Food Security Policy & Food Control Agency; Poultry Industry; Marine Living Resources Fund; FRAP 2013 forensic reports; conditional grants; with Minister

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

12 March 2019
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Committee Statement

The Portfolio Committee was told by the Department of Agriculture. Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that 10.4% of the 16.1 million households in South Africa were still facing hunger. The Department of Health had conducted a survey which showed the country faced a challenge of an increase in teenage men and women who were obese because of nutritional issues. An expansion of targeted social protection measures and sustainable livelihood programmes had taken place through extending the network of feeding and food distribution centres, and 545 376 children were benefiting from the programme. The target was to have 60% of pregnant and lactating women attending public health facilities receiving micronutrient supplements, and a total of 49.6% were currently benefiting from the programme.

Based on the Joint Portfolio Committees’ Food Security and Food Safety Workshop in February 2016 feedback, the Committee was briefed that there had been an agreement between the DAFF and the Department of Health (DoH) regarding the food control authority to be consulted for approval before submission to Cabinet. The DoH was working on food quality aspects originally promulgated under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972, to be transferred and regulated under the Agricultural Products Standards Act, 1990. The Committee advised the Department to look at the role played by expired food and involve municipalities in driving food issues, and not to rely solely on approaching the Premier’s office.

The Committee also heard that a task team had been assigned to deal with poultry industry issues. The team had decided to develop a poultry master plan for the improvement of the poultry industry. The methodology would involve collecting key data within the value chain and conducting interviews, utilizing the documents from domestic and international global analysis to map the value chain, and identifying key drivers for growth.

The Committee was updated on the state and progress of the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF). The entity had received a qualified audit report, which was a regression from previous audit reports. The main reason was because of the asset register around property, plant and equipment, while other findings were around receivables, irregular expenditure, under-expenditure on the Working for Fisheries programme, and significant misstatements. The Committee also expressed concern that the vacant posts within the entity needed to be filled.

The Committee was briefed by one of its Members that the Direct General, Mr Mike Mlengana, had fired Ms N Parker – a whistle-blower -- yet he did not have the power to do so, pending a legal matter which was yet to be adjudicated on. The Committee informed the DG that if he was found to be on the wrong side of the law, he needed to be prepared to be held to account for his actions.

The Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) audit catered for only seven out of nine provinces. The Department highlighted the fact that the North West and Free State provinces were not audited because they needed to get a forensic audit. The assignment had been given to the risk section, but the assignment date of the audit had not yet been set. The Committee advised the Department that the audit needed to be carried out soon. 

Meeting report

Progress towards National Food and Nutrition Security Plan for South Africa, 2018-2023

Dr Jemina Moeng, Chief Director (CD): Food Security, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said that she would present on the findings that were contributed by six national government departments -- the Departments of Monitoring and Evaluation, the Office of the Deputy President, Social Development, Basic Education, Health and Rural Development.

She said that Section 27 (Bill of Rights) 1(b) of the Constitution and Section 28 (1c) played an important role in mandating the importance of having access to food. The National Development Plan (NDP) makes provision for food as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of vulnerability to hunger, there was still a challenge and 10.4% of the 16.1 million households in South Africa were still facing hunger. Access to food was still a challenge for many households. Some provinces in the country took issue relating to food production seriously, such as in Limpopo, where there were minimal figures of food hunger reported. The average of households in 2017 that had no access to food in the metropolitan cities was lower, compared to the national average. Surveys had been done by various departments. The Department of Health had conducted a health survey which showed that there was a challenge of an increase in women who were teenagers who were obese, men who were teenagers who were overweight because of nutritional issues. 

The interdepartmental team stated previously to the Committee that the food and nutrition security plan would cost an estimated R86 billion, but were advised that there was no hope of having such a fund being made available. The main goal of the plan was to improve food security and reduce malnutrition in all forms to afford South Africa’s people opportunities to lead productive and healthy lives. The initial plan was to ensure that 27 districts in South Africa were covered. Currently, there were 32 districts which they were targeting to assist. If the plan was successful, there would be an improvement in mortality rates in childhood, school performance improvement, obesity levels would decrease, and work capacity and productivity would improve. Their strategic objective focused on establishing a multi-sectoral food and nutrition security council to oversee alignment of policies, legislation and programmes. The objective was supported, and the Presidency had proposed a combination with the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on poverty.

She said that in terms of the establishment of inclusive local food value chains to support access to nutritious affordable food, it helped to support local producers and ensure that people obtained jobs in their local communities. Several households involved in agriculture had grown. Through the expansion of targeted social protection measures and sustainable livelihood programmes, and the expansion of the network of feeding and food distribution centres, 545 376 children benefited from the programme. The number of communities that provide nutritious food was 223. Some of the challenges they faced include limited progress with the enhancement of the child registration system and limited progress with the development of the integrated social protection information system.

Their strategic objective number four dealt with scaling up of high impact nutrition interventions targeting women, infants and children. The target was to have 60% of pregnant and lactating women attending public health facilities receiving micronutrient supplements, and a total of 49.6% were currently benefiting from the programme.

Update on report to Joint Portfolio Committees Food Security and Food Safety Workshop in February 2016

Mr Robert Ramasodi, Deputy Director General, DAFF, said that based on the report from last year in 2018, progress was slow but currently the progress had been commendable. There was a need to focus on the Cabinet memorandum, as there had been an agreement between DAFF and the Department of Health (DoH) regarding the food control authority to be consulted for approval before submission to Cabinet.

There was a legislative review and gap analysis in progress to deal with issues such as that of listeriosis in South Africa. An economic impact study on listeriosis was being conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DoT). The DoH was working food quality aspects originally promulgated under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972, to be transferred and regulated under the Agricultural Products Standards Act, 1990.

There was a problem with limited capacity for appropriate scientific inputs in decision-making processes. The Department of Science and Technology (DST), in collaboration with the DAFF and the National Research Foundation (NRF) was in the process of establishing a community of practice (research champions) on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) risk analysis. The DoH was also working on a diet intake study to determine the consumption patterns of consumers.

There was a challenge of an integrated strategy on food laboratories. The revitalisation and modernisation of food laboratories had been included in the Operation Phakisa initiative. A laboratory approval policy for microbiological testing of raw meat was now at its final stages of approval.

Regarding the problem with approval of an official traceability and recall policy system, a livestock identification and traceability systems (LITS) policy had been developed. Regarding the problem pertaining to the lack of synergy for inspections between enforcement authorities, in collaboration with the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, departments were working towards the establishment of an integrated product identification and traceability system which would enable inspectors to access previous audit reports within the food chain.

He said that communication problems had since been improved. The Food Legislation Advisory Group (FLAG) met twice per year ensuring coordination and collaboration on regulatory matters between regulators, enforcers, academia and official laboratories.

The challenges of having a harmonised food inspectors training programme had since been resolved through the development of a training and inspection manual for general hygiene which was developed by the Department of Health.

As far as broadening access participation between the public and private sector on SPS issues was concerned, various forums for interaction were available and fully utilised. Significant positive progress had been made in relation to the coordination of activities between various departments.

The Chairperson thanked the DDG for his presentation, and said that the Committee welcomed the report. She said that the Department needed to brief the Committee on the number of people who had died in the Ethiopian Airways plane crash as there were some members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) who had been on the flight.

Discussion

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that she was worried about practicalities. She asked the Department to clarify the legislation around expired food, and what worked when it came to this. She was worried about food that was thrown away and then consumed by homeless people. What happened when children visited clinics and they were underweight? Work must be done in the boardroom, but also outside of that space, work must be done.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said that the Department needed to make a follow up on the conditional grants that are given to districts. It needed to be more engaging with parties involved to meet some of their targets and ensure that they had actual figures of who had to be assisted and where. It was important to account where and how funds were being utilised. Municipalities needed to be targeted.

Mr N Capa (ANC) said that it was encouraging and gave hope, based on the report that had been produced by the Department. He feared that what students were learning and what was happening at a departmental level might be different. Training of officials needed to be uniform. He asked the Department about the monitoring of food that is disposed of and if it is monitored. Did they engage with indigenous knowledge of food and nutrition?

The Chairperson said that in terms of the food and nutrition security policy, the plan should be strongly driven by the municipalities that had been identified. When the Committee was doing their oversight visits, they had asked various municipalities why the policy was not part of their local economic development plan, and they had said that DAFF had not approached them. She said that outsourcing Information Technology (IT) by the Department might be a good thing when skills were not there, but there was a need to protect intellectual properties.

Department’s response

Dr Moeng said that in terms of practicalities, minutes were taken when meetings took place. The Department would also take the initiative to visit some clinics to find out what exactly took place. Local municipalities are not invoked when it came to certain projects, but the Premier’s office was approached, and were told the Department was open to engage directly with municipalities around conditional grants.

Mr Ramasodi said that in terms of food waste and post-harvest losses, more needed to be done. There was a team working with the private sector to map a way forward on how to deal with issues pertaining to things such as expired food. To monitori areas where food was dumped, technological innovations were being introduced to find a way to utilise the food for use for other things. The Department had previously battled with IT issues in the past and would work on tightening up its legal processes.

Mr Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of DAFF, said that traceability in the fishing industry had been improved through technological innovation. Fishermen were now able to cut out the middlemen and sell fish directly to the market, and this had helped to improve the livelihoods of various communities. Various institutions had been approached to train some schools to make use of excess land on their properties for agricultural use to improve livelihoods and food security. Municipalities still played an important role in security coordination to ensure that various plans were solidified.

Progress in the implementation of the Poultry Task Team recommendations

Mr Ramasodi said that issues around the Poultry Task Team were now being done concurrently between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the DAFF. The Task Team had been created to make progress on actions and activities undertaken to address matters relating to avian influenza, imports and the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), the closing of poultry businesses and job losses. The team had met for the first time 8 March 2019. It had decided to develop a poultry master plan for the improvement of the poultry industry. The methodology would involve collecting key data within the value chain and conducting interviews, utilising the documents from domestic and international global analysis to map the value chain, and identifying key drivers for growth. The poultry master plan development would have two phases. The first phase would focus on the global industry analysis to review global trade data, production, investment and employment. Phase two focused on the domestic poultry value chain and provided the current state of activities in the domestic poultry sector. The poultry industry needed assistance to ensure it grew through exports. South Africa remained compliant with the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules particularly for the purposes of equal treatment of imported and locally produced poultry.

Discussion

Ms Steyn said that it was important to enable the poultry industry to export. She asked about the role of the WTO and if South Africa was looking directly towards other countries. Besides having to focus on exporting to the international markets, was it not possible to focus on exporting to other African countries and not just the international markets?

The Chairperson asked what issues needed to be funded for transformation in the poultry industry to take place.

Mr Capa said that he wanted to know about the aspect of the closing of poultry businesses. He wanted to know what the status was.

The Chairperson said that the Department needed to consider the legislation in the poultry industry to ensure that it was protected.

Department’s response

A Department official said that based on a survey done on the possibility of exporting to other African countries, poultry was a very sensitive sector and most countries used the industry to boost their economies. The master plan would unpack transformation right from production, and the Department would be looking at legislation around trade.

The Minister said that the report showed that it was feasible to see the success of the master plan. He said that branding had been one of the impediments in the industry, but this was now being done.

Mr A Madella (ANC) asked what the timeline for finalising the master plan was. He was worried that the Sixth Parliament would rise before it was finalised.

Mr Ramasodi said that they would start reporting on progress findings in April 2019, and he hoped that the plan would be completed before the end of the second term of the financial year.

Marine Living Resources Fund

Ms Sue Middleton, CD: Fisheries Operations Support, DAFF said that the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) had received a qualified audit report, which was a regression from previous audit reports. The main reason was because of the asset register around property, plant and equipment, while other findings were around receivables, irregular expenditure, under-expenditure on the Working for Fisheries Programme, and significant misstatements. The MLRF had developed an audit matrix. The MLRF aimed to address issues addressed by the end of March 2019, but there were some findings yet to be resolved.

She highlighted some of the findings and went through the current progress, of key importance. These included internal control deficiencies, inadequate security management controls, an untested disaster recovery plan, misstatements in the annual performance report, and non-compliance with legislation and supply chain management prescripts, all of which were being addressed.

The Chairperson asked the presenter to give a brief outline of the Emang Basadi case.

Ms Middleton she said there were still two recommendations that needed to be implemented. These were the appointment of the Consultative Advisory Forum (CAF) and the Fishery Transformation Council. The Minister had gazetted for the call for nominations to the public for the appointment of the bodies.

Mr Mike Mlengana, Director General, DAFF, said that their main challenge had been capacity and a lack of risk management. A strong internal auditing team was needed to manage fisheries, and an audit champion had to exist.

Discussion

Mr P van Dalen (DA) said a proper explanation needed to be provided by the MLRF team as to why the Emang Basadi case was regarded as a fruitless and wasteful expenditure case. The issue around abalone needed to be more transparent. He said that Ms N Parker, who had worked for the Department for sixteen years and was a whistleblower, had been hunted down and fired, and such a case brought about a disgrace to the Department. He asked if the MLRF team was transparent when it came to conflict of interest, including senior management. He was worried about the fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) 2020 not taking place because of the lack of capacity. If it was to take place, the Minister should not allow two officials, who he described as crooks, to be part of the process.

Ms Steyn said that after having read the report from the AG, it left the Department wide open for corruption. Fishermen did not trust the Department and more needed to be done to build trust.

Mr Capa said he was worried about the reappointment of a security company at the Paarden Island store. He asked the Department to clarify why there was a problem, to begin with.

The Chairperson asked the Minister why he had not yet moved to interact with the Treasury to resolve some of the issues. She said that the chief financial officer (CFO) position at the MLRF had not been filled in the past two years, and wanted the Minister to clarify why this has not yet been done. She said that the money for the Working for Fisheries programme had not been utilised for the past three years and she wanted to know when this would be done, as the programme was supposed to generate employment.

Department’s response

The Minister said that on the issue pertaining to the DG and Ms Parker, there was a legal case in progress. The issue should not be dealt with in the Committee meeting.

The Chairperson interrupted the Minister, and said that the Committee needed to be thoroughly briefed. A whistle-blower could not be fired.

The Minister said that some of the issues pertaining to the case had been raised under Section 7 of the Public Protectors Act, which gives immunity to those who give evidence. Regarding building capacity, some workers of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had been transferred to work in the DAFF to provide more support, but officials who had moved from the DEA had not been allowed to work by other employees from DAFF. The DG was looking into the matter.

A security company could not be reappointed, as this needed to be brought to tender and a new company was designated. Dry abalone had since been removed in the DAFF stores and was now being kept by another state entity. This was to prevent cases of illegal harvests.

He said that the Department was interacting with fishermen to build more trust between the two entities.

The Chairperson said that there was a need to fill vacant posts at the MLRF.

The Minister said that a board would be put into place and all vacant posts would be filled. There was a need to establish a link between internal and external auditors.

The DG said that South Africa had a justice system and the Committee needed to let the process unfold on the Ms Parker case. He had been approached by the Auditor General (AG) to make a move on the issues pertaining to Ms Parker, or he was going to be reported to the President, and that he had to make a move because he was being intimidated. He had never managed fisheries before in the way he had managed other Departments. If he was doing something wrong, the Committee should let the course of justice take place.

The Chairperson said that because of the allegations, if forensic evidence was sought by the Department and they fired the people involved, it defeated the purpose because the people involved ended up not having representation. The DG had fired Ms Parker without allowing her to get justice and fair representation. The Public Protector rubrics were clear and needed to be protected. The Committee was giving the Department a final chance to put its house in order, but the Committee would take up the issues in its Legacy Report. Whoever had misused powers and was found guilty must pay from their own pocket. The DG had no power to fire someone -- he had to consult with the Minister before making such a decision.

The DG said that he would be happy with whatever outcome that emerged from the legal process.

The Chairperson asserted that the DG did not listen, and by having fired Ms Parker, it left room to show that he acted out of emotion.

The Minister said that the Public Service Commission had clear rubrics on how to go around issues pertaining to investigations and legal matters in the Department. The Labour Relations Act must not be used for personal gain, although he was not implying that the DG was doing this.

The Chairperson said that senior management service (SMS) management was the responsibility of the Minister and not the DG. The DG could only recommend someone to be fired -- the Minister could either agree or not agree, and from there another process must be processed. She said that the DG was complicating issues on his own and there was bad publicity coming with it.

National audit of Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema

A DAFF official said that an internal audit process was done by the Department from June to October 2018 in seven provinces -- Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Two provinces were not audited, North West and Free State.

Major findings covered the process of selection and approval of projects; extension officers; capacity in the provinces and the DAFF; the accuracy and validity of beneficiaries; the implementation of projects and limited impact of CASP; the backlog in implementation by provinces,; ineffective monitoring by DAFF and the provinces; and recordkeeping and management systems.

She said that the Department agreed with all recommendations. DAFF was working on increasing its capacity to manage, oversee and monitor the implementation of CASP by the provinces. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of CASP was under review to address all concerns regarding the standard implementation strategy and project approval processes to be followed. DAFF was developing the farmer register which would keep a record of all farmers supported, among others. The blended funding would to a large extent ensure seamless collaboration of government departments and the financial institutions in supporting the development of black farmers.

Discussion

Ms Steyn said that that Department should always ensure that there were records of activities. If there were no records, that project needed to be investigated.

The Chairperson asked why the North West and Free State provinces were not investigated.

Department’s response

A Department official said that there had been a request for the provinces to get a forensic audit. The assignment had been given to the risk section, but the assignment date of the audit had not been set.

The Chairperson said that all provinces needed to be investigated -- no province should be left out. Anyone involved in misusing conditional grants should be brought to book.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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