Tree diseases impact; Working for Fisheries Programme

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

20 November 2018
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a presentation from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) “Working for Fisheries Programme” (WfFP). The DAFF highlighted the achievements of the programme and said that since 2014/15, 658 fulltime equivalent jobs (FTEs) had been created, which meant that more than 2 500 FTE jobs had been created since the programme was introduced in 2004.  

The Auditor General’s (AG’s) report had made various recommendations. These included implementation of a project initiation and approval process, the development of a database to enlist potential service providers or professionals, and how to appoint them once they were enlisted on the DAFF database. They were also advised to beef up capacity in order to manage and implement the programme.

Members were concerned that the programme was not fulfilling its mandate of job creation and poverty alleviation, particularly in the small fishing communities. They said that the DAFF was not employing people, and was under-spending when there were people in rural areas who were in desperate need of employment. They asked why the Department would want to enlist the services of external service providers when they were supposed to train and employ the locals.

The Committee received a sectoral update from the DAFF on its efforts to combat plant pests and animal health diseases. Members were given details of the impact which pests such as the Fall Armyworm, the Oriental Fruitfly, the Banana Bunchy Top Virus and the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, inflicted on local crops. The DAFF emphasised the need for ongoing research to deal with incursions of the pests, which could have a potential impact of R100 billion.

 

The major animal health diseases threatening South African livestock were Foot and Mouth Disease, Rift Valley Fever, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, African Swine Fever and rabies. Members heard how these diseases had a major impact on the country’s exports of meat products and game animals, and how significant additional funding was required to ensure vaccines were produced and made available as and when they were needed. There was also a need for improving the DAFF’s capacity to monitor and control imports and exports.

Meeting report

Working for Fisheries Programme: DAFF presentation

Mr Belemane Semoli, Acting Deputy Director General (DDG): Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said that he would be giving the presentation on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) known as the Working for Fisheries Programme (WFFP) in the Department.

The programme was established in 2004 and the project had three phases. The Department was currently on phase three of the EPWP. The programme had four sectors -- the infrastructure sector, the environment and culture sector, the social sector and the non-state sector. The WFFP fell under the environment and culture sector, which had been led by the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, now known as DEA.

The Department had a WFFP Office whose function was to provide strategic management of the programme; to provide overall management; to facilitate capacity building projects for the different beneficiaries; to monitor and evaluate all the projects, visit the sites and provide reports; and also to do coordination and reporting to the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Since 2014/15, according to the provided statistics, there were 658 fulltime equivalent jobs (FTEs). The FTE was basically a formula that the DPW used if a person worked at least 230 days per annum. To date, accumulatively, it could be said that the programme had created more than 2 500 FTEs.

A review of the programme had been done to see how they could better manage the programme to make sure there was compliance with the various legislations. Most of the issues came from the Auditor General’s (AG’s) report, which had identified a number of areas which were regarded as weaknesses and needed to be improved.

 Amongst others, implementation of a project initiation and approval process was recommended; development of a database to enlist potential service providers or professionals; a process on how to appoint those service providers once they were enlisted on the Departmental database; and there were recommendations on how they could beef up capacity to be able to manage and implement the programme.

With regard to current project expenditure, there was only one programme active at the moment and it was the Eastern Cape Hamburg project. The initial budget was R9.5 million over three years. At the moment, the project was left with R2.089 million and it was supposed to finish in the following year. There was also the office that Mr Desmond Marinus, the Acting Director of the WFFP, was in. This year there were two other people who were assisting him, and some of the funds went to their administration.

In terms of the budget allocation, the Department had been having rollovers for the past couple of years and were at the moment sitting with slightly over R200 million in the project. This was even though there was an allocation of about R80 million that had come from the DPW this year, but they had more money than that.

The Chairperson said that the presentation showed only the process that they would follow after evaluation. What was happening now? She saw that the Department had expenses of R12 million.

Mr Semoli said Mr Marinus, who was the manager overseeing the programme, had been recruited from a different unit temporarily while they tried to improve capacity. In terms of the projects, there was only one active project at the moment, the agricultural project in the Eastern Cape. Other projects were still under planning phases and other stages towards implementation. The Department was currently seeking approval for the new methodology that they would be using going forward, and they were also in the process of seeking approval for the establishment of capacity to ensure that everything was adequately done. That was where they were at the moment.

Discussion

Mr P van Dalen (DA) asked the Department to explain that if the programme’s outcome was that local people must be used, and only 10% of people with special skills could be brought in from other areas, why it was that people were ferried in from Hermanus, Bonteheuwel and Khayelitsha to Doringbaai and Elands Bay on a daily basis.  Surely there were people in that area who could participate? One of the functions would be to assist the Department in specific projects, and one would assume that marine coastal surveillance would be one of the places where this project would assist, seeing that there was a high incidence of poaching.

He had a copy of an email that was sent yesterday, recalling all the marine coastal control surveillance people to their offices. The people had been recalled to their offices and had to stop enforcement of the poaching. The email had been from the Department and stated that due to budget constraints, all workers should return to their working station and stop with enforcement functions. This proved that the Department was actually helping the poaching, because now was a peak time for poaching yet all of these officials were withdrawn.

In the WfFP they had been unable to spend their budget, and that only showed that the Department had priority problems and their priorities were wrong. The under-spending of the budget should be immediately re-prioritised to assist and be made available for the hardworking inspectors who were trying to control the scourge of poaching. It would not help them to sit in the offices and not be on the ground  -- that would only assist the poachers.

He noted that the army had been deployed in the Overberg and called in to assist. They were very grateful as a nation that the army was helping in the whole process. However, if they withdrew all the officials who were the lead agents in this, they would be giving the army information, telling them where the people were poaching, and might assist them. They could send the EPWP there to help them if there was no budget, because surely they had also been trained for this.

The Auditor General (AG) had recommended in their presentation that the Department needed a new chief. In his view, they did not need more chiefs, they needed more people on the ground doing the work. This was not a job creation programme for chiefs, but for people who were really in need of work that could assist the Department. This was an ancillary system, where those people assisted people who already knew what they were doing and they were an added hand, like a reserve for the police. If he looked at it, there were nearly no people on the ground. Why could they not spend money and employ people that desperately needed jobs. This was a time when everybody was out and about. Extra hands were needed at the beaches to clean them, etc. This programme was a failure -- and they tell them they need another chief. They do not need another chief, they need people on the ground.

Mr A Madella (ANC) said this had been a very sad report. The programme was supposed to help combat poverty in the fishing communities. A lot of money had been spent, but nothing was happening. They were hearing now that there was only one project in the Eastern Cape that was being implemented. R12 million had been spent this year to honour the purpose and bring in capacity etc. The Department was failing people very seriously. There had to be a turnaround.

He said that Mr Van Dalen had spoken about people being imported from Hermanus, which was his constituency, to Doringbaai, but surely there was no one in the Overberg, as far as he knew, who was benefiting from this project. What Mr Van Dalen was referring to had to be something completely different.

Mr Sifiso Buthelezi, the Deputy Minister, had visited one of his constituencies and been confronted by an audience which was extremely unhappy. It had no confidence in the Department. The audience were constantly saying that the Department did not care, that the policies were changed at will by officials and by the chiefs that were being proposed, who do not connect with the people on the ground to see that if they wanted to make changes, what the consequences of those changes would be. People were very negatively impacted by changes that were being made at the top.

If one looked at the record of the FTE jobs, then one would see that there had been a decline for 2017/18 compared to what it was in 2014/15. That confirmed the serious problems that existed in this unit. There were other issues about under-expenditure. Money had been made available, but the Department officials were not spending that money – money that was meant for the poor to create opportunities for income generation. The ones who were not spending were not affected -- they got their salaries regularly every month. This was grossly unfair.

There had to be consequences. People must be brought to task because they were undermining the intention of the government. It seemed there was deliberate sabotage by the officials and it could not continue in this fashion. There was no regard for what was happening on the ground, whether people were dying of hunger or not. People were being forced into illegal means of generating income because of these things.

The army was in the Overberg. They were based at Gansbaai, playing a supportive role. He was hearing about the email for the first time and it really seemed that there were forces in the Department that were leaving the army completely on their own, completely vulnerable. The army was not trained to interact with the community. These people were supposed to be the eyes, the ears and providing pointers as to what the army must do, because the army was there to support them. If they were withdrawn, then someone in the Department said that the army must be left to carry on on its own, and if mistakes happened, the army must be blamed.

This was indeed sabotage of a serious nature and it could not continue like this. It was sad that there were officials who were not doing their work. If there were capacity constraints, why were those matters not being addressed timeously? Why must the people on the ground suffer because of their inability to manage at the top?

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said that the Chairpersonr needed to control the meeting, as Mr Madella had spoken for more than 10 minutes.

The Chairperson said that that was why they had requested the meeting to start at 9.30 am so that they could allow Members to engage in depth. Mr Paulsen would not appreciate it if that was done to him.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said she just wanted a breakdown of the numbers. In 2014/15, they appointed only 658 people. The EPWP was a programme that must hire people every three months, so how many people had they hired per quarter? Why had they reduced the number to 162 in 2017/18, and what was the budget to hire people each year? How much did they spend? Which communities did they go to, because the coast stretched from the west to the east? How many communities had they covered throughout?  

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that he would like to know why there had been such a decline in the FTEs in the last financial year. Why did the Department want to enlist the services of outsiders? This was an EPWP project and one of the underlying principles of those projects was that they take people from the villages, so to speak, and train them on how to do a job, so that if there were any permanent posts that came out of it, they could occupy those posts. Alternatively, that at the end of the programme they had enough capacity to be employable elsewhere. The third alternative was that when they left the project, they would be able to start their own businesses. Instead of training EPWP employees and beneficiaries, they wanted to take people from outside and bring them in.

This Department had a very poor record of managing projects, let alone now a third party like a service provider. Basically, they were just creating a problem. He did not want the Committee being on record for having approved this plan, if there was any intention of getting silent or tacit approval from them. They needed an explanation as to what exactly these service providers were supposed to be doing. At the end of the meeting they could go home having no clue as to what services were going to be rendered by the service providers and why those services could not be rendered by the EPWP or by the Department itself.

On slide which indicated a review of the WfFP, there were a number of deficiencies that were reflected there, but there was a lack of information about them. There was irregular project expenditure -- and now they wanted to employ service providers, when they themselves could not manage projects. He had been a service provider before and he knew the extent to which they could trick a department if they had no clue on how to manage their own projects. There was an absence of standard operating procedures, so how were they going to define productive terms of reference if they themselves, before there was a service provider, did not have standard operating procedures? How would they critique the work of a service provider?

On legal contractual documentation, service level agreements (SLAs), etc, the Department could not do it when they did not have the capacity. They were admitting their own shortfall and now they wanted to add service providers. They were just adding more confusion. There was a lack of asset registers and recovery of assets. They could not manage people, they could not manage their assets, and they could not create operating procedures. What were they doing as management of the Department? Could they please give the Committee an overall picture of what they were about.

Mr Paulsen said he had a serious concern which differed from that of Mr Van Dalen and others. If he was from a traditional fishing community and he was not allocated a quota, then he thought they should go and take care of themselves and not waste their time. They must go and take the fish and do whatever they needed to survive. It was a normal human thing to survive, and to actually deny those people their livelihood -- as this Department had done by denying them allocations -- they must poach. He supported their right to poach.

The Department spent more money on marine anti-poaching, R30 million, compared to the R10 million invested in aquaculture. They were denying black people in fishing communities a livelihood. He understood that, Mr Van Dalen comes from the community with big fishing companies, where their allocations were guaranteed and they make money, but poor fishing communities were suffering.

They had once gone to an aquaculture project in the Eastern Cape and there had been nothing but holes in the ground, and a few millions had been spent putting those holes into the ground. The only substantial project they saw was in the Kouga area. It was the only project that had potential and that person was denied funding for that particular project.

This Department had to collaborate with the Department of Science and Technology that was capable of running successful aquaculture projects. That was where they should be putting their money, not this anti-poaching nonsense. Those communities must be empowered with aquaculture projects.

The Chairperson asked Mr Paulsen to withdraw “nonsense.”

Mr Paulsen said that he withdrew.

He suggested that they should look at how these fishing communities could be empowered. They would not need these anti-poaching units if they actually took care of these communities. These communities were only doing what was necessary for survival. They needed to have a proper plan in place for aquaculture. This was the only country where less than 1% of the fish came from aquaculture. In China, 50% of the fish consumed came from aquaculture. They needed to start focusing on where they could make maximum gain and they were not going to gain on anti-poaching. The amount of fish and seafood that was poached was minimal -- it was almost negligible. To spend R30 million on going to protect or prevent that bit of poaching was a waste of time -- it could be spent elsewhere.

The Chairperson said that what Mr Van Dalen and Mr Filtane had raised were critical matters in terms of getting clarity from the Department. The EPWP had been launched by the former President Thabo Mbeki and the intention had been to alleviate poverty, to make sure that they reduced unemployment in the country, and used of labour-intensive technology and the transfer of skills in the community. This meants that even the people that Mr van Dalen had been talking about were part of those of job creation initiatives, including aquaculture, and cleaning the ocean.

Why have the DAFF underspent on this programme, which was supposed to create the opportunity for people, and transferring skills for communities? There had been underspending for three consecutive years, and now they had rolled over R200 million. They had spent R12 million out of R200 million, and they were approaching the third quarter. What was the problem -- why were they not spending this money? The programme’s intention was to create jobs and alleviate poverty and skill the people. Why was that not being done -- what was the problem?

DAFF’s Response

Ms Sue Middleton, Chief Director: Fisheries Operations Support (FOS), DAFF, responded on why local people were not used for the project, and why they were shipping or bussing people from the Overberg into Doringbaai. The principle for the WfFP, as it was for the EPWP, was that it was a job creation project -- it was to employ local labour and to train and to provide capacity building for local people at entry-level jobs. The reference made to transporting people to the Overberg was very specific, and it referred to a project where military veterans were employed an the anti-poaching campaign in the Overberg, as it was identified as a hot spot for poaching. They had been operating in the Overberg for several years now. There was a special anti-poaching project up the coast, and they had been deployed for that anti-poaching campaign, which had now ended. It was misleading to say that local people were not being used, and that people were being shipped in from the Overberg. It was a very specific “sting” operation in the West Coast, where the military veterans had been used.

Several Members had raised the question of why there had been underspending. Unfortunately, it needed a bit of a historical explanation. As Mr Semole had explained, when the WfFP project was created and fishing had gone to DAFF, the money for the financial year was allocated only in February at the end of the year, and the financial year ended in March. Therefore that first allocation of R80 million in 2010/11 could not be spent in that financial year and had been rolled over. From 2011/12, the Department had started spending its annual allocation but still had that roll-over from 2010, and that was why there had been a consistent under-expenditure.

As a Department, they would be totally honest -- the programme had gone through a decline in the last two to three years, and that was why an internal review of the programme had been initiated. The recommendations that were on the table for the programme were basically a strategy to turnaround the programme so that they could create jobs and all the things that the Members had said. They were not going to try and pretend that everything was rosy -- there were problems and they were attempting to address them.

Regarding the question of service providers, she said that this was not the DAFF’s model, it was the EPWP model. Therefore, when they created jobs, those people were not employed by the Department, they were not departmental staff members. They were appointed by service providers in various projects, but they never became DAFF staff members. That was the EPWP model and all the procurement and supply chain issues were around appointing the right service provider that could manage the WfFP jobs that were created on a daily basis and the various criteria for how the management training and the capacity building needed to happen. She did not think she explained it very well, but that was why they used service providers. The jobs were not directly with the Department, they were in particular projects.

The money that they got from the DPW for the WfFP was ring-fenced. It could be used only for the WfFP and it could not be redirected to their operational budget. It was not possible for them to use WfFP money to pay their own staff or to pay their own inspectors.

Mr Mqondisi Ngadlela, Chief Director: Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS), DAFF, said that he had been the author of the email. It was unfortunate that only a fraction of the email had been read and not the whole content and the reasoning behind it, but nevertheless he would explain the reasoning behind it. Two weeks ago, extra personnel had been deployed in the Overberg, meaning that people were removed from other areas to go and assist. They had the army and SAPS there as well. For tactical reasons, amongst others, because they had noticed that some of the boats that were used to poach were moving away from Overberg and going towards the West Coast and the Robben Island area to go and poach there. In response to that, he had decided that the extra personnel would be moved from the Overberg -- not all personnel, there were still personnel there that were supporting the SAPS and the South African Defence Force. He had not said that people must go back to their offices, but they were to go back to their stations where they were supposed to do patrols and prevention. Most of them, which was not a lot of people, were ordinarily stationed in Cape Town, so they were brought back to cover the Robben Island area. Some of them were ordinarily stationed in the West Coast area as well to cover those boats that were moving from Overberg to the West Coast.

These were some of the reasons. He could not mention all of them, because he had written the email to his staff, but he had found it being read in Parliament, and he did not understand that. It obviously meant that he must not give all the tactical decisions in his emails, because they would end up being discussed in public.

The Chairperson said that it was good that Parliament knew that it had been for the good of the public, because they were the ones who allocated more money. Mr Ngadlela did need to panic that it had reached Parliament, he had just needed to clarify why he had written that email and what his intention was, and if it was a good intention he would be applauded by the House. To say he had written to his staff and now it was being read out in Parliament, he must accept that the Department was a public institution and therefore it could leak. He must just deal with it without complaining about it reaching Parliament.

Mr Ngadlela said next time he would be careful what he writes in the emails.

He said that the DG had just approved the deployment of military veterans, 38 of whom were going to be starting today in Overberg. Tactically it was a good idea to move the people that were placed there, given that now there were the military veterans that were deployed from today, and those were some of the reasons.

Mr Paulsen said that those military veterans were useless anyway.

The Chairperson said that Mr Paulsen was out of order, and told Mr Ngadlela that he could proceed.

Mr Ngadlela said that those were some of the reasons.

The Chairperson repeated that when Members of Parliament picked up issues anywhere, Department officials could not come and complain because MPs were public representatives, and the officials accounted to them. That was why they limited the people who must account to Parliament to DDGs, DGs and Ministers. They had limited it precisely because department officials were hurting Members with their language, such as asking why Mr Van Dalen had read out the email, and that was unacceptable. Any public institution accounted to Parliament and if any information leaked out, the need was just to respond and clarify. If it was unconstitutional or illegal, then Members would point that out. Mr Ngadlela did not have to worry about information reaching Parliament, because now he was going to go back to the Department to find out who had leaked the email and would not focus on his job. They could not operate like that. He could tighten his system but he must know that they were public representatives and immediately when they picked up issues, particularly ones concerning the department that they oversee, they would raise it. The Member had raised the matter in the right forum, as he oversees the Department.

Ms Chueu said that the Chairperson should add that he was a public servant and they should account to the community, and that was what public servants were not doing. They did not want to account to the community, and did not want to tell the community what they were doing. The Members were public representatives and if those who work for the government were public officials.

Mr Mike Mlengana, Director General, apologised on behalf of the Department for the statement that his colleague had made. He was sure that he did not understand the rules and he would have a talk with him outside of the meeting.

He said that one of fundamental questions the Committee had asked was one that talked to the definition of the concept itself -- the EPWP and the update on that programme -- and that was where the presentation had fallen short and been found wanting.  As soon as he had arrived in the Department, the first thing that he had done was to appoint the military veterans, 38 of them. That was the gap he saw, and because of their experience and that they were unemployed, he felt that they were needed and they were there now. What he would request was to go back and do an update on the definition of the concept in terms of what it had been doing, rather the plans on what it was going to do, as well the challenges they had found in what they had been doing, and then do a plan going forward. This was because that it was not the first time the question had been asked and there was a reason why they had been asked to do the presentation today, for the Members to know exactly what the programme had been doing. That was his request, and he was not saying Members must not continue to ask questions that would enrich them, but he felt that that question had not been fully answered. -- the question of what the EPWP on fisheries had done since it was transferred to the DAFF.

Mr Marinus, Technical Manager at DAFF, said he had been asked to oversee the fisheries programme during the review process. He felt it was prudent to say that the issues they had found within the projects were the various issues listed on the slide. While projects were already in process, in terms of the legal obligations, they then had to look at ways and means to allow these projects to come to an end and then correct those that were non-compliant. He confirmed what Ms Middleton had said about the process that they had gone through and the challenges that they had experienced with the programme regarding the existing projects.

The Chairperson asked if they were going to spend the R200 million, whether they would see people working there, and if they could give the Members a timeframe.

Ms Middleton said that as the DG had said, the 38 military veterans were commencing work that day. There had been a gap. The project had come to an end and it had been quite a long process to restart it. Those 38 would be on the ground as from that day, and that would be programme number two, in addition to the Hamburg Aquaculture project.

They were busy finalising the procurement arrangements to get the harbour maintenance project back on track, and were hoping that that would be done by December because that was the busy season -- Christmas time in the harbour. That particular project was one of the big job creation projects, with people on the ground doing basic maintenance and cleaning in the harbours. That would be project number three.

The fourth project was the catch data monitors, and that would be expanded to cover both the small scale fisheries programme as it had been rolled out and implemented, as well as commercial landings. Again, that was quite a labour intensive project in terms of the number of jobs they create, because they had to have monitors all along the coastline in all the coastal provinces, at all the landing sites, outside of the fishing harbours. Those people recorded and monitored all the fish that are landed as part of their reporting requirement, and their permit conditions. It also helped the Department with an intrinsic evaluation as to how much fish was actually being caught.

Those were the four projects that would be running relatively quickly. There were old projects that had come to an end and were being restarted for a new three-year period each.  In the slides there were also projects that were future projects that were envisaged and had to go through the approval process, and they would take slightly longer. One of the aims was to ensure a geographical spread of projects as well, so that the benefits of the job creation and the alleviation of poverty were felt throughout the coastline.

Mr Filtane said that his question based on slide seven did not appear to have been given attention. The explanation given for enlisting the services of external service providers was not sufficient. He said that he sits as a permanent member of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, which was lead department on the EPWP, and he had never seen in the four years that he had been in Parliament a single document where they had said that they were using service providers. If they themselves were not using service providers, why did the Department need service providers? Did they not conceptualise on their own, or were they bound by everything that was prescribed by the EPWP? In other words, even if broadly speaking there had been engagement for services of an external service provider, he would expect that in the spirit of what the EPWP was all about that they would want to do 99% of the work themselves rather than enlisting external assistance.

More critically, nowhere had they been told exactly what these service providers were going to do. He had listened very carefully for an answer that would say that they were guided by the principles of the EPWP and it was not their own, it came from DPW, but this was what would be done by the service providers. They still did not have an answer to that.

The Chairperson said that she had missed that, because they had said they employed service providers to contract employees, because if they were employed by the government, that had its own implications. Government did not have temporary staff, and they would have to include medical aid, pension etc. That was why they were using service providers.

Mr Madella said that he agreed with regard to the service providers. In a different capacity, he served as a representative of an NGO in the same cluster within the EPWP. What was baffling was if one looked at the amount of fulltime employment to be created and looked at the budget, somehow it was telling. In his experience, the EPWP provided an amount of money and only 15% would be for administration and the rest had to be distributed for employment creation. If one looked here, there was R10 million and 39 people employed, and one wonders how it was possible that that would happen. Maybe the figures needed to be looked at.

Mr Semoli said that they could relook at the figures, but in terms of the criteria provided by the EPWP, accredited training was 5%, so that was not formal employment, non-accredited was 2%, wages was 35% of the amount and then there was administration and other implementers’ fees, which was about 15%, and other. Other projects had operational, and that amounted to about 43%. Therefore it was not about employment only, there were criteria that they had to adhere to. A minimum of 35% must be allocated to job creation for the locals.

The service providers were called implementing agencies in other departments, and this was just a small technicality. Even at the DEA it was standard practice for the EPWP -- it was just the use of different language.

The Chairperson said that they understood the service provider matter, but what worried them was the slow pace of implementing this programme because it had to actually reduce poverty and unemployment. That was what worried them, and it should be implemented as soon as possible.

The matter that was raised by Mr Madella needed to be looked at. They did not need a lot of money going to employment from what should be going into the programme. There were service providers who must do the job in most cases. Therefore, the money must go to those service providers and them to get the contractors to do the job.

They had to stop this issue of it being approved in an organogram. It could not be an organogram on its own, because that was not how Parliament worked. They could not approve an organogram outside the entire organogram of the Department. It was just to show how the process would be take place. It was not about an organogram per se. That was her understanding. They did not want it to be quoted that the Portfolio Committee had agreed to the organogram, as it was not an organogram. It was a process that they would be following in terms of approving the processes.

The Chairperson asked Ms Middleton about the deadlines for when they would be finishing with the appointments of the service providers.

Ms Middleton said that it was staggered.

The Chairperson said staggered meant they would do it, but not at the same time, but did that mean that they would utilise the budget?

Ms Middleton said that they would increase their spending by the end of the financial year. It was unlikely that they would spend the entire allocation, but they were gaining momentum for the next financial year.

The Chairperson commented that maybe when they amended the Auditor General’s Act, they should have added that non-spending should be penalised.

Sectoral update: DAFF briefing

Mr Mlengana thanked the Committee for its support in the long fight they had with foot and mouth disease (FMD). It had assisted the Department in pushing for the establishment of a vaccine facility for the DAFF specifically for FMD. R480 million had been approved for the establishment of the vaccine facility. The DAFF could now be strong in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) area and the rest of Africa in that instance. The most important thing about this development was that it would increase their exports, it would give confidence to exporters and it would increase jobs as the increase in the export of beef increased. They could also now talk about game animals, because there were now Europeans involved and the EU was concerned about South Africa’s export of meat because of FMD concerns.

It was important to mention a couple of things where the Department was turning the corner. The Chinese had approved the expansion of their beef exports to all provinces, and they just had to investigate it. All smallholder farmers in all provinces now had the opportunity to export beef to China. They had also approved ostrich meat exports -- they had signed that agreement last week. They knew that the smallholder farmers were not playing too much in this space, and were going to ensure that they embedded a 49-51% black economic empowerment (BEE) condition on the export of this meat, so that black smallholder farmers in particular were part of this.

More importantly, in terms of the Presidential call for economic growth, this would increase job opportunities. The use of bulk vessels of citrus to China had also been approved. In other words, more citrus could be exported to China in one vessel, instead of in containers. Refrigerated vessels would allow for more citrus to be exported, which meant that citrus from South Africa would go to China and have a longer stay for utilisation than if it was not refrigerated. South African farmers would also get into soya bean exports, as they had convinced the Chinese to allow for exports. The trade war between China and America had opened that opportunity. They had signed this off with the Minister and the Chinese delegation on Friday.

It was because of the pressure the Committee had put on the Department and the support they had given them that he could give an assurance that the Department was going to take a lead in economic growth and job creation.

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, DDG: Administration, Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety (APHFS), DAFF said that the presentation that had been made to the August Committee had been slightly amended just to reflect on the impact areas that they thought were important to highlight. The presentation would touch on critical matters, plant health pests and animal health diseases.

The regulatory framework in South Africa was at a pre-border level, a border level and at a post-border level. All levels were currently being applied in South Africa at a provincial and at a national level. For specific discussion on the presentation, they would focus on the Animal Diseases Act, the Agricultural Pests’ Act and the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act. He said that he would just touch base on the three acts because they had an impact on this, and they might add the fourth in terms of meat because of the listeria issues. However, the Committee had already had a presentation on listeria so they would not spend a lot of time on those.

The area of border inspections was an area that had been highlighted in the Auditor General’s (AG’s) report, where the current branch had been qualified in terms of the information that came from there. It was important to note why that had happened. There was a reduction in the staff level and they had had to deal with the issue. They had received an additional R20 million allocation from National Treasury (NT) that they were currently deploying in the safe to ensure that they did not have non-compliance. They were also dealing with a system that was currently being commissioned with SARS and also with the industry of electronic certification, so that they could capture everything electronically to reduce human error in capturing of data.

All of what was reflected on the slide with regard to the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreements was currently being implemented in South Africa. However, they still had incursions because the mode of transport ensures that a consignment could get from one continent to another in very quick timelines. There were huge consignments that were used in international trade, and once a pest or disease was in a neighbouring country it became very difficult for control if there was no cooperation at that level.

Plant health pests

On the plant health perspective, they would be giving the Committee information on what was happening in terms of the Fall Armyworm (FAW). The Committee had been in the forefront of leading discussion regarding the FAW. They had registered agricultural remedies to deal with the FAW, and had had a steering committee to deal with the FAW. They had also created a model that was currently being used by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) when they were chairing SADC, as a legacy project just to ensure that there was harmonisation of actions when they dealt with research in terms of the FAW. There were five research projects led by the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC) dealing with the FAW.

The FAW had a broad host range, so it would also have an impact in terms of the five sanitary conditions that were set by South Africa’s trading partners. To this extent, they had a few areas that they had to comply with in terms of international requirements. The EU in particular had come up with emergency import measures for peppers and for eggplants that were produced in South Africa, and for maize and other areas. However, to date they had never had an interception of the FAW in the EU.

The next pest was the Bactrocera dorsalis, which was the oriental fruit fly, and they had also reported this. They had reported that the pest was in all provinces except for the Western Cape. They had also reported that they had a steering committee that had looked at this pest and had interactions to ensure that if it was in new areas, there was eradication. There had been incursions in the Western Cape which they had been able to successfully eradicate. However, by then they had already had their trade of apples and pears to the US suspended. Their focus would be in the food producing areas.

The impact of the pest itself, with the loss of the apple and pear market in the US, had been a loss of R14 million in terms of opportunity costs, because 80% of the pome fruit was produced in the Western Cape. The total exports to the US was 3%, which was why they were talking about R14 million, but R14 million was quite a lot of money that could have been used as a means of off-setting a lot of economic issues in the country. If the pest established in any area, it caused losses of between 80% and 100%.

The next issues was the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), and this had been reported in 2015 on a farm in Northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and since then they had set up a steering committee to look at this. What was very interesting about it was that it had got a vector that spreads it, so they were not only dealing with the virus itself but also dealing with the vector within an area in terms of plant health. If a banana plantation was infected by BBTV, it could not be saved, it had to be destroyed, which showed the importance of this. Due to the impact that they had seen, they estimated that in the small-holder area one would have a R17 million impact in terms of the losses, and in a commercial area for each and every 100 hectares that they lost, they would basically lose R20 million.

The next pest was the Polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB), which was a pest that was affecting trees. It was a pest that had a very broad host range. They had already set up a steering committee with all stakeholders, including the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) as well private industries and municipalities to deal with it. This was for aesthetic purposes, as it would also affect the trees in major cities.

The pest had its own fungus, so there was a lot of research that needed to be done in regard to where they had both the pest and the fungus, but the pest itself does not determine what the impact would be. Those were the research areas that they were also looking at. Regarding the estimated impact, it could cost the country over R50 billion because once trees were lost they then have to go back and plant. This did not include the aesthetic value, which was always there when there were trees around.

The Department had also provided a summary regarding plant pests to the Committee, which highlighted the importance of research. Research needed to be conducted over several years to deal with the impact of diseases. This had been the call of the Committee, to hear what the impact of the diseases was overall. If one looked at the 2016 agriculture survey from Stats SA, one would realise that for controls and treatments, they had spent R9 billion to deal with plant pests and diseases and almost R3 billion when it came to animal health. From a preventative point of view they could do a lot if they had research that could be channelled to deal with this in broad terms.

It was concluded on plant pests, that there was a potential impact of R100 billion. If they had to consider a rapid response budget that they would need in order to prevent a R100 billion impact, it was R52 million and that would a non-brainer in terms of a rapid response budget. This had been debated by the Portfolio Committee, and the Chairperson had always said that there should always be money set aside for dealing with emergencies that arose. They were pushing NT to ensure that they had that budget, so that there was an immediate response when there was a disease outbreak, and it would not be a question of waiting for the Minister to write to the Minister of Finance, but that one could just implement emergency measures and deal with the paperwork afterwards.

This was just a summary of the diseases that had an impact and additionally they were saying now that they have this pests occurring in industries, what was the contribution of the industries? In most instances the industry had not confirmed what their contribution would be but they were very positive in terms of the work that they were doing with the Steering Committees that the industry would also come and play its part. He said that he had a meeting with the citrus industry in terms of pest control and there was positivity regarding these issues.

Animal Health Diseases

Dr Mpho Maja, Director of Animal Health, DAFF, said that she would present the disease situation in the country, and would begin with FMD. Members were aware that there was a controlled area which included the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the surrounding areas, as well as two Northern KZN game reserves, and that was where FMD was endemic. In the surrounding areas they controlled the disease by vaccinating the cattle so that the disease did not spread to the rest of the country.

There were three different types of strains of the virus circulating in the country and the two outbreaks detected were both identified as a Southern African Type 2 Strain. The three different strains were Southern African Type one, two and three, the other FMD viruses they did not have.

The Department had been struggling to procure a vaccine, vaccination being part of their control measures. They had a vaccine manufacturing facility at the ARC, and since 2005 they could no longer produce the vaccine due to the aging establishment and contamination. Since 2006 they had been buying it from Botswana in foreign currency (US dollars), and that had proven to be a little costly and hindered disease control measures.

The impacts of FMD in the country had been outlined following the 2011 outbreak. The Agricultural Marketing Council had done a study and estimated the losses to be around R4 billion in export value. This was as a result of losing the game meat market which they have not been able to reopen, particularly with the EU, and the beef markets with various trading partners, most of whom had subsequently opened their markets for lamb, pork etc. When there was an outbreak other commodities were affected as well, especially agricultural projects. In the 2000 outbreak, they could not export strawberries from KZN in the area that was affected. That was how seriously trade partners took FMD in other territories.

The other impact was consumer confidence. When people hear that there is an outbreak in animals that they consume, it takes a bit of time to reassure them that the product on the shelves can be consumed. Fortunately FMD does not affect people, so it was easier to convince the consumers that they had nothing to worry about.

Another impact was job losses. Fortunately, with the 2011 reported outbreak, they had not lost their free status, and there had not been any direct job losses

The next disease was Rift Valley Fever (RVF), and it was a vector-transmitted disease, transmitted by mosquitoes. Fortunately, winter produces an environment that is not conducive for the vector, and that was what had helped in curtailing the outbreak.

RVF was a zoonosis -- it affects people. It was very fatal, mainly affecting livestock workers and owners as well as veterinarians. No fatalities had been reported this season. The Department had a good working relationship with the Department of Health and had established what was called a “One Health Forum” where they sit with the DEA and the Health Department and whenever there are outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, they go all out collectively to investigate and to enforce control measures. When the Health Department is involved, they ensure that people are sampled, and those that need attention receive the necessary attention. That work had proved to be effective.

RVF causes abortions in herds that are affected and this is how they had detected the disease. The owner had reported a massive abortion storm in his sheep, and when tested they had then identified that the cause was RVF. It caused poor production as sick animals did not produce much, and they lose quite a lot wool and meat. It also causes trade interruptions because a lot of trading partners suspend trading when there is an RVF outbreak, particularly affecting sheep products that are exported to the next country.

The next disease was Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), on which they had reported last year. The type of virus that was circulating last year was H5N8. Up to date, they had reported 198 cases and fortunately, with active participation from the provinces and industry, 85 of those cases had subsequently been resolved with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

HPAI kills birds very quickly and they do not get a chance to try and fight the disease. Serology from the samples is difficult to get because they die so quickly. It causes a lot of losses in affected funds, almost a 100% fatality rate. It causes a lot of trade interruptions. All traders do not want to touch poultry and live birds from any country that had reported the disease, and the entire country’s trade gets suspended. This results in a number of job losses, with many farms having to depopulate and therefore having to lay workers off.  Many were still yet to populate. They were awaiting for the quarantine to be lifted, and then restock and have business continuity.

The next disease was African Swine Fever (ASF). They generally had an area in the country that was declared as endemic for ASF, and that was in the Nnorthern parts of the country. The impact of ASF was that it causes high mortality in pigs and there was no vaccine for the disease. It kills close to 100% of the pigs that are infected. Those that survive can not live and end up having to be killed anyway.

The other impact was that there were limited trade restrictions, but fortunately with the previous classical Swine Fever and ASF outbreak, they had what they call compartments which the industry had maintained. These were hyper-secure units, and most of their trading partners accept these compartments. Therefore, the trade of pork through the compartments to the neighbouring countries in particular was not really affected. It causes about a week or two of interruptions while they re-negotiate the export certification processes.

The next disease was rabies. They had not quite reported rabies, but she thought to include this to bring the attention of the Members to the disease. It was one of the diseases that were zoonotic -- it kills people and it is a sad state of affairs when one looks at the number of people that were being killed as a result. It was not treatable so once a person contracts it, the result is death. There were currently 17 reported human cases.

The disease was completely preventable from affecting humans, if the Department could be given enough resources to procure vaccines so that as many pets, cats in particular, and dogs were vaccinated. In that way, they would be able to prevent people from being infected and therefore have zero cases of mortality. KZN had actually reported zero fatalities when they received the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds, but unfortunately that funding had ended and they were now seeing an increase in the number of fatalities as a result of a dog population that was not well vaccinated.

The way forward for pest and disease management was improving the management and control of pests and diseases. When talking diseases, one should not forget the fish and bees’ diseases, where capacity was very limited in the country and needed to improve so as to bring the two to a level that was satisfactory.

Dr Maja referred to improving capacity for import and export control. The pre-border, border and post-border framework was outlined, indicating that it required a lot of intensive technical ability for the Department to protect the shores from incursions of diseases and pests. There was a lot of activity, a lot of imports, people moving around legally and illegally with products that put the disease/pest situation of the country at risk.

Improving border control, especially with the neighbouring countries, was important. Most countries are aware that the international borders are very porous and in most cases one ends with up a village on both sides of the border, and having to control movements between the two countries becomes an interesting challenge.

The Department also needs to improve its biological and residue monitoring programmes. This they owe to the consumers. The outbreak of Listeria woke them up to the microbiological monitoring programme that they needed to put in place.

The Department also needs to put a traceability programme in place. Animal identification which refers to individual animal identification should be grouped, so that they are able to detect and trace animals that move from one farm to another and are able to account for how many animals are in the country. That should also extend to the products produced by the animals, where and how they are moved. This was so that they could give the trade partners assurances.

Mr Mlengana said that what had not come out of the presentation was the positive correlation that this had on the economy of the country and in particular, the packages that the President had come up with. There was also the negative response that the Department and the branch had received in understanding its significant contribution to the economy. Taking FMD for instance, the Department had just signed live giraffe exports with China, and if they were to hear that there was no vaccination for FMD, those billions that come from export earnings and the jobs embedded in export earnings would disappear.  Another example was the FAW. The argument was that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were unhealthy, but if one puts the FAW where there is GMO maize, they have found resistance.

There were critical vacancies in positions such as vets, plant pathologists, technicians and meat inspectors, for example. Those were people who directly had to prevent this. With rabies, they had been dependent on the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. This was because the Government can not respond to a disease that affects the country. He wished that at some point they could present to some of these bodies that keep talking about job security, the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution to economic growth, and tell them the negatives of less funding for combating these diseases.

Fortunately, the Committee’s assistance has helped with FMD eventually, and now NT has said that they could maybe give the Department R100 million for FMD vaccines. However, he was looking for HPAI vaccines that were for meat exports, and for vaccines on rabies and FAW. They were entering into the planting season now, and what if FAW comes in? It would reduce a lot of maize output. They are having all this confidence in the economy and articulation of growth on one side, but on the other side they do not see the interconnectedness of this.

Discussion

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) said he was seeking clarity regarding the detection of the polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) in SA, because it seems as if they were assuming or predicting this. Was it a new kind of pest that they know nothing of? Had this pest never been encountered in any other parts of the world, because if that was so, they could share their knowledge? Was there no way to immunise, especially the commercial trees, just to avoid a huge market loss?

Mr Van Dalen said that prevention was better than cure, and listening to some of these diseases it was like a veld fire -- if they were quick they could put out the fire but if they took long to get there the fire spreads and becomes big and then it was impossible to stop it. As a Committee, they needed to make resources available so that they could fight it when it starts.

They had previously spoken about bringing in fertilised eggs to bring up the root stock again, because that had also been affected and was seen to be quite a big problem. Were the fertilised eggs brought in and had it remedied the situation? Were all the farmers reimbursed -- what was the progress on that?

Was there a specific reason why rabies was so concentrated in KZN and not the rest of the country? Were there enough vaccines in South Africa for it, or were there just were no funds for it? The DG had said that there was a need for funding.

How was South Africa generally placed with regard to vaccines? Were they all available and were they enough, or was there a shortage?

Mr Madella said that he was particularly worried about rabies, because there was clear evidence of human fatalities. The Department had indicated that funding was a stumbling block. There was no indication from the Department as to what kind of funding was required and what role the Committee could play in lobbying and arguing for that kind of funding so that it was available in the next financial year. It was evident that there was a strategy that had been developed and funding would be needed to implement that strategy. If the Committee could play a role then they certainly must, as it was important to save lives.     

Mr N Capa (ANC) said that after eradication had taken place, were the pests able to come back or not? The Department had spoken about vaccines, but what was their availability -- especially to small-scale and rural communal farmers? What was the situation on funding for rabies? Maybe there needed to be specifics as to what was needed, and the role of the Committee.

Most of the recommendations the Department presented referred to the need for improvement. What was involved in this improvement -- did it mean people had to be trained, or more funding? How far had the proposal on the eradication of rabies gone? This was because such a proposal needed to be implemented, especially since it was about eradication.

The Chairperson said that when the Department presented on the impact of the diseases, they had asked how to position the sector itself, and had mentioned the One Health programme where they had equated the animal pets’ diseases and human diseases because both get affected one way or another. Due to the fact that the Minister of Health’s programme emphasises primary healthcare, the sector’s strategy should also be towards primary health.

What was also important was that the funding model towards countering the diseases needs to allow for contingency resources in order to assist immediately when there were outbreaks. Of course, human capital was needed to manage this. The matter of critical vacancies had been agreed upon and that was why the Minister and the Department owed the Committee a report as to why they were not filling those positions. The CFO had tried to explain, but they did not agree with that explanation because the Committee’s understanding was that when there was a post establishment, it was budgeted for and then it became statutory, so the budget for the post would not be utilised for anything else -- it would remain there.

The Chairperson asked Mr P Maloyi (ANC) to take over as Chairperson for the rest of the meeting, as she needed to rush to another meeting.

DAFF’s response

Dr Maja responded on the vaccinations and their availability, and said there were some diseases that could be prevented through vaccinations, and others where vaccinations were not advised. There were others such as African Swine Fever, where the vaccine was not available globally -- there was no vaccine that currently exists. When it came to the FMD vaccine, they buy vaccine from Botswana at the moment and the main challenge had been securing the funds to procure the vaccine. Similarly with rabies, that was the challenge -- the vaccine was available from commercial industry, but what was required were the funds to get it into the hands of Government so that it could be distributed to the needy communities.

Historically, KZN had been a stronghold for rabies and the resultant increases of incidents in Limpopo and Mpumalanga was as a result of the virus escaping from the Kruger National Park. Rabies affects mammals, and in most cases jackals and wild dogs become hosts for the diseases and every now and then it spills into the dog population. The situation in the Eastern Cape was as a result of animals moving from KZN into the Eastern Cape, and it had managed to establish itself. In Gauteng there were occasional cases, where people would have brought in a dog from KZN or Limpopo and it would infect small local mammals. However, those outbreaks were generally easier to control and to contain and that was why there was not a stronghold of rabies in Gauteng.

The importation of fertile eggs had been allowed and a few consignments were imported. Local producers had also managed to improve their production so that the unavailability of day old chicks and broiler chicks was a thing of the past. They were now almost back to normal, and were even supplying neighbouring countries with day old chicks to restock their broiler farms.

The Department had paid compensation to the value of R40 million to a few affected farmers. They had requested additional funding from NT to reimburse the remaining farmers who could not be paid from the original R40 million, and the request had been unsuccessful. However, they were making plans within the Department to secure those funds so that affected farmers would be reimbursed for their loss.

On the matter of animal primary healthcare, the Compulsory Community Service (CCS) was working hand in hand with primary animal healthcare, and had mobile units and clinics in rural areas in their attempt to take the service to the community. There were a lot of areas where they were collaborating with the Department of Health in the One Health initiative. They were in discussions about anti-microbial resistance, as globally there was a huge concern about the resistance of bacteria to the general antibiotics that were being used. They had to work with the Department of Health and the producers of pork, beef and poultry, to limit their use of anti-bacterial microbials at the the farm level so that they stop the bacteria from being resistant to these bugs and causing “super bugs,” as they loosely call them.

Mr Ramasodi referred to the question as to whether the polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) was occurring in other areas. He said the pest was native in Asia and therefore it was prevalent there and had been introduced in other countries as well, such as the US. Therefore, if one was to deal with the pest decisively one would have to study it in its locality. The other thing with pests that occurred in other countries was that in their native countries they did not necessarily become pests, only when they got to other areas. In this case, there were a lot of integrated measures that they were taking in order to ensure that they could control the pest. There was already a website that was dedicated to only the PSHB just to ensure that the measures to deal with the pest were outlined on a broader basis.

With regard to what the Department meant by improvement, the presentation had highlighted the initiatives and the resources that they required. An example would be the need to improve their import and export control in order to enhance the marketability of South African agricultural products.

They were looking at improvements broadly from two areas, within what was contained in the plant health policy and the animal health policy. Those policies then guide them in terms of the strategies. For the import side, they have what they call the early response plan which guides them on how to respond to diseases and pests as they were introduced. One critical matter that they had identified was the issue of quickly available funds.

How they respond to a similar programme of primary healthcare was very important. The Committee over the past four or five years had been given reports of the DAFF buying mobile clinics and trying to get vets into different areas, so there had been attempts to ensure that primary animal healthcare was done. The only issue that they had was just getting this done on a bigger scale because of budget issues.

Mr Mlengana said that the fundamental issue was that the Department had been ignored as an important department, so funding was at the centre of the failings of the Department, particularly the relevant branch. There were not enough vets, meat inspectors etc. For example with meat inspectors they were dependent on the mercy of the “Gift of the Givers,” and this was not because they had not raised their funding challenges with the government. The government was capable of reprioritising budgets and shifting expenditure, yet a regular programme that feeds the nation cannot be funded.

He agreed with the Chairperson and his colleagues that they need a contingency fund to deal with emerging diseases, and emerging outbreaks. When the FAW came, it was the industry that they went to, to beg for funding and when the industry funds them, it dictates terms on how to manage the Department. They were therefore requesting assistance from the Committee. He indicated the areas where support was needed

The Chairperson suggested that for 2019/20, the Department needed to show how much they had received and what the shortfall was for this particular financial year. That would assist the Committee when lobbying for funds, to say that they acknowledged the amount given to the Department but they required more. The way that it appeared now was as though they had received zero.

Mr Van Dalen said that when they talk about funding vacancies, the funds were there for those vacancies. Why did the DAFF always say they did not have money for those vacancies, and that they could not be filled? They had to be filled. Where did the money go if the vacancies were not filled?

Mr Capa said the National Rabies Advisory Group which had drafted a proposed strategy, and asked for details, as well as what was needed.

Dr Maja apologised for not responding on that issue, and said that the strategy that they were currently working on was a global strategy, spearheaded by the FHO, the WHO and the OIE. It was a comprehensive strategy to eliminate human cases as a result of rabies. The Department had a draft strategy which they were currently consulting the private veterinarians on. They already had three engagements with the private vets and in particular the clinicians, small animal clinicians, so that they could collaborate and see how best to support each other in controlling the disease. Part of the strategy was to create a vaccine bank. There was a regional vaccine bank that the OIE was talking about, but they wanted to also create their own bank. As the DG had said, they could not keep relying on donors for a critical need such as rabies, so they needed to have their own vaccine bank which all provinces would have access to, and make sure that at any given time there were sufficient vaccines and sufficient hands to put the vaccines into the animals.

Mr Mlengana responded to the question asked by Mr Van Dalen on why vacancies were not filled. The explanation was that NT had simply said that all vacancies must be cut. As part of his investigation on the entire human capital budget, he would have to establish if the vacancies had aged. He would come back with a full answer once he understood what was happening with his COE budget. All that he knew was that there had been a lot of cuts, but he wanted to verify that.

The meeting was adjourned.

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