The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) convened for a briefing by the Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa, the Department Agriculture (DoA) and the Department of Community Safety (DoCS) in the Western Cape.
The Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (CASIDRA) failed to deliver the two presentations expected by the Committee. The Committee accepted that the matter relating to the accounting treatment of transfer payments was sub judice and, under the circumstances, could not be discussed. However, it was unfortunate that its presentation on the status of the implementation of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) was not delivered. In terms of a Committee resolution, CASIDRA would be requested to return to make the presentation.
The Committee acknowledged that the DoA's presentation on food gardens provided valuable insight into the work of the DoA, but commented that the information was outside the remit of SCOPA. The financial aspect of the information, as required in terms of the mandate of the SCOPA, was lacking. The Committee accepted that Members should be more specific in formulating and communicating their expectations to departments and entities.
The DoCS said the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP) had been launched in February 2020 in partnership with the City of Cape Town as a deliverable of the Western Cape community safety plan. The programme aimed to employ 1 000 LEAP officers in areas with a high murder rate. The objective was to reduce the murder rate by 50% over a period of ten years. However, the full complement of 1 000 officers could not be deployed during the 2020/21 financial year due to the closing of training facilities, based on the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and the full budget was therefore not spent. The plan for the next financial year included funding for the training of an additional 500 officers. At this point in time, 250 officers were being trained. A further cohort of 250 officers would be deployed by October.
The Chairperson accepted the apology of Mr M Xego (EFF) and confirmed that the rest of the Members of the Committee were present. The purpose of the meeting was for the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the office of the Auditor-General (AG) and the Department of Community Safety (DoCS) to brief the Committee. He welcomed Mr Ivan Meyer, Minister of Agriculture, and the officials of the Department.
The Chairperson said the DoA would be observing, and not participating, in the discussion on the matter concerning the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (CASIDRA).
An official from CASIDRA told the Committee the entity had been advised not to act at this stage, as the matter was sub judice, and the appeal hearing was in progress. For an update on the status of the issue, it would be beneficial to circulate the court judgment of 8 June 2020, which had been in favour of the DoA. The judgment provided a good understanding of the matters related to the issue.
The Chairperson requested the procedural officer to note the issue for discussion in the resolutions.
Minister Meyer was of the view that, based on the ruling of the Chairperson, the matter did not warrant further discussion.
The Chairperson invited Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, Head of Department (HOD), DoA, to proceed with the presentation.
DoA on food security
Dr Sebopetsa said South Africa was able to meet food supply needs on a national level. The challenge was that food insecurity was being experienced at an individual and household level. The DoA supported initiatives for food production. The current drought conditions were adding to the pressure on food supply. Many people had embarked on subsistence farming to meet their dietary needs.
The DoA had been tracking and analysing the disruptors associated with Covid-19. In collaboration with municipalities and the private sector, it had embarked on sustainable initiatives to ensure food supply on a long-term basis. A multi-stakeholder delivery structure -- the Food Security Committee -- had been established in partnership with government stakeholders to identify food insecure candidates.
The evaluation study that was commissioned in 2014 was based on a sample of 40 community gardens and 14 school gardens. The results of the study showed that 78% of the community gardens and 93% of the school gardens remained productive. The average success rate of the World Bank in agricultural business was below 50%. Further evaluation would be done to track the progress over the last five years.
The strategy with the one-home-one-garden project was to move from food relief to food security. In the 2019/20 financial year, the Department had established 102 community gardens, 26 school gardens and 1 003 household gardens at a cost of close to R13 million. During the 2020/21 financial period, the establishment of 102 community gardens had exceeded the target of 62, 43 school gardens had exceeded the target of 14, and 5 626 household gardens had by far exceeded the target of more than 800 gardens. The costs associated with the establishment of gardens in the 2020/21 financial period were R16.2 million.
Agri-processing also contributed to food security through the potential to extend the shelf life of produce. The agri-hub initiative in Elsenburg had been established to give exposure to producers of the quality of products that the agri-process could deliver. A group of ladies involved in vegetable gardening in Gugulethu had been identified through the hub. They were trained and had started testing their products in the local market.
Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) sought clarity on the CASIDRA issue.
An official from CASIDRA replied that the entity had not requested to make a presentation on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE).
The Chairperson said the CASIDRA issue would be dealt with in the resolutions.
Ms Nkondlo requested the HOD to provide more information on the studies that had been done on food affordability, which was a dilemma in South Africa and more broadly in sub-Saharan Africa. She questioned the issue of food affordability in the Western Cape while the province had been a surplus producer of food. She was relating the issue to the early days of the Covid-19 ad hoc Committee. The good presentation that the Department delivered at the time on the issue of food production in South Africa, and particularly in the Western Cape, had enlightened her. She wanted to understand which elements contributed to the challenge of affordability in contrast to the surplus of food, and how the gap could be narrowed.
She was passionate about the role of informal traders, but was concerned that many people were being excluded from participating in the mainstream economy. She asked what the challenges were in terms of the regulatory environment as it related to food gardens in the informal market, and if sustainability formed part of the discussions. She asked what the observations of the Department were as to whether the regulations were supporting or hindering the ease of business for informal traders.
She enquired about the existence of a database of food insecure communities or households, considering that the register of indigent people had not always been updated. She asked whether the food security committees were operating at a local or community level, and if they assisted in getting granular detail of food-insecure citizens. The one-home-one-garden project was based on the assumption of involving people with homes. It was unclear whether informal settlements were counted as homes by municipalities, and whether informal settlements were included in the one-home-one-garden project. She enquired about the cost per food garden and the items servicing the food gardens -- in other words, how the cost per food garden was quantified.
Mr D America (DA) said the presentation provided valuable insight into a particular aspect of the work of the Department. He was of the view, however, that the presentation did not fall within the remit of this Committee and should have been made to the Committee which had the duty to exercise oversight over the implementation of the programme. The background information was useful to him in the event that the matter was raised by the office of the AG and should it require further interrogation, however. He commended the Department for its good work and for contributing to food security. He was looking forward to the next review in relation to the efficacy of the programme.
Ms D Baartman (DA) congratulated the Department for achieving the output of 5 626 household gardens, compared to the target of 876 gardens. The element of imports and exports had been identified as a disruptor in the agriculture sector. She sought clarity on the relevance of the disruptor in terms of food gardens. The number of female participants in the food gardens programme was quite high. She asked whether the Department could share some of the tips on how it had achieved the high number of female representatives in the programme.
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) thanked the Department for their good work. He had recently questioned the sustainability of the food gardens programme through the parliamentary system, and was grateful for the information provided by the HOD as it had answered his questions. He cautioned that about one-third of the gardens did not envisage long-term sustainability. He enquired whether the infrastructure and tools would be returned in cases of unsustainable gardens or if the equipment was given as a donation to the communities which had been part of the initiatives.
Ms L Maseko (DA) asked whether it was acceptable to consider getting the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) labourers to assist with sustaining community gardens instead of sweeping streets. She wanted to know whether poor people, who lived in areas that were not classified as poor communities, were included in the programme, irrespective of the area in which they lived. Members in her constituency had difficulty in paying the escalating water bills. She asked whether the Department was empowering communities to sustain food gardens, considering the increase in the price of water usage.
Mr Van der Westhuizen remarked that the food gardens should not only be measured in terms of the agricultural aspects. The psychological aspect should not be disregarded, as people took pride in what they were able to produce and contribute to soup kitchens or their neighbours. Another aspect of food gardening that could not be evaluated in monetary terms, was the fact that the activity was beneficial to one’s health.
The Chairperson noted that the age of participants in the programme started from nil to fourteen years. He wanted to know whether this was an indication of child-headed families. He asked whether the participants in the agri-processing project could be linked to mainstream retailers, which would allow them to move from the informal sector and become part of the value chain to secure a permanent income.
The Chairperson implored Members to be economical in their elaboration of the questions due to time constraints. In response to the comment made by Mr America, he said he was aware that it was the duty of the Agriculture Committee to do oversight, but there was a definite resolution in terms of what the Department presented on the food gardens in the province.
Minister Meyer, responding to the question of the food surplus versus the availability of food, said the South African economy had declined by 7% during the previous year. More people had become vulnerable as jobs and income were lost, and consequently food insecurity had increased. The implementation of food gardens at the school, household and community level was one of the instruments to narrow the gap between food production and food security. The idea of food gardens was to bring some level of dignity in an environment where people were dealing with the trauma of losing jobs and income.
The Minister explained that the high level of female representation in the programme was due to the fact that women naturally provided leadership in their homes and would respond instinctively to opportunities, particularly on matters of food security. Household gardens should operate at four levels -- mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. The value of gardening in the healing process had been explained by a psychiatrist at the Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital during a visit the previous year by the Minister and his team to the vegetable garden at the hospital. The Minister was pleased that the HOD was engaging in household farming activities. He was also inspired to start vegetable gardening, and encouraged Members of the Committee to do the same.
The Minister thanked the Committee for its generous support. It was his view that CASIDRA played a significant role as an implementation agency between the Department, communities and schools. He congratulated CASIDRA for the level of dignity that they upheld during engagements with the community.
Dr Sebopetsa said nil to 14-year-olds were encouraged to work in household gardens, but not in community gardens. For example, he was teaching his children where food came from by allowing them to participate in gardening activities at home. It was therefore not an issue of child-headed households, but of parents involving their children in food gardening, which should be encouraged to create future farmers.
Informal traders should be thoroughly established before exposing their products to the formal market, as they may run the risk of being discouraged should they venture into the formal market without being thoroughly prepared for the challenges associated with agri-processing.
He acknowledged that water scarcity was a big problem. For this reason, the use of recycled water was encouraged to minimise the pressure on municipalities in terms of the budget for drinking water.
Dr Sebopetsa confirmed that the indigent were first in line to be given support. To overcome the challenge of the confidentiality of people, the Department was collaborating with local leadership structures to identify those in need of support. All deserving candidates, irrespective of where they lived, would get help.
Communities could consider the employment of EPWP workers, but the idea was to encourage people to work in their own gardens, which would also address the issue of self-esteem that had been mentioned by Mr Van der Westhuizen. It was important for individuals to use vegetables from their own garden.
The Department was able to retrieve capital assets from beneficiaries who quit the programme, as the capital assets were delivered in terms of an agreement between CASIDRA and the beneficiaries.
Dr Sebopetsa agreed that it was not always possible to quantify the impact of the programme. Produce from household gardens might not have the same meaning to all people, but it meant a lot to individuals who were able to cook with vegetables from their own garden.
Extra efforts were made to support female farmers. Female participants were scored higher than their male counterparts in the application process.
The relevance of the disruptors to the programme was linked to the reliance on the importing of agro-chemicals. It would have a ripple effect on what communities would be able to produce if fertilisers were not received on time, or if they were not received at all.
The HOD noted the point made by Mr America, and was satisfied that the Chairperson had responded on the matter. The presentation was in response to the questions of the Committee.
Surplus production versus food insecurity was linked to the issue of the market. Prices would decline if more people produced their own food. The programme intended to reduce reliance on purchased food. He committed to send reading material on the issue to Ms Nkondlo.
The Department relied on the indigent register, but as it was not always updated, data from the Departments of Health and Social Development were also being used to inform target setting. Furthermore, reliance on leadership structures within communities played a significant role. The structure interfaced with the database of both these Departments to ensure that the goals of government were achieved. The food committees operated at the provincial level, but with input from local communities. The Department trusted the local community and non-governmental organisation (NGO) structures, which were doing good work in communities.
Dr Sebopetsa explained that the one-home-one-garden project operated on the model of smart gardens. This meant that a box, which could be moved from one place to the next, was made available for continuous food gardening even in informal settlements. The Department would not discriminate against people who did not have formal homes. The needs of households differed, and adjustments were made as and when required. The provision of seedlings, irrigation systems, fertilisers and garden tools were all elements included in the cost per food garden. Through partnerships, jojo water tanks were being connected to the roofs of people with solid structures to harvest rain water. The project was not a one-size-fits-all initiative.
The challenges faced by informal traders were related mainly to by-laws. The Department would continue to engage with local government, as informal traders played a very important role in communities. The role of informal traders had been highlighted during the humanitarian relief efforts that played themselves out the previous year. The Department did not believe in parachuting food parcels into communities, and had promoted the distribution of food through informal traders. Informal traders operated in the evenings and over weekends, when formal trading was not taking place. Informal traders were encouraged to network so that their produce could be traded through a wider value chain. Some level of success had been noted, but the Department continued to find solutions to the challenges faced by some communities.
The HOD concluded with a request that the representative of CASIDRA be allowed to make a comment.
The Chairperson replied that the issue of CASIDRA would be dealt with in the resolutions. He was of the view that based on the level of interest in the issue, the time available was too limited to do justice to starting engaging on the matter. He indicated that follow up questions on the DoA presentation were not going to be allowed, as the responses had been quite extensive. Further comments could be dealt with in the resolutions, which would give the Department the opportunity to respond in writing.
He thanked the Minister, the HOD, CASIDRA and the rest of the Department for heeding the call to deliver the presentation on the food gardens, which had been educational and informative. He suggested that the subject might be better dealt with in a workshop, considering the level of participation by the Members. A resolution would be taken regarding further interaction on issues that were not going to be resolved in this meeting.
The Chairperson noted the DoCS delegation was present on the platform. He thanked Mr Albert Fritz, Minister of the DoCS, and officials of the Department for availing themselves.
DoCS on Vision Inspired Priority
Minister Fritz said he was mindful of the serious time constraints that had been mentioned by the Chairperson, and immediately handed over to Adv Yashina Pillay, HOD: DoCS, to proceed with the presentation.
Adv Pillay introduced the attendees from the Department and thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to deliver the presentation. The DoCS was the lead for the Vision Inspired Priority 1 (VIP1) focus area, which strove for safe and cohesive communities. The objective was to ensure that the Western Cape was a place where residents and visitors felt safe. Through enhanced policing, integrated law enforcement and violence prevention interventions, this goal would be achieved.
The Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP) rested on the pillars of:
Chrysalis expansion in support of the Western Cape community safety plan;
The school-based violence prevention programme; and
Amendments to the Western Cape Liquor Act, to reduce alcohol harms.
LEAP had been launched in February 2020 in partnership with the City of Cape Town (CoCT) as a deliverable of the Western Cape community safety plan. The programme aimed to employ 1 000 LEAP officers in areas with a high murder rate. The objective was to reduce the murder rate by 50% over a period of ten years. LEAP officers worked in joint operations with and under the command and control of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other law enforcement agencies in the province.
The full complement of 1 000 officers could not be deployed during the 2020/21 financial year due to the closing of training facilities, based on the lock down restrictions. The full budget was therefore not spent. The DoCS had contributed 75% and the CoCT 25% of the funds in respect of the training and deployment of officers. The cost of the project to date was R170 million (2019/20) and R557 million (2020/21). Actual expenditure totalled R121 million (2019/20) and R145 million (2020/21).
Actions executed during the 2020/21 financial year included 1 491 independent operations by LEAP officers, 791 integrated enforcement operations, and 1 816 joint operations with the SAPS. Among the successes achieved during this period were the seizure of 170 dangerous weapons, the recovery of 61 firearms, and the 1 228 arrests executed.
The plan for the next financial year included funding for the training of an additional 500 officers. At this point in time, 250 officers were being trained. A further cohort of 250 officers would be deployed by October 2021. A response unit of 40 LEAP officers was being established to be deployed to areas where flare-ups of murders occurred, as was recently the case in the Gugulethu area. The reaction unit would be deployed to areas considered to be hotspots where violence and murders were concerned.
The Chairperson commented that the presentation had been clear and straight forward.
Members did not raise any points of clarity or comments.
The Chairperson said he hoped the lack of questions was due to the presentation being straight to the point and not because of his remarks on time constraints. The point of clarity that he wanted to raise related to the budget that had not been spent within the allocated timeframe. He understood, however, that Covid-19 had placed limitations on the training of officers, and that the problem in terms of the current budget would be the same considering the pending third wave.
Adv Pillay replied that the college, which was managed by the CoCT, could not operate due to the severe lock down regulations. Part of the training required a physical presence which was not possible at the time, and officers could therefore not conclude the training timeously. The Department, with the assistance of the CoCT, was doing its best to put measures in place to reach the target of deploying 500 officers by 1 October. The CoCT had been requested to submit a report to the Department in which the challenges would be outlined, which would allow the Department to plan accordingly.
Minister Fritz assured the Committee that the Department, together with the CoCT, was not sparing any efforts to meet the timelines under difficult circumstances.
The Chairperson said the meeting should have been held earlier, and he was grateful for the flexibility of the Department in accommodating the Committee to reschedule the meeting. He thanked the Minister, HOD and the officials for their time.
Resolutions and actions
The Chairperson was concerned that Members were on several occasions questioning why some of the issues were being discussed on the SCOPA platform. They seemed not to understand why the issue with the DoA was being discussed. He reminded them that items on the agenda were based on resolutions. For obvious reasons, the AG could not brief the Department on the sub judice issue. It appeared that Members were questioning why the Department had been invited while a collective resolution had been taken to invite both the Department and CASIDRA. He requested input from Members on how to deal with the issue of CASIDRA, which had not been aware that the presentation on the implementation of BBBEE was supposed to be given.
Mr America said he was not questioning the choice of items for the agenda. He had an issue with the substance of the presentation regarding food gardens, as it did not provide financial reporting in terms of the rollout of the programme. He suggested that the mandate of the Committee should guide the development of resolutions in terms of financial statements, audit reports and other reports issues by the AG on the affairs of the Department and its entities. It was perhaps an oversight on the part of the Members for not being more specific in terms of what was expected from the presentation. He proposed that CASIDRA should be requested to return to do a formal BBBEE presentation, as it was relevant in the context of evaluating the financial statement of the entity.
Ms Maseko agreed with the Chairperson that the items on the agenda were based on what Members had agreed on. She proposed that the resolutions should be tweaked to be more specific on what was expected in the briefings. It would be ideal to get the information in writing from CASIDRA in order to reduce the outstanding issues on the tracking documents.
Ms Baartman agreed with Ms Maseko that CASIDRA should be requested to provide the BBBEE information in writing. She also agreed that the Committee should improve the formulation of resolutions.
Ms Nkondlo said that if decisions were going to be revisited, the Chairperson should allow time for a conversation on the matter to take place. She felt that there was a sophisticated level of suppression of views when Members started engaging on matters that had been agreed upon. It should be accepted that some Members of the Committee were not more intelligent than others, and that everybody was doing their work in representing their parties. Open and honest discussions should take place if there was a misunderstanding of the role of SCOPA. Members should not be creative in questioning resolutions in the presence of the Departments which had been invited. It seemed that this matter frequently occurred in SCOPA discussions. She wanted to know whether there had been communication with CASIDRA regarding the presentation which they were supposed to deliver.
She expressed her unhappiness at being made to feel like an outcast earlier when she had raised a number of questions. Nobody else had indicated whether they had questions to raise, but it appeared that she was using up the time of the Committee when she raised questions. She appealed to Members to treat each other in an honourable manner and to keep everyone interested in participating, so that some Members did not feel ill-treated in the Committee.
The Procedural Officer agreed with the proposal to obtain a report on BBBEE from the Department. The Committee still had a number of resolutions to cover concerning other departments and entities. For the period June to October 2021, only three meeting days were left. The upcoming local government elections should also be considered. One month should be set aside between June and March 2022 for work on the annual report. The Committee should consider inviting more than one department at a time to finalise all the outstanding work. Feedback to the AG on whether all resolutions had been met should be provided by April 2022.
Ms Baartman suggested that the Committee implement all the resolutions that had been communicated to the AG so that enough information was obtained and the system was not clogged up.
The Chairperson requested the Procedural Officer to e-mail a list of all the outstanding issues. This would allow Members to indicate whether a presentation was required, or whether the information could be provided in writing.
Ms Maseko wanted to know from the Procedural Officer whether it was procedural to make resolutions on matters that the Committee was going to engage on, and to make another resolution based on tracking documents.
The Procedural Officer replied that the proposal of Ms Maseko was acceptable. Members could give input via e-mail. Confirmation in writing was required on the manner in which the set of recommendations would be dealt with in future.
In response to the query of Ms Nkondlo, he explained that letters to Departments were sent at least two to three weeks before the time to allow adequate time for preparation of feedback.
The Chairperson said it had not been his intention to suppress Members when he reminded them to be mindful of the time during engagement with the departments. In future, presentations should be restricted to between five to ten minutes, which would allow sufficient time for questions and comments from Members. He apologised to Ms Nkondlo if it had come across that he wanted to suppress her views.
He added that the issue of the workshop was receiving consideration, and that the AG was satisfied with the mandate of SCOPA.
Consideration and adoption of Committee minutes and reports
Minutes of 18 June
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Minutes of 25 March
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Minutes of 4 June
The minutes were adopted after due consideration of the discussion noted below.
The enquiry of Mr Bosman on page two in respect of the resolution to the Speaker, requesting additional training which would be beneficial from an administrative point of view, was brought to the attention of Members.
Ms Maseko said Mr Bosman had been querying why the issue was on the agenda. She did not deem the issue sufficiently important to be added to the report, as it had to cover the engagement with departments. She did not agree that the query should become a resolution, but agreed that the Speaker should be requested to provide guidance in terms of the interpretation of the rules.
Ms Baartman remarked that the minutes were confirmation of what had been discussed and agreed to in the meeting, and not just about the treatment of a particular resolution. She proposed that the minutes be adopted, and that a secondary discussion be held on whether the resolution should be amended.
Mr America agreed with Ms Baartman that a particular resolution should not be retracted or deleted from the minutes. The minutes should either be adopted or not adopted.
The Procedural Officer agreed with Ms Baartman that the minutes should reflect the discussion, to give the reader an understanding of what happened in the meeting, even if contentious issues were raised. At this stage, the minutes were being considered and the Committee was at liberty to amend the minutes or to take resolutions before adopting the minutes. The adopted minutes would be binding and actionable.
The Chairperson agreed that the minutes were a reflection of what had taken place at the previous meeting. He proposed that the minutes should indicate that notwithstanding the decision taken, the Committee could delay implementation or decide not to implement the resolution. The office of the Speaker was the last resort when Members were being drawn asunder on issues, or were unable to find each other.
Ms Baartman said the resolution could be incorporated into the training, or the Speaker could be invited to make introductory remarks before the training, or a legal officer could address the Committee on the matter. To assist with the interpretation of the resolution taken at previous meetings, the Committee agreed that Members required more guidance on the particular topic.
The Chairperson said the resolution remained as it was but in terms of the implementation, the office of the Speaker would be invited to make introductory remarks about the legal standing of the decisions of SCOPA.
Annual Activities Report of 4 June
The report was adopted an amendment to paragraph seven, sentence three, where the space before 29 January was deleted.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
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