The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and its entities presented their annual expenditure and performance reports for the 2014/15 financial year.
The DAFF briefed the Committee about actions it would take regarding matters raised by the Auditor General (AG) in its audit report. Its presentation centred on quarterly reports, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, irregular expenditure, stability within the Department, the deregistration of Ncera farms, and drought management.
The Department also briefed the Committee about the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and the Ilima/Letsema conditional grants. It reported that 300 000 smallholders would be supported by 2019, and 80 000 smallholder farmers would be linked to markets. One million hectares of under-utilised land would also be under production by then. 33 000 ha of land were annually under irrigation. 200 000 vulnerable households on food security had been reached. The total number of jobs created through these conditional grants had amounted to 22 335 during the year under review. 19 204 farmers had received training during the 2014/15 period, while 101 extension officers had been recruited. The total number of farmers supported through Ilima/Letsema during 2014/15 had been 72 254. 101 710 hectares of land had been planted during 2014/15.
The Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) briefed the Committee on its achievements and finances. On aquaculture and economic development, support had been provided to 11 fish farms. There was increased awareness by stakeholders on potential funding sources through the development of the Funding Directory, which was a funding mechanism under the Operation Phakisa project. Concerning marine resources management, the framework for the 2015 fishing rights allocation process had been finalised. The Small-Scale Fisheries regulations had been published. Recovery plans for deep water hake, abalone and West Coast rock lobster had been approved.
The MLRF had achieved a clean audit due to improved systems, controls and the governance environment.1 385 job opportunities had been created under the Working for Fisheries programme. The entity had participated in a number of international fora and regional fisheries management organisations.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) took the Committee through its five strategic goals. Strategic Goal 1 had to do with improving productivity, production, competitiveness and sustainability of crop-based agriculture, and six out of eight performance targets had been achieved. Strategic Goal 2 dealt with improvement in productivity, production, competitiveness and sustainability of animal-based agriculture, and three out of four performance targets had been achieved. Stock theft incidents had been reduced. Strategic Goal 3 ensured the productive use and conservation of natural resources, and four out of six performance targets had been achieved. Strategic Goal 4 translated research results into support for agrarian transformation and the efficiency and competitiveness of the sector, and all five performance targets had been achieved and exceeded. Strategic Goal 5 aimed to achieve good governance, financial stability and a high performing and visible entity, focusing on human resources, information communication technology and infrastructure management.
Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) reported it had received an unqualified audit opinion for three years in succession, and management would continue to strive for a clean audit. The financials were checked every quarter by the audit committee before they were submitted to the DAFF and National Treasury. The 2015/16 risk management strategy had been approved by the board at the beginning of the financial year. The AG had found that the internal audit function had not performed its duties as required by Treasury regulations. The internal audit was now outsourced, and the three-year audit plan had been approved by the audit committee. Internal audit activities were in progress and were being monitored by the audit committee against the plan.
The Financial and Fiscal Commission had indicated that the OBP had under-spent on the funding allocated for the upgrade of the facility. The project consisted of two components -- the upgrading of the current facility and the building of a new facility. These had been affected because of long lead times for equipment to be delivered, as it had to be sourced from overseas, and specialists had to develop plans for the facility to be compliant with good manufacturing practice. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) still needed to be conducted and approved. A specific executive has been appointed as a project manager to manage the project.
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) said it had resolved to exhaust all avenues before having to resort to legal action regarding the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) permit systems. The entity indicated a meeting needs to take place between Minister Molewa, of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and Minister Zokwana, of the DAFF.
The SAVC reported that compulsory veterinary community service would be introduced in 2016. 130 veterinarians were expected to start in January and they would be placed in different parts of the country. It had completed the backlog of inquiries into professional conduct and an improved administration. More than 80 meetings had been held as part of the committee-and-Council system. It had also introduced an audit and risk assessment which reported to the finance committee.
A total of 5 260 veterinary and veterinary para professionals were registered with the SAVC as at 31 March 2015. 511 persons were authorised to perform veterinary or veterinary para professional services where a need was motivated.
Members wanted to know what action the DAFF was proposing in order to manage deviations without developing a record, and why it did not consider punitive measures instead. How was it planning to mitigate the problem of drought? How many agricultural colleges had been revitalised so far in order to help communities? Had the deregistration of Ncera been resolved because, because it had been listed as both a private company and a public entity?
Regarding the conditional grants, they wanted to know about possible elements that would help DAFF to negotiate so that farmers could access markets. They commented on the issues arising from the incapacity of the Department to monitor projects. What informed the criteria used for the allocation of CASP and Ilima/Letsema funding, because the Northern Cape was so small but it received the highest grant?
Members asked the MLRF when the post of the Director-General was going to be filled. The Department was asked to provide clarity on the issue of the tender vessels and recovery plans for deep water hake, abalone and West Coast rock lobster. Was the policing of sea resources being done effectively? What was the impact of the Working for Fisheries programme, because there had been under-spending on it?
The ARC was asked if it had links with the commercial farmers where it had got footprint, and with development agencies like the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). Did it have strategies in place to augment its resources, had it considered limiting its scope to focus on fewer matters, as it would not be nice to see the entity dwindling?
Members asked why the OBP had spent only R1.6 million out of a total budget of R120 million, and wanted an update on the costs of the new plant to be built. Had staffing problems been rectified, and what would their impact be on operations?
The SAVC was asked who policed the issuing of vaccines used for immobilising animals, and who ensured that vaccines were available to make sure livestock diseases were contained.
DAFF on AG’s findings
Mr Mortimer Mannya, Acting Director-General: DAFF, presented the responses of the Department to the findings of the Auditor General (AG).
On the unreliability of information on Programmes 2, 3 and 5, the Department was currently having formal consultations on individual programmes with the AG on a number of issues, including technical indicator descriptions, the alignment of Indicators with those of the provincial departments, and the strengthening of internal control systems. Discussions were underway internally to strengthen the monitoring capacity of conditional grants.
The Department had developed an audit matrix where the progress was updated and reported to the audit committee and senior management. On irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the double payment done to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) had been reversed. Action was being taken against the responsible officials in the communication unit of DAFF. Procurement processes that were not followed had been corrected.
Regarding plans to support agricultural schools and encourage youngsters to study in the agricultural field, a strategy was being updated and it included bursaries, placements, internship, Youth Month celebrations, and the College Revitalisation Plan. DAFF has submitted a plan to National Treasury to enhance the capacity for Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) coordination of planning and monitoring.
In order to ensure the credibility and completeness of performance reports, the DAFF would submit signed reports by the heads of the branches and submit them through the Combined Assurance System. The Department had completed the interviews for senior staff members.
Concerning entities, he said the Department did not agree with the negative generalised statement about public entities. Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) was revitalising its factory, and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) had been redesigning its vaccine capability. The Department had developed an improvement plan in 2014, particularly on governance and accountability. Those improvements had included management structures, audit committees, internal audit and risk management.
Pertaining to drought management in the context of disaster risk management, the Department had gazetted frameworks for a Disaster Risk Management Sector Plan and a Climate Change Sector Plan. The focus was on all hazards affecting the sector, such as drought, floods, fires, animal diseases, migratory pests, and plant pests. The DAFF was implementing the Prevention and Mitigation of Disaster Grant to coordinate disaster recovery and rehabilitation for the agricultural sector. On-going awareness, advisories and warnings were issued to the farming community to promote risk reduction founded on prevention, preparedness and mitigation.
Research recommendations on the study conducted by the National Disaster Management Centre, in collaboration with National Treasury and the Financial and Fiscal Commission, on “Alternative Funding Arrangements for Disaster Risk Management,” were being implemented.
Lastly, Mr Mannya also reported that the Ncera facility had been deregistered. It had been a loss making entity. 23 farmers had been given permission to occupy while awaiting permission from Public Works Department. There had been an engagement with the community, although there had been objections. The entity would be handed over to the ARC. Treasury was going to be involved in the deregistration process, and the Department was busy discussing the handing over of labourers from one employer to another.
CASP and Ilima/Letsema Conditional Grants Presentation
Ms Elder Mtshiza, National Project Coordinator for CASP: DAFF, reported that 300 000 smallholder farmers would be supported by 2019, with 80 000 of them linked to markets. One million hectares of under-utilised land would be under production by 2019. 33 000 ha of land were annually under irrigation. 200 000 households which were vulnerable in the aspect of food security had been reached.
82. 2% of planned projects had been completed. 15. 3% were on-going during the 2015/16 period. 2. 5% of projects had been dropped in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo, Mpumalanga (MP) and North West (NW) because of the lack of acceptable water rights and land tenure; infighting among beneficiaries; delays in the delivery of inputs; and less funding received from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).
The total number of jobs created through conditional grants had amounted to 22 335 during the year under review. 19 204 farmers had received training, while 101 extension officers had been recruited. The total number of farmers supported through Ilima/Letsema during 2014/15 was standing at 72 254. 101 710 hectares of land had been planted during the period.
Challenges had been experienced in the following areas:
- inadequate capacity within DAFF to monitor all projects on a monthly and quarterly basis;
- drought in North West, Gauteng and KZN had affected planting and would also affect expected yields;
- shortage of mechanisation had affected planting in NW;
- lack of access to loans and markets for beneficiaries of the programme;
- high costs of inputs on water and electricity;
- service providers failing to met their obligations;
- less participation of youth in Mpumalanga, Northern cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape;
- delays in procurement processes.
2015/16 planned targets, amongst others, were the following:
- A total allocation of R2.1 billion for CASP and Ilima/letsema;
- 160 000 vulnerable households to be supported with starter packs for theirown food production;
- 11 Colleges of Agriculture were being revitalised;
- 19 404 farmers would be trained and 638 mentored;
- R343 million would be allocated for the Extension Recovery Plan;
- The Taung, Disaneng, Vaalhaarts and Makhathini irrigation schemes would be revitalised.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate jobs created, hectares planted, food security, Ilima/letsema performance, spending on agricultural colleges, farmer training, and highlights per province)
Marine Living Resources Fund Presentation
Ms Siphokazi Ndudane, Deputy Director-General: Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF), DAFF, briefed the Committee on the achievements and finances of the entity.
On Aquaculture and Economic Development, support had been provided to 11 fish farms. There was increased awareness by stakeholders on potential funding sources through the development of the Funding Directory, which was a funding mechanism under the Operation Phakisa project. Improved investment had been recorded in the aquaculture sector and had resulted in an expansion of farmers. Two reproduction projects and one nutrition research project had been successfully conducted. This research had been done in collaboration with the University of Limpopo. The Aquaculture Concept Bill had been developed. There had been successful engagements with the aquaculture stakeholders.
Regarding research and development, the entity had completed scientific updates on the status of abalone and West Coast rock lobster. Stock assessments had been conducted in all the fisheries sectors. The provision of scientific advice to support the rebuilding of key fish stocks had been made. The status of South African marine fishery resources report had been published. The operational management procedure approach had been developed and was now implemented.
Concerning marine resources management, the fishing rights allocation process framework for 2015 had been finalised. The Small-Scale Fisheries regulations had been published. Recovery plans for deep water hake, abalone and West Coast rock lobster had been approved. A research report to indicate fish stock levels had been compiled, together with the operational management procedure applied for the sustainable catches for the 2014/15 fishing season. The Small-Scale Fisheries Forum had been launched. A cellphone information management system for small-scale fishers had been introduced.
For monitoring control and surveillance, an integrated fisheries security strategy was being implemented. There were increased patrols by the fisheries protection vessels. 5 541 sea and land-based inspections and investigations of rights holders in the four prioritised fisheries areas had been conducted. The unforeseen occurrence of “red tide” had led to the institution of a rescue plan whereby fishing vessels were allowed to concentrate on harvesting East Coast rock lobster in the Elands Bay area. This had resulted in additional landings and additional inspections.
The MLRF had achieved a clean audit due to improved systems, controls and the governance environment.1 385 job opportunities had been created under the Working for Fisheries Programme. The programme was able to use unspent funding from the prior financial year to create an additional 135 job opportunities. The entity had participated in a number of international fora and regional fisheries management organisations. The MLRF was the lead departmental agent in the aquaculture project under Operation Phakisa.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate finances and expenditure)
Agricultural Research Council Presentation
Dr Shadrack Moephuli, Chief Executive Officer: Agricultural Research Council (ARC), took the Committee through the five strategic goals of the entity.
Strategic Goal 1
This goal has to do with improving productivity, production, competitiveness and sustainability of crop based agriculture. Its focus was on broadening the food base for food and nutrition security and welfare, and enhanced crop protection systems. Six out of eight performance targets had been achieved, of which five had exceeded the set targets. There had been a reduction in post-harvest losses. New products and processes had been developed from primary agriculture. Sustainable production systems had been developed. Mitigation strategies against biotic and abiotic stresses that would improve productivity were in place.
Strategic Goal 2
This goal deals with improvements in productivity, production, competitiveness and sustainability of animal-based agriculture. It focuses on the development of animal vaccines, enhances animal production, and introduces and develops new traits and genetic diversity in animals. Three out of four performance targets had been achieved, of which two had exceeded the set targets. Stock theft incidents had been reduced. Livelihood among smallholder farmers had improved. Effective animal breeding techniques/methods had been developed. The degradation of rangelands had been reduced. There had been an improvement in high quality meat and dairy products that were safe and nutritional. It had improved livestock production through adoption of improved rangeland management.
Strategic Goal 3
This goal ensures the productive use and conservation of natural resources. Its focus was on alternative energy technologies, improved water management and irrigation practices, enhanced mechanisation in agriculture, and agriculture engineering. Four out of six performance targets had been achieved, of which three had exceeded the set targets. It had increased resilience of agriculture to climate change. Climate smart agriculture technologies had been adopted and used for a sustainable increase in agricultural productivity and incomes. It had reduced gas emissions. Appropriate infrastructure for increased, efficient and sustainable agriculture was in place. There was optimal utilisation of land for sustainable agriculture.
The ARC had furnished 14 smallholder cattle farmers with a biodigester system. The system was fed with cow dung and other organic waste and produced biogas for energy. It was believed it would reduce the dependence of farmers on wood and gas for heating, and reduce the overall methane emissions from cattle farming.
Strategic Goal 4
Its purpose was to translate research results to support agrarian transformation and the efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. Its focus was on marketing and stakeholder management, agricultural skills and capacity development, smallholder farmer enterprises’ support, and communication and dissemination of agriculture research for development outcomes. All five performance targets had been achieved and exceeded. It had increased the adoption and use of ARC technologies among smallholder farmers. It had increased the number of functioning and sustainable agriculture enterprises from agri-incubators. Agriculture development centres had been established in all provinces. There had been an increase in the number of animal, crop and mixed production systems transferred to smallholder farmers. The image and relations of the ARC with stakeholders had been improved. Small scale farmers had been trained in the principles of irrigation performance and had been required to build their own dripper and micro-sprayer systems.
Strategic Goal 5
It aims to achieve good governance, financial stability and a high performing and visible organisation. It focuses on human resources and information communication technology (ICT) and infrastructure management. Challenges were around the following areas:
- a high proportion of experienced researchers were approaching retirement;
- higher-end specialist skills to ensure the future growth of the ARC could not be provided by conventional educational streams;
- there was an urgent need to improve the ratio of women, black and young researchers;
- there was a need to improve the qualifications profile of the ARC and to expand its Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) base;
- there was a need to develop research capacity in the emerging national priority science areas.
The entity had improved its ICT resources to enable research and development through informatics tools. It was providing a knowledge management platform to enhance ARC’s research and development initiatives and service delivery. There was improved access to information resources for all employees.
There had been optimal use of ARC land, buildings and equipment for research and development. The entity was seeking and building productive partnerships and collaboration with interested third parties. There had been an improvement in the generation of rental income. Non-strategic assets had been disposed of.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate finances and expenditure)
Onderstepoort Biological Products Presentation
Dr Steven Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer: Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), reported that his entity had received an unqualified audit opinion for three years in succession and the management would continue and strive for a clean audit. The financials had been checked every quarter by the audit committee before they were submitted to the DAFF and Treasury.
In terms of Section 51 (1) (a) (i) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), it had been found that effective, efficient and transparent systems of risk management and internal controls with respect to performance information and management had not been in place. To correct this, the OBP had revised the 2015/16 corporate plan to ensure that the key performance indicators (KPIs) met SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) principles. The OBP reported quarterly on these to the audit committee, the board, the DAFF and National Treasury. The executive committee (EXCO) checked and reviewed quarterly before these were submitted to the audit committee, the DAFF and National Treasury.
The 2015/16 risk management strategy had been approved by the board at the beginning of the financial year. The AG had found that the internal audit function had not performed its duties as required by Treasury regulations. The internal audit was now outsourced to Nkonki, a firm of chartered accountants, and the three-year audit plan had been approved by the audit committee. Internal audit activities were in progress and were being monitored by the audit committee against the plan.
With regard to the IT-related audit issues, the OBP had appointed an IT manager and developed a framework and strategy which had been approved by the board. The capacity in IT had improved and an intern had been appointed. A new IT infrastructure with the latest technology had been acquired and installed, and a long-term service level agreement (SLA) had been concluded with the service provider. The IT steering committee, which reports to the audit committee, monitored these activities on a quarterly basis.
On leadership, the AG had found that the planned and reported targets of strategic goals 2 and 5 had not been in line with the SMART principle. The entity had revised its 2015/16 corporate plan to ensure that the KPIs met the SMART principle. The OBP reports quarterly issues to the audit committee, the board, the DAFF and National Treasury. These were checked first by the EXCO and a specific executive had been appointed for the collection and quality control of the data.
The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) had indicated that the OBP had under-spent on the allocated funding for the upgrade of the facility. The project consists of two components: the upgrading of the current facility and building a new facility. These had been affected because of long lead times for equipment to be delivered, as the equipment had to be sourced from overseas, and specialists had to develop plans for the facility to be compliant with good manufacturing practice, and environmental impact assessments (EIAs) still needed to be conducted and approved. A specific executive had been appointed as a project manager to manage the project. The OBP reported quarterly on this project to the audit committee, the board, the DAFF and National Treasury.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had highlighted issues with respect to audit findings and client complaints received by the DAFF. The OBP had initiated monthly quality meetings for the entire organisation, where all the complaints and queries were revisited and checked so that none was outstanding or overlooked by the quality unit and executive.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate finances and expenditure)
South African Veterinary Council Presentation
Dr Jana Pretorius, Vice President: South African Veterinary Council (SAVC), informed the Committee that the SAVC had resolved to exhaust all avenues before having to resort to legal action regarding the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) permit systems. The entity had indicated a meeting needed to take place between Environmental Affairs’ Minister Molewa. and the DAFF’s Minister Zokwana.
An extensive consultation process on the review of the rules for the veterinary profession, which included a road show and several workshops, had been held with stakeholders. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) had not upheld the complaint of the SAVC brought on behalf of the profession against the Carte Blanche programme. The SAVC was of the opinion that a representative overview had not been reflected in the Carte Blanche programme, which had dealt with the fees of the veterinarians. The opinion was that neither the good name of the SAVC nor the good name of the South African veterinarians had been sullied by the programme, and the BCCSA had expressed the view that reasonable viewers were not gullible.
The SAVC reported that compulsory veterinary community service would be introduced in 2016. The entity also mentioned the improved cooperation between itself and the Registrar of Medicines over the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act 36 of 1947 in respect of the control of medicines, including the use of highly scheduled medicines and responsible use of anti-biotics.
The entity had completed the backlog of inquiries into professional conduct and an improved administration. More than 80 meetings had been held as part of the committee-and-Council system. It had also introduced an audit and risk assessment unit which reported to the finance committee.
A total of 5 260 veterinary and veterinary para professionals were registered with the South African Veterinary Council on 31 March 2015. 511 persons were authorised to perform veterinary or veterinary para professional services where a need was motivated.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate finances and expenditure)
DAFF response to Auditor-General
Mr M Filtane (UDM) wanted to know what the DAFF was proposing in order to manage deviations without developing a record, and why it did not consider punitive measures instead. How was the DAFF planning to mitigate the problem of drought?
Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer: DAFF, regarding deviations, indicated that the Department had decided to stick to Treasury regulations which were very clear on deviations, especially if there was an emergency or unavoidable expenditure. Even when it came to procurement, the Department looked at things to be done and then saw if there was budget for executing the work. The Department had mechanisms in place to deal with irregular expenditure. The double payment made to the GCIS had been an advance payment -- the GCIS had wanted the money to be paid directly to the sub-contractors, but that had not been managed properly internally by the communication unit of the Department.
An official from the DAFF explained that the sector plan addressed all the hazards, but drought was hard to manage. There were many categories of drought and those categories were managed at different levels. In some areas, one would discover that the Department of Water and Sanitation was leading in addressing a particular drought. The DAFF focused on agricultural drought. It still needed to assess the farmers affected, the implications and impact, but that process took time to complete. The report would then be taken to Treasury, and that was another long process. The DAFF had established a national drought task team which met regularly and encouraged provinces to make use of their allocations for emergency relief. North West, Free State, and Limpopo had finalised their declarations. The Western Cape and Mpumalanga were still to submit their declarations.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked how many agricultural colleges had been revitalised so far in order to help communities.
Mr Mannya responded that all agricultural schools were being supported financially. The Department had approached the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for the colleges to be under its wing. That process was being considered so that they became mini-universities, and to see how they were going to be integrated into the DHET system, and it had asked DAFF not to finalise this matter.
Mr P Mabe (ANC) enquired if the deregistration of Ncera had been resolved because it had been listed as a private company (Pty) (Ltd) and a public entity. Initially, he said, he thought it was going to be deregistered as a private company and remain a public entity. The dual registration limited the capacity of Ncera to do its work and that of the Committee to monitor it.
Mr Mannya said that the deregistration of Ncera had been a long and delayed process. The public entity and private company was the centre. If the centre became changed, that caused instability and that was why to people it sounded like closure. The DAFF had decided to deregister it in its entirety and to place it under the ARC. Treasury had requested a detailed plan on this matter before it considered deregistration. Currently, DAFF was working on the labour plans and there was on-going engagement with the communities around Ncera.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) expressed happiness about the stability within the Department and progress being made. He wanted to know when the Department was going to finalise the appointment of senior managers. Concerning Ncera, he remarked that there had been timeframes regarding its deregistration, but now these seemed to be dragging because of the many interventions taking place.
Mr Mannya, on the appointment of senior managers, indicated they hoped to finalise the matter in January 2016, and the list submitted to the Cabinet. However, he warned the Committee there might be delays because the candidates still had to write competency tests and be vetted.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) remarked that there had been plans to support agricultural schools and money had been transferred to the sector, but there had been under-spending. No one seemed to know where that money was. What had happened to the R4 million that had been given to Fort Hare University (UFH) to do research on animal traction?
Mr Mannya, concerning the R4 million given to UFH, reported that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) had not been signed between the two parties and funds had not been transferred. The DAFF and UFH had been discussing the matter, but it appeared both parties could not deliver on things to be done. A written response would be sent to the Committee.
Mr Filtane remarked that there should be stringent measures if one gave money to Fort Hare, as it was in a mess. The university had been embroiled in the saga of using National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds for other things.
Ms T Tongwane (ANC) asked if the Department was dependent on the decision of Treasury regarding the closure of Ncera.
Mr Mannya agreed the Department was awaiting a go-ahead from the Treasury.
Mr Filtane asked what plans were in place to circumvent the problem of drought. The answer that had been given was bureaucratic, and that showed the whole process was bureaucratic.
Mr Mannya said the Department had started to review its models, but this would also need a review of the legislation.
Ms Jongbloed wanted to establish when the review of the policies would be finalised.
Mr Mannya said the reviews were at different stages. The Committee would be given a report on that.
A Member of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) commented that the Ncera report was confusing. It talked of deregistration and registration, the problem of land invasion, and funding. It did not mention if the project had achieved something. It noted only the challenges. Socio-economic issues that affected people should rise above compliance issues. A high level engagement should be spearheaded by the Committee to both the DAFF and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
The Chairperson said that Ncera had been established to be a research entity. Unfortunately, it never had a board to enable it to do its work. The previous Committee had decided it should be deregistered and placed under the ARC so that it could continue its research work. When the Committee had visited the entity, it had discovered that farmers were unable to do their work on the ten farms, and there were issues of land invasion that had come up.
The chairperson of the DAFF audit committee reported that there had been improvements in the internal audit. The findings of the Auditor-General regarding the internal audit had been reduced from nine to two. There had been a significant reduction in fruitless and wasteful expenditure compared to other years. Irregular expenditure had been reduced to R2m during the year under review.
DAFF Conditional Grants Presentation
A Member of the NCOP wanted to know about possible elements that would help the DAFF to negotiate so that farmers could access markets.
Ms Mtshiza admitted the Department was failing to assist farmers to be linked to markets. There was a need to look at legislation and do the necessary reviews. Developing farmers had been overlooked in terms of markets that were formal. In order to get into formal markets, there were standards that had to be adhered to. Money had been ring-fenced, and the Department was going to engage the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) so that farmers understood what the markets wanted. An alternative was to develop Agri Parks.
Mr Maxegwana commented on the issue of incapacity in the Department to monitor projects. He said this was the problem of most of the government departments, and things collapsed because there was a lack of capacity. These issues had been reported by the departments. This was where the country needed to stand up, especially in developing the economy. This should start at the local level, but if there was no monitoring at the local level, the country would continue to waste money.
He liked the way the Department had categorised each province in terms of products and strengths. The categorisation had noted very well the areas in which each province excelled. He urged the Department to continue focusing on that and make success stories out of it, and put more resources into areas in which the provinces were excelling. By doing that, things would be turned around.
The Chairperson wanted to find out about what informed the criteria used for the allocation of CASP and Ilima/Letsema funding, because the Northern Cape was small but it received the highest grant.
Ms Mtshiza informed the Committee the grant framework defined the space in which the grant was to be used. There were set boundaries which outlined the direction money should take. There were standards that guided what needed to happen. Provinces had to produce agriculture Action plans. For CASP and Ilima/Letsema allocations, the DAFF looked at issues such as land that was available, land restituted, identified poverty areas, identified projects and those already running, national policy imperatives, and the provinces that needed to be prioritised. The Northern Cape had identified its development zones and had well developed plans.
Due to time constraints, some questions could not be responded to and the Department promised to reply to the Committee in writing. The questions were around improvements in terms of access to markets in vineyard development schemes; the Department was asked to make a follow-up on tractors that had been given to farmers but had been withdrawn later regarding the mechanisation of Ilima/Letsema; the value that the Department expected from the investments it had made; and why areas like the Eastern Cape and Limpopo were having difficulty in accessing markets.
Marine Living Resources Fund
Mr Filtane wanted to know when the post of the Director-General was going to be filled.
Mr Mannya said the post of the Director-General was going to be advertised and filled. He said that budget cuts had affected the compensation of employees.
Ms Jongbloed asked the Department to provide clarity on the issue of the tender vessels and recovery plans for deep water hake, abalone and West Coast rock lobster.
Mr Mannya, concerning the tender of vessels, indicated that the Department intended to advertise the process. The vessels were doing well. Three Ministries (the DAFF, DoT, and DEA) had met on the issue of vessels. They were of the opinion that all government vessels must be managed by one department. The tender was still on hold because of these issues. The specifications for the tender had already been drawn up. On recovery plans, he indicated that they had been developed already, but no implementation had been done yet. They were not effective because they had not been implemented.
Mr Mabe wanted to know how far the Department was with regard to infrastructure programmes.
Ms Ndudane reported that some of the infrastructure programmes were assisting Operation Phakisa. The EIAs are done by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). A project might be planned and funds might be ready for disbursement, but if the EIAs were not done, the project would not happen.
Ms Jongbloed wanted to know if the policing of sea resources was being done effectively.
Ms Ndudane admitted the Department was losing the fight against poaching. The Department needed a completely new structure and technology. Poachers went to the sea in big numbers against 18 law enforcement vans. The Department was dealing with organised syndicates. South Africa was not alone in this problem. There were countries that got together and discussed the problem of poaching. This was a cross-border problem. A coordinated effort and more resources were needed. There was a need to rethink this serious issue of poaching, with full cooperation from law enforcement agencies.
The Chairperson enquired what the impact of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), Working for Fisheries, had been because there had been under-spending on it. She asked the Department to give attention to the legislation framework, especially the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), because it was affecting fisheries along the coastal line. She wanted to find out why aquaculture infrastructure had not been implemented according to the requirements and plans.
Ms Ndudane explained that the Working for Fisheries project supplemented what the DAFF was doing. It included projects that would look at the cleaning of the harbours and provision of security. With regard to legislation, she said there was a challenge between the DAFF and DEA. The DEA dealt with environment and the DAFF, particularly the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF), dealt with water. A proclamation was still awaited from the Minister. Both departments were trying to reach a middle ground. There had already been progress. Concerning aquaculture, she said there was not enough money invested on it. The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) had come on board to fund the processing project at Hamburg in the Eastern Cape. The Department was looking at a holistic approach to these issues and was collaborating with the NAMC. She noted that the Aquaculture Bill was still in its early stages of development.
Mr Filtane asked if the entity had links with commercial farmers where it had a footprint, especially in the Ugie area in the Eastern Cape. Did it have links with development agencies like the ECDC? He wanted to find out if the ARC had strategies in place to augment its resources or if it had considered limiting its scope to focus on fewer things, as it would not be nice to see the ARC dwindling.
Dr Moephuli said that the entity had a footprint in every province in terms of projects it carried out. The entity worked with many organisations like the Wool Growers Association, and was doing work in the OR Tambo district municipality. The only difficulty the ARC was experiencing was in the handing over of the product. The entity researched and developed what needed to be done, but it discovered that provinces were not prepared to do the take-over. That was where the problem was.
On links with ECDC, he said there were research projects they did for organisations like the ECDC. The entity had Masters and PhD students carrying out research projects for the ARC. Concerning income generation strategies, he reported that the ARC had major clients and income was generated mostly from the work the entity was commissioned to do by other organisations, from intellectual property, and from projects where they had applied for grants.
The Chairperson remarked that the AG had found the entity to have regressed when it came to leadership, and had moved downward from a clean audit.
Dr Moephuli said that the ARC had resolved to correct the findings of the AG. A major cause of the regression had been that the entity had implemented a new system. The implementation had not been done properly. There had been no proper control over the change-over. The AG had had problems with the reliability and credibility of the information of the entity. Management had agreed to make sure its systems worked properly in terms of management principles and material adjustments. The entity now had an audit committee to look at issues of compliance.
Mr Filtane commented that the entity needed to be repositioned and should make its current and potential clients understand they could not survive without it, and had to be prepared to pay a premium price.
Ms Jongbloed asked why the entity had spent only R1.6 million out of a total budget of R120 million. She also wanted an update on the costs for the new plant to be built. Lastly, she asked if staffing problems had been rectified and what their impact would be on operations.
Dr Cornelius, on under-spending, reported that the entity had received R127 million. It had to develop vaccines, and the balance would be used to renovate the facility. The entity had made an upfront payment for equipment to be transported to OBP from overseas, and it was going to take eight to 12 months for the equipment to reach SA. He highlighted that they had produced vaccines they had not produced in three years and others were still at the research and development level. The OBP was in a better position than it was before.
The plant to be built was going to cost R130 million. Phase 1 and 2 had been done. Phase 3 was being costed. With regard to staffing, he said they had appointed an IT manager, an intern, and recruited two specialists. They were expected to start soon. They were also in the process of recruiting a product specialist. The OBP had made provision for over-time work, working on weekends and had introduced a double shift. There was also a team of temporary staff which was comprised of students and unemployed graduates.
The Chairperson wanted to know why the DEA did not want to meet the DAFF over the issue of veterinarians.
Dr Pretorius explained that the DEA was limiting the powers of veterinarians to do their work and help in cases of emergencies. The issue was around permits, and it did not have the jurisdiction over the work of veterinarians. That was why the SAVC was having a fight with the DEA, because this was counterproductive. In order to help a dying rhino, the veterinarian had to get permission from the DEA. So, one had to let it die.
Mr Cebekhulu enquired who policed the issuing of vaccines used for immobilising animals. Who ensured that vaccines were available to make sure livestock diseases were contained.
Dr Pretorius explained that immobilisation drugs belonged to Schedule 6. A veterinarian was the only one allowed to use immobilisation drugs. These drugs were not freely available and controls over their availability had been tightened. The SAVC had resolved to place the drugs under the control of the veterinarian. Pertaining to the availability of vaccines for diseases, she said the SAVC tried to be a facilitator. The responsibility lay with the state veterinary department. The SAVC facilitated meetings in order to come up with solutions.
Ms Jongbloed asked how many veterinarians were going to do compulsory community service in 2016.
Dr Pretorius said that 130 veterinarians were expected to start in January and they would be placed in different parts of the country.
Mr Filtane remarked that the presentation had been so abridged, to the point where it was difficult to engage with it. For instance, the SAVC had had a meeting with the Minister but had not provided details so that the Committee knew what had happened. This had left the Committee with little information on what the SAVC was all about.
Dr Pretorius reported that the SAVC had told the Minister that the country needed the services of veterinarians, but not in a regulated way. The Minister had supported the idea.
The Chairperson told Mr Filtane the SAVC was a regulatory body. They were a body of professionals representing veterinarians, and provided advice. The SAVC had been called to account on its annual performance.
Mr Filtane insisted an annual report had to be detailed, not cursory.
The Chairperson asked the SAVC what it wanted the Committee to do with the roadcast complaint they had mentioned in their report.
Dr Pretorius said they had decided to let it go. Most veterinarians had complained about what had been aired about them.
Mr Filtane commented that if the SAVC was in the process of rendering a service, it should not go to court. The people who were going to benefit, or who they represented, were the ones that should go to the court.
Dr Pretorius indicated it was because they represented the veterinarians. Individuals could go to court, but the SAVC prefered to unify. She would not be surprised if there was a group of veterinarians who would take the matter up with the courts.
The meeting was adjourned.
- DAFF, ARC, OBP, SAVC on their 2014/15 Annual Report ; Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) and progress report by DAFF on deregistration of Ncera Farms Pty (Ltd) 1
- DAFF, ARC, OBP, SAVC on their 2014/15 Annual Report ; Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) and progress report by DAFF on deregistration of Ncera Farms Pty (Ltd) 2
- DAFF Responses to Auditor General Questions and Draft Responses Matters
- Onderstepoort Biological Products on its 2014/15 Annual Report
- Onderstepoort Biological Products 2014/15 Annual Report
- Agricultural Research Council on its 2014/15 Annual Report
- Agricultural Research Council 2014/15 Annual Report
- Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) on its 2014/15 Annual Report
- Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) 2014/15 Annual Report
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on its 2014/15 Annual Report
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 2014/15 Annual Report