The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in the presence of the Minister, updated the Committee on three Bills. The Committee was firstly notified of the President’s reservations on the procedures followed by the NCOP in the passing of the Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill (PAPA) [B 9B-2015]. The President´s concerns did not relate to the content of the Bill but only the potential constitutionality issues specifically at the NCOP. The Bill was referred back to Parliament but only the NCOP could deal with it.
The Department took the Committee through each clause of the proposed amendments for both the Plant Improvement Bill and the Plant Breeders' Rights Bill. The Department took the Committee through the new clauses and explained the process and thinking behind the composition, considerations and processes of an Appeal Board, which were central to both Bills. In the Plant Improvement Bill, clause 47 dealt with the right to appeal, clause 48 detailed the composition and membership of the Board, clause 49 specified the conditions for investigations and consideration carried by the Board and clause 50 defined how the considerations of appeals by the Minister would work and the consequences for refunding. In relation to clause 49 (6), Members raised concerns about the designation of Registrar´s representatives during the appeal process. Several Members stressed the importance of clearly stating time limits in clause 50(4a) for the refunding of prescribed fees, during the process when the Minister sets aside any action or decision by the Registrar.
Discussion on the Plant Breeders' Rights Bill included comments, once again, on the constitution of an Appeal Board. Clauses 41, 42, 43 and 44 were outlined. Members queried clause 42(2) and the appropriate use of language, and whether “expert knowledge” was the best term to use in the selection criteria for Appeal Board members. Further elaboration was given by the legal advisors.
Members raised concerns about rains during the last part of the year, the need for reports on the situation on the dams and water resources, and the need for the Department to remain in contact with farmers. They finally approved two sets of minutes.
The Chairperson welcomed new Members to the Committee. She also welcomed the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana.
Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill (PAPA): President’s reservations
The Chairperson explained that the Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill, after having been approved by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been referred to the NCOP, which also approved the Bill. However, when it was submitted to the President for signature, he expressed reservations and referred it back to Parliament. The reservations apparently had to do with the processes carried out by the NCOP during its consideration and deliberation on the Bill.
She noted that because there was nothing in the content, the Portfolio Committee did not need to reconsider the content of the Bill. It was now the task of the NCOP to effect the necessary changes. It would be necessary to try to accelerate the correction process because of the deadlines set for the passing of the Bill.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) enquired what the Committee should specifically do at this point in order to progress the Bill.
Ms A Steyn (DA) agreed with Mr Filtane's concerns. She too believed that the President's written reservations clearly indicated that the Bill was to be returned to the NCOP for action. She said that one of the issues at the NCOP was that it did not often hold public hearings.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, confirmed that the current process was regulated by section 79(3)(a) of the Constitution, which states clearly that the Committee must not go beyond what the President’s reservations are, and this would guide the Committee.
Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill: Committee Report on the Bill
The report of the Portfolio Committee, on the Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill was read out and adopted. This report noted the President’s reservations on the Bill, but also noted that the reservations relate to the NCOP, and thus the Committee recommended that the matter be referred to the NCOP for further processing.
Plant Improvement Bill: Departmental briefing
The Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) reminded the Committee that the Bill had been presented and discussed briefly at the last meeting. A list of amendments had been drawn up by the Department's legal advisors, in consultation with the Parliamentary Legal Advisors. These were explained to the Committee.
This clause dealt with the right to appeal against decisions or actions by the Registrar, and guaranteeing the appeals procedure. This clause was drafted with the intention of establishing appropriate channels of responsiveness.
This clause had to do with the Appeal Board, its composition and membership. The Board would have the function of investigating appeals from any person who feels aggrieved by actions taken by the Registrar. The amendment the clause refers to the designation of the three members of the Board by the Minister. As stated in the proposed amendment, the remuneration of the members is to be prescribed after consultation with the Minister of Finance.
This clause speaks to the conditions and consideration of the future investigations carried by the Board. It specifies the cases in which the Chairperson may act, as well as the provisions for hearings. This clause also covers the circumstances in which a member of the Board or the Chairperson may be substituted, and the terms of continuation of the investigations in the absence of one of the members.
This clause dealt with the Ministerial consideration of appeals, with the Minister being able to confirm, vary or set aside the recommendations of the Board and the previously made decisions or actions by the Registrar. It is specified in this clause that the decision made by the Minister must be equally communicated to all parts involved in the process and that if it is decided to set the Registrar’s decision aside the appellant will be refunded the allocated fees.
The DAFF advisors made the point that the inclusion of new items with the proposed amendments, created consequential amendments of substitution, reorganisation and replacement in the Bill.
Mr Filtane asked who would represent the Registrar at the appeal process in clause 49 (5) the amendment. The Chief Director of the Department referred to the open status of this representation and had intimated that the advice of Members would be welcomed.
He commented that clause 50(4a) referred to setting of specific time limits for refunding of prescribed fees, in cases where an appeal was successful. He remarked on the necessity of being specific, given the notorious delays of Government when processing refunds.
Ms T Gasebonwe-Tongwane (ANC) moved for the approval of the amendments to the clauses.
Plant Breeders Rights Bill
The Chief Director of the DAFF took the Committee through the Amendment List.
A general overview of minor changes, mostly substitutions of referencing and spelling, was read out. Reference was made to clauses 1, 15(4), 17(3), 23(1), 38(3) and 46(6), all of which had minor changes. The inclusion of new items after the proposed amendments created consequential amendments of reorganisation in the Bill.
The introduction of a new section for appeals was mentioned, eliminating the current clause 41. The amendments in this section were identical to those proposed for the Plant Improvement Bill, as outlined by the Chief Director of the Department and the State Legal Adviser.
Clause 42 (10)
This clause spoke about the establishment of an Advisory Committee, and the DAFF considered it important to emphasise that remuneration of the Advisory Committee would be prescribed only after consultation with the Minister of Finance.
Comments were made on the use of the word “expert” in Clause 47 (2b), where there was reference to “expert knowledge”.
Mr Filtane questioned how the Department would verify the expertise of an applicant, and if there are set standards to identify who an “expert” is. He suggested the use of the phrase “sufficient knowledge” instead of “expert”.
The Chief Director of the Department clarified that usually, when a Board is to be formed, the Minister is advised on experts who are identified as such by reference to their curriculum vitae, and given the technical-scientific nature of the Department, that expertise would be required. The expertise of candidates is to be verified by their credentials. The Parliamentary Legal Adviser also clarified that the word “expert” in the clause refers to the extent of knowledge on the subject of the appeal.
Mr M Filtane maintained and argued that his point on specifying time limitations for refunding was relevant despite the Chairperson dismissing his concern.
Mr H Kruger (DA) backed Mr Filtane in his argument about limiting times for refunding, stating that such matters had been a major red tape concern in the public administration as a whole.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) added that the setting of time limitations for refunding would mean less chances of the funds being stolen by the administrators.
The Chairperson concluded that the matter should not be discussed in this session.
Other Committee business
Ms Steyn complained about the state of the Ministerial reporting on allocation of water resources.
The Minister responded that a detailed report will be submitted to the Committee.
Ms Steyn also raised the issue of droughts in the country, despite the water use restrictions implemented. She stressed the need to have more detailed information on dam levels and the impact that this could have on irrigation and food supply.
The Chairperson mentioned the positive predictions for rainy periods during the last part of the year, as well as the need for the DAFF to stay constantly in contact with farmers.
Nomination of candidates for the Agricultural Research Council
The Portfolio Committee was asked by the Minister to consider candidates and propose names to occupy the vacancy, during the next session of the Committee. However, an extension of three months was granted for the decision to be made.
Committee Minute adoption
The minutes of the meeting on 24 May 2016 were adopted
The minutes of the meeting on 26 May 2016 were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill [B9B-2015]: President’s reservations; Plant Improvement / Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills: deliberations; Agricultural Research Council nominations, in presence of Minister 1
- Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill [B9B-2015]: President’s reservations; Plant Improvement / Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills: deliberations; Agricultural Research Council nominations, in presence of Minister 2