In a virtual meeting, the Committee met to deal with Committee business. The Committee considered and adopted its report on its oversight report to the Gauteng province to visit the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP). Members sought clarity on recommendations relating to transformation in the potato industry, whether the entity or Department was responsible for reporting back to the Committee, fast-tracking completion of facilities and quarterly updates on all repaired and broken equipment to avoid loopholes. Members also asked questions about the GMP project and availability of vaccines. The Committee's oversight visit report was adopted with amendments.
There was some confusion in the Committee report on public hearings held on the Agricultural Produce Agents Amendment Bill. The report recommended the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development compile a comprehensive report responding to all public submissions, both written and oral, for presentation to the Committee in the next scheduled Committee meeting. Some Members thought the Department would retract the Bill for further discussions and submit a new Bill. These Members questioned the purpose of the Committee report when consultations were still underway. Consensus was found when clarity was provided that there were two clauses on which the Committee would request legal opinion and present this opinion to the Committee – only then would a decision be made on whether the Bill should be withdrawn. The Committee would also still deal with determining the desirability of the Bill. It was emphasised the Committee Report was only limited to public hearings. The Committee report was adopted
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on an Oversight Visit to the ARC and OBP, Gauteng Province on 19 – 22 April 2022
The Chairperson went through the report. He asked Members to raise their concerns about the recommendations made.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked for clarity about the recommendation of: “Ensure that the ARC receives the necessary support from the Department in respect of facilitating the uptake and utilisation of its research products and technological innovations by provincial departments and communities at large; and further support the ARC through policy interventions to address the monopolisation and lack of transformation in the potato industry. Report on interventions to Parliament on a quarterly basis.” She could not recall this recommendation being made.
The Chairperson said that Dr Lerato Matsaunyane from the ARC explained that the potato industry was monopolised and sitting at 99 percent white-owned. There must be room to ensure growth and participation. Dr Matsaunyane informed the Committee that she was busy with engagements to build small scale farmers in the North West, particularly rural areas. This particular recommendation was made when the teams were divided into smaller groups.
Ms Steyn recommended that more emphasis be placed on the Department. It was unclear who must report back to the Committee.
The Chairperson clarified the Department and its entities, such as the ARC, must report back.
Mr N Masipa (DA) was concerned about the wording of the following recommendation: “Ensure that the ARC fast tracks the development of the construction of the FMD Facility and the Task Team that has been established by the ARC Board to address FMD challenges, provides updates on a quarterly basis”. He said the wording 'development' might be incorrect. The ARC informed the Committee that they had signed documents to appoint a contractor for the building of the FMD facility.
The Chairperson suggested ‘development’ be changed to ‘completion’.
Mr Masipa agreed but added that it should read as: “Ensures that the ARC fast tracks the completion of the building of the FMD facility”.
Mr N Capa (ANC) thought that this was what the recommendation meant but if changing the word provided more meaning, it should be changed.
Ms Steyn said that the following recommendation should be broadened: “The OBP should provide quarterly updates on repairs to the broken freeze drier and the procurement of a new Liquid Nitrogen machine and other equipment, and further provide an update on the working status of the new viral washer and steriliser that were not in use at the time of the Committee visit”. She added that there also be quarterly updates on all repaired and broken equipment to avoid loopholes.
The Chairperson agreed that this recommendation would be useful to avoid loopholes in equipment not being accounted for.
Mr Masipa said there was mention of the OBP submitting its stakeholder communication strategy, details of vaccine distributors, and quarterly updates on available vaccines, including shortages that should be done within a timeline. He asked for clarity on this matter.
The Chairperson responded that the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said there is stock and availability in a number of facilities across the country. He suggested a follow-up status report on the availability of vaccines no later than next Friday, which should be done outside of this report. He emphasised quarterly updates to the Committee by both entities.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) asked for clarity on the GMP project. She noted the error in the report saying the investigation began in 2012 when it was 2002.
Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Committee Content Advisor, clarified the investigation started the year the funding started, 2012. This was the reason the report said 2012 and not 2002.
Ms Tshwete understood, but there was a request to start from 2002 because of the worries relating to equipment.
The Chairperson said that a request can be made to present a report from 2002 until now. Then a way forward can be discussed.
The report was adopted with amendments.
Draft public hearings report on the Agricultural Produce Agents Amendment Bill
The Chairperson went straight to the Committee resolutions: in view of the issues raised by stakeholders on the Amendment Bill, the Committee resolved that the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development compile a comprehensive report responding to all public submissions, both written and oral, for presentation to the Committee in the next scheduled Committee meeting.
Ms Steyn raised concerns regarding the resolution. She agreed that the Department retract the Amendment Bill, conduct further discussions with the industry and role players and then submit a new Bill within six months. She asked about the new resolution.
The Chairperson said there were two clauses the Department requested be put for legal opinion. A request will be made to share these findings with the Committee within a week or two. Based on the opinion, the Department might withdraw the Amendment Bill itself. If the Department does not withdraw the Amendment Bill, a presentation would be made with the legal representatives.
Mr Masipa suggested there be no report. There cannot be a Committee report when the Committee is still engaging with the Department. If this report is adopted, it would suggest that public hearings were done.
The Chairperson suggested the Committee wait for the legal findings. If the Department did not withdraw the Amendment Bill, the issue of desirability would still be put to the Committee. This was the reason the report was only limited to public hearings.
Mr Capa believed the resolution was still compatible and relevant to the report.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) asked why there was a report on an ongoing process. What was the need?
The Chairperson emphasised what he said earlier about the legal findings by the Department and the report only being limited to public hearings.
Ms Breedt accepted this explanation.
Ms Steyn understood, but she expressed she could not support the report.
The report was adopted.
Adoption of outstanding minutes
Mr Capa said there should be more emphasis on ITB & IT for the minutes of 10 May 2022.
The minutes of 10 May 2022 were adopted with the amendments.
The minutes of 17 May 2022 were adopted with no amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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