The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was expected to provide responses to questions furnished by the Committee. These questions dealt with the merger of the two departments and further concerns about budgetary requirements.
The Department could not provide answers to the questions as they were inadequately prepared. This was due confusion on the part of the national and provincial departments about the required answers. The miscommunication led to postponement of the meeting to allow the Department to prepare.
The Chairperson noted that there was a challenge as the Committee had not received the presentation document beforehand. He therefore sought clarity from the Department.
Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Director General, Mr Mike Mlengana, replied that there had been confusion about the exact questions the Department was expected to answer and so what has been presented to the Committee is a summation of the reconfiguration macrostructure. However, when it comes to the actual questions required for the meeting the Department did not address them in the presentation document even though they had the oral answers to the questions.
The first question on the macro-organisation of government will be answered and the answers to the questions from the 3 July 2019 meeting are available however they did not have that written presentation with them due to the confusion over what had to be answered.
The Chairperson responded that what the DG was alluding to on page 7 of the document speaks to only one department. He asked the Secretariat to provide an opinion.
The Committee Secretary replied that what has been presented is not what the Committee had asked for.
The Chairperson explained that as there had been a merger of two departments, what the Committee wanted to understand was how the departments were going to be merged and the reasoning behind the merger so as to not pose questions that the Department was not mandated to answer.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) said that she fails to understand what was going on with the Department because the DG has a system to check correspondence. However, today something different was being said.
Even if the Department was to present, the Committee had not been furnished with the correct presentation prior to the meeting. This information had been needed beforehand to peruse as this was not a tick box exercise. If the presentation went ahead, she questioned if they would be able to engage meaningfully with it. She asked if it was possible for the Department to present what they had and dispense with the rest.
The Department must render apologies due to the inconvenience caused to Members who do not live in Cape Town and are required to take flights to attend these meetings to oversee that the work is done. Yet with all these postponements, she questioned when implementation will commence. The lack of information provided to the Committee hinders their work. She was against any presentation taking place as the Members would not be able to contribute efficiently as they did not have the presentation at their disposal and Department could easily pick and choose what they wanted to present which would not be helpful. If the Department continued in this manner, then the Committee would not succeed.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) expressed her disappointment towards the Department and said that they should be respectful of the Committee's time as other matters need to be attended. The Department should not have attended the meeting since it was aware that it was not prepared. She suggested the Department implement a monitoring and evaluation policy as referenced ISO 31000 on Risk Management. This can be used as a bookkeeping mechanism to manage the department. Without this, the Department will likely not be able to configure the two departments.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) said that without sounding too harsh about the department’s conduct, she was starting to get irritated with the Department because it constantly amends its presentations and the Committee does not have the correct version of the presentation with those amendments. The Department does not take us seriously or their work. We are here to work and we cannot keep having these hiccups. Her suggestion is that the Department go back and prepare and ensure that the presentations are sent to the Committee beforehand as Members do take the time to prepare for these meetings.
The Chairperson said that there needs to be indulgence on this matter as the Committee wants to do its work efficiently. The secretariat would follow and ensure that the presentations are made available. Even the 3 July questions have not been sufficiently answered.
The DG stated that the Minister did not want the Department to deal with land financing matters.
The Chairperson responded that this was not required from the Department. Where matters have not been decided on, that can be explained to the Committee so as to park that matter. What is of importance now is the presentation requested by the Committee. At the end of the meeting, Ms Tlhape will remain and clarify what is required from the department.
The Committee Secretary read out the questions the Committee had posed and the DG stated that he would respond in writing. The questions were as follows:
• Department’s intervention procedure to strength the limited personal capacity in veterinary services e.g. details to place unemployed graduates and providing them with skills in veterinary services
• Disciplinary measures that have been taken against officials who have been found to be benefiting from the blended financing model as revealed in the department’s review
• Detailed reporting including project listing and specific location on the NAMC custom feeding facilities as implemented in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and North-west and Northern Cape.
• A clear alignment of the department’s entities mandates with each other as well as with the Department, e.g. the difference between the activities of the departments for trade and access and the NAMC for market access for smallholder farmers. Additionally, the Department and ARC activities on implementation of the Kaonafatso ya Dikgomo Beef Recording and Improvement Scheme.
• The financial distressed ARC notes one challenge is its longstanding debtors including the Department. DAFF must state the unpaid for services rendered by ARC and when it will pay.
• Reasons for the Department’s delay in paying the entities for services rendered
• When the Department will pay Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) for the vaccines ordered as OPP does receive a government grant but generates revenue through vaccine sales?
• The Department plan to develop the livestock value chain for the benefit of smallholder farmers as NAMC states that most livestock from Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal are slaughtered in Gauteng and returned to the provinces as carcasses or meat packages at a higher price as this will include transportation costs.
The Committee Secretary stated that the Department did not respond to the questions posed at the 3 July meeting but instead responded to the Committee Report adopted on the 10 July as tabled in the House. Those recommendations are not posed to the Committee but rather to the National Assembly Speaker.
The Chairperson said that he hoped this had helped clarify what is required.
The DG explained that he did not receive the questions that needed to be answered from the 3 July meeting and was only made aware of the questions the previous day. Hence there had been a request for more time to enable him to provide the answers, particularly as this would require a comprehensive response.
The Chairperson said that with respect to procedure, the questions posed during the Department’s presentation should be noted by the department. The onus would not be on the Committee to furnish those questions. However, when the secretariat noted the problem with taking down the questions, she recorded the questions to be able to provide them to the department.
Mr N Capa (ANC) recommended that the situation be corrected immediately. There seems to be miscommunication and perhaps this is because there is no process set out for expectations that should be fulfilled at the next meeting such as the provision of written responses to previous questions. The Department is under reconfiguration and has to account to one Committee and it should master that.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) said she wanted the Committee to move forward with the understanding that the Chairperson and the Committee Whip, Ms Tlhape, will deal with the department. As already mentioned by Ms Tlhape this has been time consuming. Having to deal with administrative issues when the Department has major challenges should not be dealt with during the meeting. There is a requirement that every person acts professionally. Therefore may we move to the business of the day if there is anything further to discuss.
Mr N Masipa (DA) agreed on the way forward. However, when looking at the agenda, it seems that most matters have been answered in the presentation.
The Chairperson requested that the Department and some members remain behind to clarify what is required from the Department for the next meeting.
The minutes of the 20 and 30 August and 3 September meetings were adopted.