Department Annual Report and Provincial Oversight Committee Report: adoption

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AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 October 2004
DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT AND PROVINCIAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE REPORT: ADOPTION

Chairperson:

Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Department Briefing on Annual Report
Department Annual Report: Part 1
Department Annual Report: Part 2
Department Annual Report: Part 3
Department Annual Report: Part 4
Department Annual Report: Part 5
Department Annual Report: Part 6
Department Annual Report: Part 7
Department Annual Report: Part 8
Department Annual Report: Part 9
Department Annual Report: Part 10
Department Annual Report: Part 11
Department Annual Report: Part 12
Department Annual Report: Part 13
Department Annual Report: Part 14
Department Annual Report: Part 15

SUMMARY
The Department of Agriculture made a presentation on its Annual Report and its nine budget programmes, namely Farmer Support and Development; Trade and Business Development; Economic Research and Analysis; Agricultural Production; Sustainable Resources Management and Use; National Regulatory Services; Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Communication; and Programme Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. The Committee raised concerns about lack of policy implementation, the CASP, starter packs and the co-ordination between the Department and the provinces. The Committee also questioned the Department's response to the drought and its changes to programme budgets.

MINUTES

Department briefing

Ms B Njobe (Department Director-General) introduced the Annual Report by giving an overview of the highlights of the 2003-2004 financial year. These included the consolidation of the Land Reform for Agricultural Development and the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programmes, and the development of capacity to support more systematic generation and distribution of information on agriculture. The Department had also launched an external client survey and had won the best Department and Director-General Awards.

Mr S Malatji (Acting Assistant Director-General: Farmer Support and Development) discussed the aims of Programme Two, which included the development of national policies for farmer settlement, food security and rural development. The five directorates that comprised the programme were the Farmers Settlement, the Financial Services and Co-operatives, the Food Security and Rural Development, the Agricultural Risk-Management and the Registrar of Co-operatives. Most of the targets of these directorates were in the process of implementation.

Mr P Swart (Assistant Director-General: Trade and Business Development) discussed Programme Three aims, such as the promotion of trade, international and domestic market access and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). The programme's Agribusiness Promotion and Industry Relations directorate had consulted with the industry around Agricultural BEE and made an inventory of empowerment initiatives. The International Trade directorate focused on not allowing special market access to foreign subsidised products. He commented that developing countries were now being taken seriously and were taking the lead at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Mr R Dredge (Action Assistant Director-General: Economic Research and Analysis) stated that Programme Four aimed to support the collection and management of national agricultural statistics as well as the monitoring of production and marketing trends. Both of the directorates had met most of their targets. The programme had focused on the Agricultural Economic Standing Committee and the census of commercial agriculture 2002, which was released on 15 September 2004. The more detailed provincial report would be released in December 2004.

Dr S Moephuli (Assistant Director-General: Agricultural Production) discussed the aims of Programme Five. These included the development of policies to enhance sustainable agricultural production and increasing agricultural productivity and mitigating the impact of climate change and disease. The directorates had met most of their targets but a number of policies were under consideration due to consultations with other related departments.

Mr S Mkhize (Assistant Director-General: Sustainable Resources Management and Use) said that Programme Six's aim was to promote sound management and sustainable use of land and water resources in agriculture. The Water Use and Irrigation and the Land Use and Soil Management Directorates' targets were in the process of being implemented. He commented that the present drought had impacted on the activities of the programme.

Dr M Mogajane (Assistant Director-General: National Regulatory Services) mentioned Programme Seven's aims of developing and monitoring risk management strategies, policies and legislation for the responsible use of genetic resources and the control of animal and plant diseases. Some of the programme's targets were in the process of being finalised while many had been met.

Mr S Galane (Agricultural Information Services: Senior Manager) discussed Programme Eight: Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Communication. Its aims were to provide agricultural news and information services and to facilitate skills development as well as training for new and existing farmers. The programme's directorates, Agricultural information services, International Relations, Education and Training and Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, had met all their targeted outputs.

Ms A Shokane (Project Management: Senior Manager) discussed Programme Nine: Programme Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Its aims were to consolidate and support strategic and operational planning, and monitoring and designing an evaluation system to measure organisational performance. The two directorates, Programme Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation, had met all their targeted outputs.

Mr T Marais (Acting Chief Financial Officer) explained the Department's financial statements and why the Department had under-spent. He reported that both the Auditor-General's reports on Agriculture and the Agricultural Debt Account had been unqualified reports and that all the matters of emphasis had been dealt with. The Audit Committee Report monitored the Department's financial procedures and concurred with the Auditor-General that the Debtor system needed upgrading or replacement.

Discussion
Dr A Van Niekerk (DA) commented that the report showed that the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and the Free State had the highest debt ratios. He asked how the Agricultural Risk Insurance Scheme and risk insurance helped with the debt ratio and what long-term and short-term plans the Department had to help farmers deal with the drought that the country was facing. He asked if the Department had funding available from the Disaster Fund. He stated that there were no drilling facilities available in the drought stricken areas and asked why the drilling unit's equipment had been moved. He enquired if the Department was prepared for a possible locust outbreak.

The Chairperson asked why the original timeframes given for Programme Two had shifted and how quickly the targets would be met. He enquired where the 700 holes drilled, by the Programme Six directorate, were situated and about the government's policy on drilling.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) enquired if the government was succeeding in its fight against poverty in the poverty belts. She asked what comprehensive plans each directorate had made with Provincial and Municipal Governments to eradicate poverty. She asked what progress had been made and what the successes were since the Food Security Scheme had been started. She asked what the Department was doing to meet its target of maximising school participation, gross employment and income in the sector. She asked how the Department was aggressively addressing the issues of irrigation and resource poor farmers.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to concentrate their questions on the Department's Annual Report, linking it with their Strategic Plan.

Mr J Bici (UDM) asked how the Department expected the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) to operationalise the non-operative projects in Programme Two, taking into account CASP's limited resources.

The Chairperson asked why the CASP resources had not been allocated and utilised in many provinces.

Dr E Schoeman (ANC) asked why there were such extreme changes in the budget allocations to the various projects especially in Agricultural Production and Sustainable Resource Management. He commented that the Strategic Plan specifically mentioned the threat of desertification and asked why the funding of the Land-Care Project, as part of Sustainable Resource Management, had been decreased.

Ms Njobe answered that the CASP had only been implemented in the 2004/5-budget year. The budget allocation and conditionality for CASP was made late in November 2003 and the provincial allocations were only made known in March 2004. This caused delays. There were also problems whether the funding should be directed at a provincial or national level and an ADORA allocation was decided on. There were also problems with the process which provincial governments faced. The Department had sent teams to the provinces to investigate the possible constraints and was sending in further teams to work with the provinces to help with the capacity problems. Some of the provinces were moving on the CASP and others were not. She responded that the Department did not expect the CASP to resuscitate struggling projects. The CASP had been allocated R200 million for its first year, R200 million for its second year and R250 million for its third year, which was not enough money in terms of peoples' real needs. The Department was focusing the CASP funding on closing the gap in infrastructure. It would also leverage the available resources on the provincial budgets. The provinces identified projects that had failed due to a gap in infrastructure and these were being revisited and the Department's role was to make sure that these projects were in line with the purpose of the CASP.

She said that there was an increased demand for participation in agriculture due the message being sent that government was supporting agriculture. She explained that the rearrangements of the Department structures had affected the budgets. There had also been a conceptual shift and this had meant shifting programmes from Farmer Support and Development to Agricultural Production. This allowed the Department to deal nationally with the production problems of poor communities. The Department had shifted what it was promoting for production purposes. Previously all the intellectual capacities were fragmented between provinces and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and micro-production issues could now be dealt with on a national level.

She answered that the Department was finding a way to make a difference and that most of the government frameworks were the Department's initiative to improve the relationship with the provinces. In many instances the provincial capacity to deliver was problematic and the Department did not have Heads of Department in all provinces. The Department tried to standardise occupations and professions in the various levels of government but was not allowed to. The Department then developed their own Human Resources Strategies and was attempting to get the provinces to buy into these. This was most necessary in the areas of compensation and recruitment as these contributed to the capacity problem at provincial levels.

She responded that some of the pillars of the Broadening Access To Agriculture Thrust (BATAT) were incorporated into the CASP. She said that the report dealt with a range of skewed participation between well-publicised and unknown projects. She replied that the drilling equipment had been moved to facilitate drilling in areas which had not had drilling before and that it was a challenge to keep the rotation of the drilling equipment going. She explained that the Risk Management Policy was developed by the Department and taken to Cabinet but that Cabinet had taken the view that it should be incorporated into the Disaster Management Bill. The Department of Provincial and Local Government was discussing this incorporation.

She reported that the Department was part of the Climate Changes Strategy The Department had done Agri-Meteorological Reports, production strategies, research around more drought resistant plant varieties and was attempting to find a balance between risk mitigation and risk response. She replied that the Department had recently contained a swarm of locusts in the Northern Cape and that it was alert to any other possible swarms. She added that the Department was trying to assist in the West African countries with locust problems so as to prevent their spread to South Africa. The Department had come up with innovative strategies for locust and Kwella bird control. She answered that the census report figures were new and that the Department was waiting for the detailed figures to come out in December. The Department had agreed to do an Agricultural Census every three years. She explained that there was a problem of getting information on the Department's programmes to the public and the Department was focusing on local radio programmes. The Department did send out information but the problem was that it remained in the system, possibly due to the provinces' lack of capacity to interpret the information. The Department did make use of the Multipurpose Community Centres and the Government Gateway Website.

The Chairperson asked Mr Dredge to deal more specifically with the five strategic reports targeted in the Strategic Plan. Mr Dredge answered that five reports were published and that these were available on the Department's website and that the Agricultural Census was reported and the detailed version would be released in December.

Mr Mkhize responded that most of the drilled holes were in the Limpopo Province, on the western side of the Eastern Cape and some were in the North-West Province. The drilling programme was done jointly with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). The delays were due to the fact that most of the drilled water was for human consumption and had to have a certain quality and standard, which DWAF was discussing.

The Chairperson said that the report did not explain why the Department did not meet the deadlines set in the Strategic Plan and asked the Department to explain the problems it faced to the Committee.

Dr Moephuli said that the implementation of Resolution 7 of 2002 meant that the Department could not fill many of the posts it needed to be able to fulfil its targets. He explained that public consultation was a key factor in policy development and that this identified challenges for the stakeholders due to other legislation that the Department then had to address with the relevant departments.

The Chairperson commented that it was important to make the Department answerable for its failure to meet all its targets as these were put in place for a reason. These problems needed to be identified so that they could be taken into account in the next strategic plan. He added that the report needed more detail so that the Committee could assess if it had addressed the issues it set out to address.

Mr Marais explained that on 31 March 2003 there was no money on the budget for the CASP but that on 1 April 2003 there was. Before 31 March 2003 there was money available for drought assistance but this ended on 1 April 2003. The ARC was also transferred from Programme Six to Programme Five and this caused the funding of Programme Five to increase while Programme Six's decreased. This explained the extreme changes in the directorates' budgets.

Ms Njobe answered that it was a government-wide challenge to define measurable objectives in strategic plans. The departments were required to define one deliverable and most of the Department's directorates had one defined deliverable. The report tried to represent some of the trends, as these became intermediate indicators of what the Department was doing. Part of the problem was that the measures were lag measures not lead measures. The 2004/5 Strategic plan tried to deal with the performance measures more clearly and Ms Shokane was attempting to design a system that could determine if the Department was meeting its targets and staying within its timeframes. She explained that even though deadlines on some policies were met, qualitative analysis deferred their implementation and there were also powerful stakeholders who delayed the adoption of policies. She stated that most of the targets were met or responded to in the report.

Mr Swart explained that the Department had tried to close the loop between strategic planning and reporting but that it needed to define its objectives more clearly and make them more measurable. It needed to define its deliverables.

The Chairperson stated that the report needed to indicate why there were timeframe shifts and what the Department had already done, even if its outputs were not complete.

Mr A Nel (DA) asked who was responsible for making provision for bridging finance as disasters such as the existing drought were not bound to financial year-ends.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should keep the questions related to the reports and that the Department was developing a policy with local government.

Mr Van Niekerk asked if there were requests to the Disaster Fund for finances from the provinces or by the Department.

The Chairperson asked what the Department's plans were to deal with the drought.

A Member from the ANC asked if the Department or the Department of Social Development (DSD) handed out the food parcels. He asked if the Agricultural Starter Packs were separate from the food parcels and if the Department had established if the starter packs were used and sustainable.

Mr T Ramphele (ANC) asked why more food parcels than starter packs were distributed. He enquired how policy was implemented as many projects were not working on ground level and the report did not disclose who was responsible for the implementation of these projects.

The Chairperson said that the Member was out of order, as the question did not deal with the report.

Mr V Mzikayise (IFP) asked which provinces were actively using the CASP and if the Department had any mechanism to measure the impact of the starter packs. He asked what the status of Resolution Seven was and if it was still affecting the Department. He asked if the Department was in a position to discuss the completion of the Capital Works Programme with the Department of Public Works.

Ms Njobe explained that the report was attempting to deal with long-term drought management but that submissions had been made for Disaster Fund funding. The Treasury Committee had not yet made allocations for these submissions. She continued that there was a clear drought procedure that provinces were to follow. They were to alert the National Department and the extent of the damage needed to be verified. Even if the National Department made funds available certain provinces did not ensure that this funding was filtered down. She responded that bridging finance became a policy issue of whom the finance is given to and how to easily quantify the damage. This was addressed in the Risk Insurance policy. She commented that humanitarian aid unfortunately dealt with the more visible disasters, like floods quickly and a method of better response time needed to be researched. She explained that the Department could not budget for a disaster but that when it was notified of a drought by a province it attempted to respond swiftly. She stated that food packs were distributed by the DSD and that the distribution of starter packs began after the distribution of food packs. More food packs were distributed as many crisis families lived in urban areas where starter packs could not be used. She elucidated that the Treasury was inconsistent with how it allocated resources for humanitarian efforts. This affected the Department's budgets. The Treasury needed to allocate funds more appropriately. She stated that the problem of the implementation of programmes was exacerbated by the fact that agriculture was a concurrent responsibility. This created additional lags in the delivery system. The Department had created the post of Provincial Co-ordinator to ensure that programmes were being implemented at ground level. She suggested that a special meeting be arranged to discuss the CASP as she was meeting with the Members of the Executive Councils (MEC) for Agriculture on 15 October 2004. She responded that Resolution Seven was finished and no longer impacted on the Department.

Ms Shokane stated that the Department had made advances in its relationship with the provinces and was becoming more aware of what was happening on the ground. The Department did a Project Management Survey to assist the Department and the provinces but there were still some problems in the system of interaction.

Mr Malatji answered that the Department had records of the distributed starter packs and was in the process of appointing nodal facilitators who would provide information on the packs. The sustainability of the pack varied between the provinces and more information needed to be gathered but he guessed that the packs were sustainable in more than 50% of the circumstances.

Dr Moephuli explained that the key thing to keep in mind was that these packs were only put in as an emergency measure. The different provinces included different things in the packs and this made the measurement of the sustainability of the packs difficult. The Department had since put norms and standards in place for these packs but the implementation of these norms was costly and funding was problematic.

Ms Njobe said that some packs were having an impact but that the Department needed to move away from emergency support to long-term support.

The Chairperson suggested that the report should include an analysis of the information provided in it.

Ms Shokane explained that the sustainability of starter packs was dependent on the area.

The Chairperson reiterated that the report needed to include analysis of the information.

Dr Moephuli commented that due to the severity of poverty, often starter packs were used as food packs.

The Chairperson commented that an analysis of the report would allow the Committee to engage other committees and other parts of government.

Dr Schoeman asked how the ARC's key objectives were out of line with the Department's key objectives. He commented that land reforms were only interested in handing over land and that left the Department with the problem of helping to ensure the sustainability of these new landowners. He asked if most training students were from previously disadvantaged groups and what the numbers of trained students were. He asked if the Department had the capacity to meet the demands that AgriBEE and land reform would be placing on it. The Chairperson stated that the question was not relevant to the report.

Ms Njobe answered that the ARC was restructured to help it focus on the real issues facing agriculture and the Department. The ARC programme, Sustainable Livelihoods Programme, was beginning to make existing technology available on the ground. The financing of this programme was developed with the Land Bank. The ARC had also done work on a local government level to help improve land use planning. The alignment of the ARC meant that its resources were available to the Department to draw from. The awarding of research projects used to be done on an ad-hoc basis but was now done through a common planning process. She explained that the major challenges facing farmer training was that the Department of Education was still discussing agricultural colleges and the Department only controlled one of the 18 national colleges. This college was also not situated in a populated area.

Dr Moephuli explained that the restructuring of the ARC and the creation of four main programmes meant that there was broadened access to new technology and information. These programmes were the Sustainable Rural Livelihoods programme, the Grains and Industrial Crops programme, the Horticultural programme and the Livestock programme. The fifth programme was a public support services programme for dissemination of information. These programmes came into line with the Department's strategic objectives. There was also greater integration between the ARC, the Department, provincial departments and other government departments in a forum called the National Agricultural Research Forum. It met quarterly to identify the problems in agricultural research.

Mr Malatji stated that the report dealt with the numbers of farmer trained by the Department.

The Chairperson said that the Committee noted all the responses of the Department and that the report was one of the few that was unqualified. He continued that the Department should not shy away form dealing with the issue of meeting its targets. It was important for the Department to intensify its output and put measurable objectives forward. The challenge for the Committee was to discuss integration with other clusters. The Department needed to take note of the issues the Members' provincial visits raised. The meeting on the report was closed. He then added that the announcement on the public hearings on land reform would take place the following Monday until Wednesday.

The Committee unanimously adopted the Provincial Oversight Committee Report

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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