a strategy to recruit young people to the profession and requested clarity on the divisions in the veterinary professions, as well as the definition of "authorised persons". They asked about the problems with compulsory veterinary community service and asked for further clarity on the legislation controlling medicines, and the possible solution, as well as why farmers were reluctant to comply with the Fertilisers and Feeds legislation, and what the nature of the problem was.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) focused mainly on pressing human resources issues, the need to upgrade information technology and infrastructure management of the entity. It pointed to the need for a higher ratio of scientists to total staff, particularly at post-graduate level, noted the need to improve the overall qualifications profile of ARC and to expand its base and focus on Masters and PhD candidates, whilst also particularly improving the ratios of women, black and young researchers, and to develop research capacity in emerging national priority science areas such as nanotechnology. It was concerned with the numbers of researchers reaching retirement age, but stated that it did have a strategy to move other more junior staff into these posts. It was investigating the optimal use of ARC land, buildings and equipment for research and development, considering disposal of non-core assets and was seeking to build strong partnerships and collaborations with interested third parties. The budget cuts would have serious implications because there was already a salary agreement and this meant that some of the projects, particularly in the rural areas, might need to be abandoned, whilst there would be no funding for the Economic Competitiveness Programme. Members questioned the succession plans, wondered if the staff were subjected to psychometric testing, and wondered why there was a property strategy whilst its core business was agriculture. Members enquired about possible overlaps between the research entities, and the difference in the core business of the OBP and ARC was explained; the latter dealing with research and development and the former not doing research but manufacturing and distribution. The Members felt that a workshop was needed with all the agriculture entities to decide whether DAFF as a whole needed more money. They asked about the development of the Disease Priority Matrix, whether the ARC should not be focusing on developing staff internally or locally and its collaboration and links with agricultural colleges.
Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) briefing
Dr Steven Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer, Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), took the Committee through the five strategic goals to illustrate what the organisation has done so far and what it plans to achieve during this MTEF period.
Strategic Goal 1 was to attain a high performance organisation underpinned by appropriate structures, institutional stability, high performance products, shared values and financial stability. He said that the new organisational structure aligned to strategy has been approved and implemented. The turnover rate of staff is to be maintained between 4% and 12% and the plan is to develop and approve a Succession Planning policy and a retention strategy. The Performance Management System and policy is still to be reviewed in order to be aligned to market trends. The annual sales revenue has increased by 8%, nationally and internationally, against a target of R97 million. The total value of sales to provinces is estimated to increase to R2 million by 2017/18, against a target of R1 million.
A 3% annual increase on the number of doses sold to the export market has been recorded. The rate of intermediary and final batch failures has been reduced: virology by 10%, bacterial by 5% and water for injection by 5%. The monthly overall equipment effectiveness to optimum level per machine has increased, against the 75% equipment capacity targeted.
The entity wanted to conduct two internal audits annually and maintain ISO accreditation. In terms of upgrading current facilities, 70% of the layout changes have been implemented. All identified equipment has been procured. With regard to the new facility for the Goods Manufacturing Processes to be constructed by 2017/18, Phase 1 is 100% completed.
Strategic Goal 2 was to improve relations with stakeholders through the use of effective stakeholder relations management and communication strategies. Dr Cornelius said the OBP wants to see an increase in client and stakeholder satisfaction by 2017/18. The marketing strategy has been approved, but it still needs to be implemented. The Customer Relations Management strategy would be developed and implemented. In terms of improving communication levels and brand awareness, the communication strategy has been developed and implemented. The stakeholder management plan has been developed and implemented.
Strategic Goal 3 was to grow OBP into a sustainable organisation, with sufficient levels of profitability. Here, Dr Cornelius noted that two new international markets are being developed every year, and the target was to retain that. Five lost markets had been recaptured. In terms of the number of doses sold, the annual sales volume has increased by 3%. The distribution strategy and its implementation plan have been approved.
Strategic Goal 4 was to improve efficiency of production processes and introduce new products in line with technology and market trends. OBP had submitted two new product dossiers to the Registrar, and amended dossiers on production processes had been submitted to the Registrar, exceeding the target of submitting one. There is no target for dossiers based on new generation technologies.
Strategic Goal 5 was to contribute and support emerging farmers, food security and economic growth through government programmes. Dr Cornelius said that during this MTEF period, the OBP plans to support three projects that assist the market of smallholders and emerging farmers. It plans to facilitate 22 training sessions or events with smallholder farmers and technicians every year, and to support two agricultural co-operatives (as defined by the Department of Trade and Industry) in rural areas. The OBP wants to see an increase in the supply of vaccines to smallholder farmers by a number of doses annually. The target for this period is 1 500 doses.
Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate financial overview, approved budget, capital expenditure, and income and balance statements over the MTEF period - see attached presentation for full details.
The Chairperson commented there is a concern from stakeholders the entity is losing staff and that furthermore the CEO might be leaving.
Dr Cornelius reassured the Committee the staff complement had grown from 180 to 192, and the Minister had extended his term by three more years.
Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC), firstly asked how the five lost markets were going to be recaptured. Secondly, he wanted to establish if the entity had a programme to train emerging farmers. Thirdly, he enquired if the there was a strategy on learnership and internship.
Dr Cornelius responded firstly that there was a sub-contracted service provider who had given the entity information on major role players and competitors, including their products. The OBP has already done a SWOT analysis that would help it to recapture those markets. In relation to the emerging farmers, he said that was done with the help of provinces, and that OBP had capacity to help teach extension officers to use vaccines, and it was trying to secure funding in order to work with the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). In relation to learnerships and internship, the OBP had 19 candidates on its internship programme, who were being paid a stipend and were to be absorbed into the system on completion of their internship.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) wanted to find out about the status of the 2014 agreement that the OBP had signed with DAFF, and asked about the percentage of SA livestock that were assisted with vaccines. He also enquired if OBP had done any marketing research about recapturing lost markets.
Mr Mono Mashaba, Director: OBP, replied that on the 2014 agreement, OBP had tried to negotiate with DAFF. on the issue of R50 million that the Department had promised. Nothing came out of that, but now the National Treasury has stepped in to assist. In relation to the livestock, he elaborated that OBP was using statistics that told the organisation about the owners who used the vaccines, where they bought them and which companies were selling specific vaccines. The statistics then informed the OBP's strategies on what it planned to do in the market. A study and market research had been commissioned. It was looking at SADC, Asia and Europe, and would give an indication of markets to be penetrated.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked that OBP should comment on its audit outcome and the R110 million allocated to it. She wanted to know how the upgrades were going to be done, and equipment maintained, if there was a decrease in the budget, although she did note that the OBP was planning to increase sales. She asked if the OBP was aware that the private sector was doing research to develop its own vaccines. She wondered if the OBP was still justified in being a state-owned entity and doing primary health care for animals or if it needed rather to participate in an open-free market on its own, without state help, because the state funds were giving it an unfair added advantage. Finally, she enquired if the quality of the vaccines and non-availability of vaccines had discouraging provinces from buying from OBP.
Dr Cornelius firstly responded to the matter of the budget cuts and audit outcomes. He believed that the targets that OBP had set were achievable, and further noted that it had been austere when incurring expenses, and was trying to reach a good balance between the costs and the product quality. In relation to the upgrades and equipment maintenance, he enlightened the Committee that Phase 1 dealt with the upgrades of existing facilities, and Phase 2 was about buying new facilities. The new facilities were not going to affect the existing facilities, and the existing facilities were not going to have a bearing on the operations that the old facilities had done before. In relation to equipment maintenance, the entity had put out a tender that stipulated that all new equipment must come with a maintenance plan, so that maintenance could be done internally. However, if it be could not be fixed internally, the supplier would have to come and attend to that.
Dr Cornelius stated that the private sector was of course at liberty to do research because it was operating in a free market economy. Even though that was the case, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) had discovered that OBP remained the biggest exporter of vaccines. In relation to the question whether the entity should remain state-owned or private, he said that this was something that related to policy and therefore would have to be discussed with the DAFF and National Treasury. The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was addressing the fact that provinces were not buying from OBP. He qualified that this was not because the product was poor, but because of the tender process that had to be followed. There were vaccines that had been donated to provinces who had a Memorandum of Understanding with OBP.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) commented that it was positive to see the entity talking about brand awareness because it is was largely unknown and far more needed to be done to promote it. He asked how the OBP was going about identifying agricultural cooperatives.
Dr Cornelius said the OBP was making use of the systems of DAFF and its provincial offices.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) wanted to know if OBP was experiencing fraud problems or whether, by incorporating a Fraud Prevention Plan in its corporate plans, it was merely being proactive. She also asked the entity to comment on its internal audit capacity.
Dr Cornelius stated the entity was being proactive and was trying to comply with National Treasury requirements. No fraud cases had been reported yet. He reported that the internal audit capacity was good and that a service provider had been appointed to work with the audit committee, and had produced an audit plan already.
Ms Steyn wanted to find out if OBP was working on a plan to participate and grow the small animals sector.
Dr Cornelius made it clear the entity was focusing on what it was currently doing, not going into the territory of developing vaccines for small animals.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on plans and time lines for attaining Goods Manufacturing Processes.
Dr Cornelius explained that Phase 1 was 80% completed. A technical team had been appointed to look at Environmental Impact Assessments, and by 2018, it was hoped that the new structure would be completed.
Mr P Mabe (ANC) wanted to know if OBP was able to address infrastructure challenges, seeing that it was self-sustainable and was not relying solely on state funds.
Dr Mashaba elaborated that OBP was being reshaped. There had been some problems in the production line since last year. Some of the weak areas had been identified and these were a result of the ageing infrastructure. Another challenge over the past two years had been getting the product out and distributed. Scientists were now working on the problem and there was protocol to be followed. New technologies had replaced manual labour. It was an on-going process but there were systems in place.
South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) briefing
Dr Jana Pretorius, Vice President: SA Veterinary Council, highlighted some concerns that hampered the workings of the Council (or SAVC). These revolve around divisions within the profession, budgetary constraints and legislative issues.
On lack of unity within the profession, she indicated that the Joint Public Relations Committee and Heritage Committee would be revived to promote and unify the veterinary professions, in which all veterinary stakeholders should be involved. The IT Transformation plan was going to be implemented to ensure effective service to the veterinary professions and improved communication with all stakeholders.
She stated that budgetary constraints were always a consideration. The goal of the Council was to mobilise resources. This would help create an effective administration and to find the balance between operations and strategy, and improve human resources. She mentioned that in the whole country, the profession had only 5 845 practitioners (including veterinarians and veterinary specialists and Veterinary Para-Professionals like veterinary nurses, laboratory animal technologists, veterinary technologists, animal health technicians and authorised persons).
In regard to the legislation, she reported that the SAVC did not currently have enough powers to make interventions and oversee some of the problems besetting the profession and industry. The Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS) regulations published by the Minister of Environmental Affairs prevented veterinarians from doing their work. It took months to acquire permits, and a further concern was that the permit requirements were applied differently in provinces. It was the opinion of the SAVC that the Minister of Environmental Affairs had acted outside her powers in imposing the requirement on veterinarians to obtain permits, in addition to registration with the SAVC.
There was also a court case pending between the Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the SAVC and the Medicines Control Council (MCC). The SAVC had amended its Rule 10 for veterinarians, to ensure veterinarians were the end-users of highly scheduled medicines for chemical immobilisation of wild animals. Anaesthesia was a veterinary procedure. The WRSA, however, was of the opinion that these highly scheduled medicines should be available also to game farmers. The case was still ongoing.
There were also problems pertaining to the two Acts regulating medicines, the Medicines and Related Substances Act, No 101 of 1965 and the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act No 36 of 1947. The lack of control of veterinary medicines and stock remedies posed serious risk for food safety and security. The Amendment Act 16 of 2012 had not yet been enacted and
Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate performance indicators and MTEF budget allocation, see attached documentation for full details.
Mr S Mncwabe (NFP) asked if the entity had a strategy to recruit young people to the profession.
Dr Pretorius said the SA Veterinary Council was very involved at grassroots level. Liaison happened with the institutions of higher learning. The SAVC had met with various stakeholders and it was agreed to advertise the profession in the national media. As a way of recruiting young people, especially in rural areas, there had been a reality show that was done around the Kruger National Park.
Mr Ramokhoase wanted some clarity on the divisions in the veterinary professions.
Dr Pretorius explained that the main problem lay around state veterinary services. The SAVC would like to intervene to try to resolve them. He cited that, for example, services of veterinarians were most needed in areas like Eastern Cape, but here the reality was that the state veterinary services were poor. It had come to the attention of SAVC that the travelling allowances paid to veterinary officers were equal to those paid to librarians. That explained why some farmers preferred to use private veterinary services, simply because they were disillusioned with state services. This issue was supposed to be taken up by DAFF, but there is too much bureaucracy and no real monitoring of state veterinary services.
Ms Steyn wanted to know where the income of the entity was derived, and asked if the entity had had any meetings with the Minister. She further wanted clarity on the issue of people from overseas who would apply to come to do veterinary work in South Africa. She asked the meaning of "authorised persons".
Dr Pretorius reported that the SAVC's income came from the annual maintenance fees of the registered members. The entity was self–funded. She further said the Council had had two meetings with the Minister and a lot of good has come out of that. If anyone from overseas wanted to come and do veterinary work in this country, they would have to comply with the requirements, and write exams. There was a minimum requirement to be met in order to do the practical examination. Some of them were not accepted because the SAVC had to adhere to the standards of the local universities and the SAVC had to ratify their results.
Dr Pretorius explained that "authorised persons" referred to people who did not have the full qualifications of veterinarians. They worked under a qualified veterinarian and wrote exams after they had done their time. They were under the supervision of a veterinarian and their work was regulated. This also served as an empowerment exercise, especially in rural areas, to help those who had got the talent but had no resources to study further.
Mr Filtane wanted to find out the real problem regarding the introduction of compulsory veterinary community service. He also wanted to know what the problem was regarding the enactment of the two Acts regulating medicines. Lastly, he wanted to establish what the contentious issue was with Act 36 of 1947, and how it discourages farmers from adhering to rules.
Dr Pretorius noted that the problem with the introduction of the compulsory veterinary community service, was that the regulations had not yet been finalised, and there were concerns that the necessary resources would not be available. The service could not be introduced until the regulations were passed. Another concern related to inefficiencies and the line of command in state veterinary services. The main concern and problem around enacting the two pieces of legislation was that there was confusion on the control of medicines, and particularly who was to regulate what.
The main contentious issue with Act 36 of 1947 had to do with the fact that anti-microbial resistance could result from sales of antibiotics that were registered under that Act, if they were simply allowed to be sold from any outlet, and without a script. The seller would not always inform the farmer of the withdrawal periods, and this ended up resulting in medicines still being prevalent in food products that were consumed by the public. The SAVC had a Food Safety and Security Committee (FSSC) that dealt with food safety concerns. In addition to this, the Registrar responsible for administering that Act had been requested to put better controls in place for the distribution of anti-biotics. The FSSC met with the two Registrars, for the two acts, and discussed the possibility of transferring the anti-biotics sections from Act 36 (Fertilisers, Foods Act) to Act 101 (Medicines and Related Substances Act) so that there could be control of the use of the anti-microbials. In addition, she said that vaccination was the main intervention to ensure the health of animals. When critical vaccines were not available, or were not administered at the right time, the national herd would be compromised. Producers exploited both the lack of vaccines and the current loopholes in the legislation.
Dr John Adam, Councillor, SAVC, added that the major concern of the SAVC was to ensure food security. Vaccines were the solution to food security, but if they were not available, then there was simply nothing more that could be done. In the process, through lack of vaccination, the markets would also be lost. He hoped this would be addressed soon.
The Chairperson informed the meeting that there had been a meeting anticipated for the Ministers of DAFF and Environmental Affairs, to discuss some of the matters related to SAVC, but it appeared they had not met.
Agricultural Research Council (ARC) briefing
Dr Shadrack Moephuli, Chief Executive Officer, ARC, focused his presentation mainly on pressing human resources issues, information technology and infrastructure management of the entity.
With regard to human resources, he indicated that the main risks were around the recruitment of high-level qualified and experienced personnel, succession planning; and the loss of high-level qualified and experienced personnel. A high proportion of experienced researchers in the ARC were approaching retirement, and higher-end specialist skills to ensure the future growth of the ARC were not being provided by the conventional educational streams.
He pointed out there was a need for a higher ratio of scientists to total staff, particularly at post-graduate level. There was a need to improve the qualifications profile of the ARC and to expand its base and focus on Masters and PhD candidates. In addition, there was also an urgent requirement to address and improve the ratios of women, black and young researchers. Finally, the ARC must develop research capacity in emerging national priority science areas like nanotechnology.
He expanded by saying that on the current projections, 8.6% of the total workforce was due to retire during the next five years. Of the 207 employees, 52 employees were from the scientific capacity: 9 research team managers, 18 researchers and specialist researchers, 4 senior managers (core), and 21 technicians.
ARC was working on creating an enabling environment for optimal use of information communication and technology (ICT) resources to support the ARC business initiatives. This could be achieved through innovations to support information dissemination initiatives, increased mobility and use of mobile applications, improved access to information resources for all employees, and improved ICT resources to enable research and development through informatics. The ARC aimed to provide a Knowledge Management Platform to enhance its research and development initiatives and service delivery.
He then spoke to the infrastructure management needs. ARC needed to find optimal use of ARC land and assets, buildings and equipment for research and development, and particularly to find best use for land. It should also dispose of non-strategic assets; and improve the generation of income. The ARC was attempting to build strong partnerships and collaborations with interested third parties.
Dr Moephuli emphasised that the budget cuts were going to have serious implications. Already, there was a 20% cut in Parliamentary grants. It had been agreed that ARC would raise salaries by 8%, and it was projected that the electricity costs would increase by 12.7%. The budget cuts were going to hamper the rural development projects on which the ARC was currently working, and there would be no funding for Economic Competitiveness Packages. Furthermore, the organisation was not going to be able to fill critical vacancies and fund multi-year projects. This would also affect the vaccine development projects, and marketing activities and student intake would be limited.
Lastly, Dr Moephuli reported on some of the achievements of the ARC. It had managed to develop and implement a sustainable funding model and implement the disease priority matrix. It had designed and implemented a standardised quality management system for laboratories providing services. It had managed to develop a detailed multi-year implementation plan to respond to the recommendations of the ARC External Performance and Management Review. It was implementing the project of Centres of Collaboration with universities and other learning Institutions
Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate performance indicators and MTEF budget allocation.
The Chairperson remarked that the ARC had been subjected to a budget cut because the National Treasury found that the entity had a surplus, but the Minister had indicated that it was already committed to achieving certain goals, and so the Minister and the National Treasury were due to have a meeting around budget cuts affecting the agricultural sector. She noted the Department had not "sold" its product very well, and that was why its budget had been cut. Furthermore, there was an ongoing review of all the Department's entities. These entities should learn to complement each other and not compete, and its executives should refrain from paying themselves huge salaries. When the National Treasury looked at the budget, the issues that the Committee, Auditor-General and Minister of Finance had raised had all been included and that ultimately affected the overall budget.
In relation to the ARC specifically, the Chairperson wanted to know if there were plans in place to replace the retiring researchers. She commented that the ARC had not mentioned the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) in its presentation.
Dr Moephuli indicated that an institutional review was being done and the results would come out the end of May. The Minister did indicate to the entity the concerns about budget cuts. The "technocrats" were merely doing their work but it was important to know and understand the impact of that work. The surplus, was income received for work that was targeted to be done, and that was reflected as 2014/15 income, not 2015/16.
Dr Moephuli confirmed that there were plans to replace those individuals who would be retiring, but the replacements would not be senior people, but juniors, and that meant that the work of the ARC might regress for a while, although it was concentrating on paying them decent salaries.
He clarified that there was no specific mention of the APAP in its presentation, but that the work of ARC was not separate from APAP, indeed it contributed to the whole APAP programme, and a specific strategy on how it must do so had been drawn.
Mr Mabe commented that the ARC had to start looking at areas of collaboration, because the issues it was raising were similar to those raised by OBP and SAVC. He asked why the entity had got a property aspect in its strategy, if its core business is agriculture. Also, he wanted to find out if the introduction of the mobile forms of communication was going to enable the ARC to help small farmers in rural areas to sell their products to markets. Lastly, he asked if the ARC has considered producing its own scholastic journal in order to generate income.
Dr Moephuli commented on collaboration by highlighting that the OBP manufactured vaccines whilst the ARC did innovative and development work on vaccines. This was the point of difference, and he indicated the OBP had not developed any vaccine itself, over the past twenty years. The ARC worked with other institutions of higher learning, like Fort Hare University, in the training of extension officers. In relation to the question on property, he clarified that the ARC had got properties on its name, and thus was responsible for the maintenance of those properties. Freeways cut through some of these properties and others were declared heritage sites.
In relation to the mobile applications, he stated that any IT systems to be developed had to be user-friendly so that the farmer could take a picture of the product and SMS it to the ARC, in order that the latter then provide assistance with the market. The languages used in these mobile applications included Afrikaans, SeSotho, isiZulu and some English for grain farmers.
He noted the suggestion on the scholastic journal, and he reported the ARC already had a journal that it produced but the income it derived from that was not substantial. Other forms of income came from royalties, expert services, leasing of buildings and some other initiatives.
Mr Mabe asked if the Disease Priority Matrix had been developed or was still to be established.
Dr Moephuli explained it was a tool which the ARC believed was going to help it in decision-making. For example, it should be possible to know which diseases were important and unimportant for the country, to avoid developing such a specialist vaccine that would only stop disease in a few cows per year - it was more important to focus on developing a vaccine against a disease that killed hundreds of cows.
Mr Mncwabe enquired how the ARC was planning to groom local, young researchers and stop recruiting foreign researchers, because it appeared to be focusing on Masters and PhD students, when it spoke of the papers that need to be produced. He also asked if the ARC had got existing links with agricultural colleges.
Dr Moephuli said there was not an either / or option - the ARC had to have specialists and if those persons were hard to find locally, then the ARC must consider importing those skills. For instance, South Africa had a specialist in apples, who left for another company, leaving the industry suffering through lack of expertise, because there had not been a succession plan in place. The ARC had to find a specialist overseas, but was also given a mandate to groom youngsters. There was a bursary committee that dealt with these matters, in terms of recruiting students. He added that the ARC needed the best scientists to penetrate even the deep rural areas in order to change the mindset of people, so that they would not ignore or look down upon their indigenous breeds, which often were more disease resistant. He confirmed that the ARC did have links with other agricultural colleges, was working with them, and some ARC scientists were lecturing in these colleges, whist nearby students also visited the ARC campuses.
Mr Ramokhoase wanted to know what informed the 8% increase in salaries. He also enquired what the recommendations of the ARC were on possible duplications from other agriculture entities, in order to protect resources and avoid financial losses.
Dr Moephuli stated the 8% would be applied for the coming year, not for all the previous years. The percentages were different for the previous years. The 8% was a negotiated settlement and cut across the board, and also took into account that the ARC salaries were not comparable to those working at DAFF. He further indicated that the budget cuts had an impact on the rural development projects the entity was running because this meant that plans had needed to be revised, and some of them had been aborted.
Dr Moephuli said that it must be understood that a series of activities had to take place in order to put programmes into existence and have them operate. For example, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had commissioned the ARC to do some work for it. The two entities worked together, but that was not duplication. Even in relation to vaccines, he emphasised that DAFF did not develop vaccines, but would rather ask the ARC to develop them.
Ms Steyn remarked that the Committee needed to hold a workshop with the agriculture entities and decide why DAFF and its entities needed more money. It was clear that the entities were doing the work but their impact on the ground was not felt. It may well be that the ARC was indeed focusing on research and development, but that must be considered in the context of how it was actually benefitting other entities or people on the ground. It had become clear that DAFF and its entities needed allocations for one item. That was why the National Treasury found it difficult to allocate money, and why the Committee was also having some difficulty in understanding the matters. Ms Steyn asked for the ratio of women in the ARC top structures. She also asked how far it had gone in finalising its work on the foot and mouth vaccine facility.
Dr Moephuli answered that in fact women were in the majority overall. At senior management level they constituted 18%, but at the top level there were none as yet. In relation to the foot and mouth vaccine facility, he reported that a design firm had been appointed. The entity was waiting for the approval of the design by the Board. Once it was approved, the construction would start and funds had been ring-fenced already.
Mr Filtane suggested the ARC must try to find someone who could communicate the research findings or information to ordinary people on the ground; public representatives needed the research information the scientists were producing so that all were on the same wavelength. He also wanted to know more about the relationship is with the DRDLR to ensure ARC researchers interacted with other researchers. Lastly, he wanted to establish how often the entity did psychometric tests for its staff so that it understood it had to develop South Africa.
Dr Moephuli asserted that the ties with DRDLR were very strong. Some members of the ARC interacted a lot with other researchers from the DRDLR, and were being commissioned to do work for it. In relation to the psychometric tests, he made it clear the ARC would do competency tests to measure the staff in their ability to deliver on the work they would be doing. For example, if the ARC was looking for a manager, it would do a competency test focusing on leadership skills, and scenarios would be presented to the individual to assess his or her fitness in doing the job.
The meeting was adjourned.