The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development convened on a virtual platform to adopt its 2021 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR). The report was adopted with amendments, with Members commending the content advisors, researchers and all the support staff for putting together a report that was informative and an accurate reflection of the Committee’s interaction with the Department and entities.
On the report of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), it was stated the Department had received an unqualified audit opinion, with matters of emphasis. The AGSA also reported that the forestry function, which had previously led to a qualified audit opinion for the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) over the accuracy of its reported biological assets, had since been transferred to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment (DFFE).
The Committee raised only one major area of concern, and that involved the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB). Members were dissatisfied, and felt that a lot needed to be corrected at the ITB, but the draft report did not seem to be adequately reflecting the discontent they had voiced. The Chairperson described the ITB as "a disastrous entity," and the Committee could not continue to entertain its attitude. It had come before the Committee and been unable to account for and present its financial statements. The Committee needed to ask themselves if the ITB had been able to fulfil its mandate. Had it been able to look after the rural communities -- particularly those that were living under traditional councils, and were located on Ingonyama Trust Land? If it had failed to deliver on its mandate, they should rescind it and seek legal advice on land tenure in accordance with the Communal Land Rights Act. This could be more attractive and implemented in all provinces.
The content advisors said they would include a section that reflected the discussion and the unhappiness of the Committee, as expressed during the meeting. They also agreed to make a distinction between the former DAFF and the DFFE, so that there would be more clarity in the BRRR.
Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development: Vote 29
Dr Tshililo Manenzhe and Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Committee Content Advisors, took the Committee through the report.
Ms A Steyn (DA) thanked the content advisors for presenting the document concisely, and said she was happy with the report.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) was also happy with the report, but she had noticed that the report that was sent to them was slightly different from the one that had been presented. She pointed out some differences in the numbering, said there seemed to be some missing information. She asked the content advisors to send Members the updated report.
The Chairperson replied that the report was a draft and work in progress. The questions and comments that would arise from the engagement would be incorporated in the final draft that was adopted by the Members. When they adopted it, they would move for its adoption with the changes. Members should take it as a work in progress, and the content advisors would note their comments and questions and give responses.
Mr N Capa (ANC) was happy with the content and the presentation of the report. There was the only one major area of concern, and that involved the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB). Members were dissatisfied and felt that a lot needed to be corrected at the ITB, but the report did not seem to be adequately reflecting the discontent voiced by the Committee.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) reiterated what other Members had said -- that the content advisors had achieved a high standard with the report. She thought the Committee would be lost without them. She agreed with the contents of the report.
Mr N Masipa (DA) thanked the content advisors for assisting them with the report. He said there was confusion with the pages, and referred to page 14, where 3.4 reports of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). He suggested starting by reading the line so they could grasp and understand his point. The lines state: "The Department received an unqualified audit opinion from the AGSA, with matters of emphasis. AGSA further reported that the forestry function, which previously led to a qualified audit opinion for the former DAFF in respect of the accuracy of the biological asset, has since been transferred to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment."
The AGSA had drawn attention to significant uncertainties in respect of claims of R1.1 billion that had been instituted against the Department. The department referred to should be clear, with the unqualified audit. Mr Masipa suggested that they make a distinction between the two departments so that there would be more clarity.
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) was covered on page 32 in his document. The line was in sentence number three stated: "At the end of the 2021 financial year, SAVC had 6 455 registered vets and para vets professionals, as well as 800 persons authorised to perform veterinarian and para veterinary professional services." The figures looked good, but what were the targets that they were supposed to have achieved with that number of vets needed to service the country? If there were figures to show what they had achieved against their targets, then he would have been happy with the report.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) agreed that the officials had done a good job. She told her colleagues that the report was a true reflection of what had transpired in the meetings. However, she emphasised the issue of the Ingonyama Trust Board, saying that, as other Members had mentioned, it needed to be given more attention.
The Chairperson thanked all Members for their questions and comments. He appreciated the BRRR presented by the content advisors, and thanked them for their contributions, and all the staff that had a role in putting together the Portfolio Committee's BRRR.
The Chairperson also dwelled on the issue of the ITB. Dr Manenzhe had mentioned, when referring to the ITB, that they had left some gaps. The Committee wanted these gaps to be highlighted, and for the report to be explicit very deliberate on the matter. The ITB was a disastrous entity, and they could not continue to entertain its attitude. It had come before the Portfolio Committee and had been unable to account for and present their financial statements.
That was a total disregard of accountability, which was why the Committee needed to ask themselves the crucial question: Had the ITB has been able to fulfil its mandate? Had it been able to look after the rural communities -- particularly those that were living under traditional councils, and were located on Ingonyama Trust Land? The ITB's failure to do so had raised the question as to whether it was high time to investigate its successes -- and if it had been successful, then could they replicate it throughout the country. If it had failed to deliver on its mandate, they should rescind it and seek legal advice. The legal advice sought would be to look at land tenure in accordance with the Communal Land Rights Act, which would be a substitute for the Ingonyama Trust. This could be more attractive and implemented in all provinces.
The Chairperson thought the matter was not being portrayed as explicitly as it had been described in the meeting. The Committee would like to have that incorporated into the BRRR.
Content advisors' responses
Dr Manenzhe started by apologising for the numbering. He explained that after circulating the report, they had discovered inconsistencies in the numbers, and had started re-editing it and compressing it into a short report. That was why their numbering and pages did not correspond to the version the Members had received. The inconsistencies would be corrected.
They would take guidance from the Committee on how the Members wanted them to report on the Ingonyama Trust issue. Listening to the discussion, they assumed that the Committee had told the ITB that their report was incomplete because the Committee had not been able to assess how the funds it received from the Department and the Trust enabled it to manage the assets of the Trust because there were no financial statements of the Trust Board. The Committee had told the ITB to come back with a full report.
The content advisors' interpretation was that the Committee would wait for the full report, and then pronounce on what needed to happen. That was where they needed guidance. They thought that it would be better if they had a comprehensive report before they began to recommend the repeal or amendment that had been discussed. They needed the Committee to confirm if they should include all the issues in the report.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee had continuously asked for the reports from the ITB, but they had failed to submit them. The Committee was now compiling a report that was to be adopted and put before Parliament. They would not want to have their work waiting on the assumption that they would receive the financial statements from the ITB. Was it being suggested that they should submit a complete and comprehensive report to Parliament, in the absence of those financial statements?
Dr Manenzhe replied that that was not what they meant. They were submitting a report on all of the entities and the Department, but noting the issue the Committee had with the ITB, which had not tabled the financial statements of the Trust. They had ended the report by stating: "The Committee resolved that the ITB should go back and bring the full report."
The Chairperson said that the ITB's failure to submit and present its financial report had led to the Committee concluding that the ITB had no regard for the Committee. They had collectively made a call to resent the attitude of the ITB, and their move to call for the ITB to be rescinded was based on having the ITB continuously failing to make submissions on time, and to submit their financial statements. They had never received any accountability for the funds the ITB collected from various communities, and they also failed to disclose to the Committee what the funds had been used for.
Mr Capa supported what the Chairperson was saying to the content advisors, stressing the situation the ITB was in -- what they had done and how they had performed.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) added that the Committee had been experiencing some difficulty with the ITN's lack of accountability. At one stage, they had found themselves forcing the ITB to abide by AGSA requirements. She agreed with the Chairperson that continuous arrogance had been displayed by the ITB leadership with their failure to submit financial statements on time. The view of the Committee was that there should indeed be consequences faced by the ITB.
Dr Manenzhe thanked the Committee for providing direction. They would include a section that reflected the discussion and the unhappiness of the Committee as expressed during the meeting. They would also address the issue of submitting the financial statements as an essential.
Ms Mgxashe responded to Mr Masipa's suggestion that they make a distinction between the former DAFF and the DFFE so that there would be more clarity, and said this would be done.
She also addressed his comments regarding the lack of targets for the number of registered vets or para-vets in the SAVC presentation, saying it was mandatory for those who were qualified in those professions to register with SAVC, which was a statutory body. It was therefore beyond the control of the Council to determine how many should register. The numbers shown in the report stemmed from the fact that the Members wanted to know who were registered with the SAVC, as per the legislation.
Mr Masipa said he was happy with the explanation given by Ms Mgxashe.
The Chairperson asked Members to propose the adoption of the BRRR Report with amendments.
Ms Mahlo moved for the adoption of the report.
Mr Capa seconded the motion to adopt the report, with the amendments.
The Chairperson requested the content advisors, researchers, secretariat, and staff to work on the final report that would be tabled before Parliament.
The Committee considered and adopted the minutes of its meetings on 7 and 10 September, and 9 and 12 November 2021.
Ms Breedt pointed out that in an email, she had seen minutes for 16 November as well.
The Chairperson replied that they had had to retract those minutes, as Members were not happy with them. They would be revised and adapted for their next meeting. He thanked Ms Breedt for reminding the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the staff for assisting the Committee in putting together the BRRR report. He applauded them for the stunning work they did in support of the Committee. He also thanked the Members for assisting in tabling the report and adopting the minutes.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.