The Portfolio Committee met to consider the adoption of its report on the strategic and annual performance plans and budget of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
Major concerns raised by Members related to the need for clarity on the involvement of various entities in Agriparks and the under-funding of the Department, which they feared would escalate the chances of the DAFF failing to achieve its mandates. The Chairperson pointed out that the scope of the engagement was to adopt the Committee’s report, and not to deliberate about the current budget allocation. The recommendations to the Department in the report clearly advised it to present its business case to the National Treasury for additional funding.
A Member said that the intentions of the Committee on key focus areas of the Department should be clearly highlighted, as merely referring to them in broader terms would subject the Committee’s intentions to misinterpretation. It was asserted that there was a lack of commitment to aquaculture by the Department. In most countries, 50% of the fish consumed by the local population was from aquaculture. However, it was shocking that the statistic was less than 2% in South Africa due to the under-funding of the Department. The EFF said its concern was not only about the budget allocation, but also the focus of the Department. Agriculture could absorb more labour in the country than any other industry, but the focus on agriculture was limited in scope as it related to food security and food safety.
The report was adopted, with the EFF’s objections noted.
All minutes of the meetings held by the Committee between 19th February and 12th April were considered and adopted.
The Chairperson apologised for the late commencement of the meeting, and welcomed engagement by Members relating to the report on the budget of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
Ms A Steyn (DA) said that more detail was needed on the involvement of entities in Agriparks in the Committee’s overview of deliberations presented in the report.
Mr N Capa (ANC) raised concern about a few grammatical errors in the report.
Ms Steyn said that the Committee report had failed to reflect any budget allocations for natural disasters and climate change impacts, as it applied to the current drought.
The Chairperson explained that the plans for drought were fully covered in the recommendations section of the report.
Ms T Tongwane (ANC) also pointed a few grammatical errors in the report.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said that the Department was currently under-funded and consequently at risk of failing to fulfil its mandate due to its limited budget allocation.
Ms Steyn supported Mr Paulsen’s comment, and suggested that the Committee should object to the budget allocation.
The Chairperson said that the Committee should have objected to the budget in the previous financial year. The Committee had no valid reasons not to adopt the report. The Committee had engaged relevant stakeholders and there was an on-going process to streamline the Department’s functions and resources. In a previous engagement with the Deputy Minister of Finance, the Committee had been informed that under-funding was not the main challenge of the Department, but rather the misappropriation of funds. A contributing factor to the limited budget allocation had been the failure of the Department to fully utilise its allocations in the previous financial years. She also highlighted that the previous food safety and security workshop had uncovered a R2 billion deficit regarding food safety and security in the country.
The Chairperson said that the Department was required to develop and present its business case to the National Treasury on its plans to curb the effects of the drought and to achieve the targets set out in the performance plan before the solicited funds could be allocated.
Mr Paulsen said that the lack of solid plans and targets by the Department had been initiated by inadequate funding.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had made strides by engaging relevant stakeholders and entities to assist the DAFF to fulfil its mandates. It had received a letter from the Auditor General (AG) confirming the alignment of the Department’s budget with its annual performance plan (APP). She said the Committee had endorsed the budget allocation by the Minister, and the report had been based on the alignment of the allocated budget with the Departmental plans.
Mr Capa signified his agreement with the Chairperson.
Ms Steyn also agreed with the Chairperson’s comment, and said that the AG’s previous report had revealed that the DAFF had no proper plans on how its funds were appropriated. The Department had been expected to furnish the National Treasury with a substantial case with its request for additional funding.
The Chairperson said that the National Treasury currently used an incremental budget policy, and not a zero budget policy. The framework had been endorsed and the Minister of Agriculture could not produce any plan beyond the current budget allocation for the Department.
Mr Paulsen highlighted that there was a lack of commitment to aquaculture by the Department. In most countries, 50% of the fish consumed by the local population was from aquaculture. However, it was shocking that the statistic was less than 2% in South Africa due to the under-funding of the Department.
The Chairperson said that there were nine projects on-going under the ocean economy of Operation Phakisa that would address concerns related to aquaculture. She said legislation needed to be reviewed to assess its benefit or impediment to aquaculture, adding that the Marine Living Resources Bill was limited in its scope to address issues of fisheries and food security in the country. The Aquaculture Bill would have been processed but for the upcoming local government elections.
Ms Steyn confirmed that the DA had no objections to the report, but there would be active engagement on the budget allocation.
Mr Paulsen said that the EFF’s concern was not only about the allocation but also on the focus of the Department. Agriculture could absorb more labour in the country than any other industry, but the focus on agriculture was limited in scope as it related to food security and food safety. He highlighted that certain vital elements had been omitted in the report.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) pointed out that the agenda of the Committee’s meeting was not for the purposes of budget deliberations, but strictly for the adoption of the Committee’s report.
Mr Paulsen said that concerns raised in previous engagements by the Committee had not been highlighted in the report, and the Department would never focus on such imperative issues if they were omitted from the report.
The Chairperson said that a recommendation of the report urged the DAFF to present its business case to the National Treasury for funding. The Committee was limited in the scope of the interventions that could be made until the DAFF presented its case to the National Treasury.
Mr Paulsen said that the intentions of the Committee on key focus areas of the DAFF should be clearly highlighted. Merely highlighting the intentions in a broader perspective subjected the Committee’s intentions to misinterpretation.
Ms Tongwane proposed a motion to adopt the report, and she was seconded by Mr Z Mandela (ANC).
The Chairperson confirmed that the objections of the EFF as regards the report had been noted.
Adoption of minutes
Ms Steyn proposed the adoption the minutes of 19 February 2016, and was seconded by Mr Mandela.
Mr Maxegwana proposed the adoption of the minutes of 23 February, and was seconded by Ms Steyn.
Mr Mandela proposed the adoption of the minutes of 1 March, and was seconded by Ms Z Jongbloed (DA)
Ms Tongwane proposed the adoption of the minutes of 8 March, and Ms Steyn seconded the motion (with amendments)
Mr Mandela proposed the adoption of the minutes of 15 March, and was seconded by Ms Steyn.
Ms Jongbloed proposed the adoption of the minutes of 5 April, and was seconded by Ms Steyn.
Mr Mandela proposed the adoption of the minutes of 7 April, and was seconded by Mr Capa.
Ms Jongbloed proposed the adoption of the minutes of 8 April, and was seconded by Mr Capa.
Ms Steyn proposed the adoption of the minutes of 12 April, and was seconded by Mr Mandela.
The Chairperson informed Members that the previous decision of the Committee to engage with stakeholders on Fridays would be suspended until after the budget votes.
The meeting was adjourned.