Department Budget and Strategic Plan 2007/08: briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
28 March 2007
DEPARTMENT BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLAN 2007/08: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Agriculture Strategic Plan 2007 presentation
Department of Agriculture Strategic Plan 2007 [available late at www.nda.agric.za]
Revised Committee Programme for the Second Quarter of 2007

SUMMARY
The Department of Agriculture briefed the Committee on its 2007/08 Budget and Strategic Plan. All the speakers tabled and described the objectives of the programmes under their jurisdiction. The Department would evaluate and monitor the impact of the drought that the country was experiencing, and review its sector planning, marketing and extension services. All stakeholders should have signed the Transformation Charter for Agriculture by June. The organisational structure was listed and the programmes were detailed. The Livelihoods Development Support Programme facilitated market access for South African agricultural products nationally and internationally, and promoted black economic empowerment. The Bio- security and Disaster Management Programme ensured that legislation and policy standards were in place. The Production and Resource Management Programme managed productivity and sustainability, monitored genetically modified organisms and worked on sustainable use of agricultural land and water resources. The Sector Services and Partnership Programme coordinated stakeholder and international relations, agricultural education and training, extension services, and scientific research and development. The new budget for 2007/08 envisaged an allocation of R2.28 billion, 3.7% increase on the previous year. The spending in 2006/07 was set out.

Some members expressed concern that the Department did not seem to respond satisfactorily, and failed to use agriculture to eradicate poverty. They queried an apparent problem in coordination between the three spheres of government, and a perceived lack of cooperation with the Department of Land Affairs. Questions were asked on the relationship with Khula and Land Bank, the agricultural debt, the comprehensive agricultural support programme, the steps taken on VAT adjustments, and the steps taken in drought relief. Further questions, which could not be answered due to lack of time, concerned the drop in the real budget allocations, the duplication of services, the power to motivate for tariffs, the interest rates charged, and the status of named projects. Some of the questions must be answered in writing, and there would be a further meeting on 6 June.

The Committee approved its second term programme.

MINUTES
Department of Agriculture (DoA Strategic Plan 2007/08 briefing
Mr Masiphula Mbongwa, Director General, DoA, summarised the Department’s strategies for the next year. The Department would evaluate and monitor the impact of the drought that the country was experiencing on the agricultural industry and ordinary citizens. The organisation would also review its sector planning, marketing and extension services over this period. It was hoped that all stakeholders would have signed the Transformation Charter for Agriculture (AgriBEE) by June.

Mr Luvuyo Mabombo, Chief Operating Officer, DoA, gave an overview of the Department’s organisational structure. This structure was aligned with the Department’s objectives, strategies and programmes. He listed the goals and programmes .

Mr S Malatji, Chief Director: Livelihoods, Development & Support Programme, DoA, stated that this programme promoted equitable access to the agricultural sector, the growth and commercial viability of emerging farmers and food security as well as road development. The programme facilitated market access for South African agricultural products nationally and internationally by developing and implementing appropriate policies and targeted programmes. It also promoted Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE). The goals and deliverables were fully set out.

Mr Eben Rademeyer, Chief Director, Public Health, DoA, articulated that the biosecurity and disaster management programme developed and implemented policies for food security, agricultural risk and disaster management for controlling animal and plant diseases. The main aspects of this programme entailed ensuring that Bio-security legislation and policy standards were in place and ensuring compliance with international obligations.

Dr Sizwe Mkhize, Acting DDG: DoA, outlined that the production and resource management programme managed productivity and sustainability in agriculture, monitored and controlled genetically modified organisms and developed and implemented policies and legislations on the sustainable use of agricultural land and water resources. There were two sub programmes of Agricultural Production and Engineering, Energy and Resource Use and Management, whose key focus was on productivity, renewable energy, mechanisation, sustainable land use, water use efficiency and contributing to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA).

Ms Vangile Titi, DDG: DoA presented that the sector services and partnerships programme managed and coordinated stakeholder and international relations, agricultural education and training, extension services, and scientific research and development. The intention was to promote emerging entrepreneurs in the sector through an external bursary scheme, mentorship and internship programmes in support of ASGISA.

Mr Tommie Marais, Chief Financial Officer, DoA, briefed the Committee on the Department’s expenditure in 2006/07, which had given a baseline allocation of R1.7 billion, with further allocations on specific programmes taking it up to R2.36 billion. The budget for 2007/08 was set out as R2.28 billion, a 3.7% increase on the previous year. and the classifications per programme and allocations since 1994 were set out

Discussion
Mr S Abram (ANC) commented that the Department would be judged by what it had already delivered and not what it intended to do. He complained about the manner in which the Department had handled a problem that he referred to them. Their response was unsatisfactory and demonstrated an unwillingness to help. There was a concern about whether the Department took parliament seriously.

Ms M Nkompe-Ngwenya (ANC) spoke passionately about the need to give people a better life. The Department failed to use agriculture as a mechanism to eradicate poverty. It was problematic that the national department gave autonomy to provincial agricultural departments and then turned its back on them. There was no monitoring and evaluation of these provincial departments.

Mr Mbongwa acknowledged the admonishments and points of dissatisfaction from Members. The Department took Parliament very seriously and regretted any contrary indication.

Dr A Van Niekerk (DA) and Mr J Bici (UCDP) took issue with the brief nature of the engagement. It was suggested that the Department should be called to interact further with the Committee at a later stage.

Dr Van Niekerk believed that there was a lack of cooperation between the Departments of Land Affairs and Agriculture.

Mr Mbongwa conceded this point and emphasised that the respective Departments were continuously striving for better cooperation.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) asked about the relations between the Department and institutions like the Land Bank and Khula.

Mr Mbongwa proffered that there was room for improvement.

Mr Abram asked about the agriculture debt. He wanted a list of the people who were in difficulty because of outstanding debts.

Mr Mbongwa made a commitment to provide the agricultural debt management list to the Committee.

Ms C Nkuna (ANC) voiced her appreciation of the Director General’s leadership style. She enquired whether the Department had any intention to review the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP).

Mr Mbongwa admitted that the Department had not implemented all the aspects of CASP. Weaknesses had been identified and were being rectified.

Mr Bici sought to establish what the Department was doing about value added tax adjustments.

Mr Mbongwa responded that the Department was engaging with the banks on this matter.

Mr A Nel (DA) queried how the Department was dealing with the drought situation in the country.

Mr Mbongwa revealed that the Department had assessed three provinces with the Department of Provincial and Local Government. Efforts had been made to speed up the process in declaring disaster areas. National Treasury had been alerted about the situation.

Dr Van Niekerk queried whether money from the disease fund had been paid out.

Mr Marais answered that the provincial departments paid the farmers. Out of R250 million directed for this course, there was an outstanding amount of R100 million. He would request that this be rolled over for the next financial year.

Due to the lack of time the following questions and comments were not answered:

Dr Van Niekerk believed that there was a lot of duplication between provincial departments and national department regarding extension of services. He interrogated to what extent the Department put pressure on the Department of Trade and Industry to put tariffs in place and also whether the Marketing Council had any influence.

Mr C Greyling (ANC) pointed out that in real terms the budget allocations had dropped to over 8%.

Mr Bici queried how user friendly MAFISA was. Also, he queried the interest rates that were charged.


Dr Van Niekerk asked about a laboratory in KwaZulu Natal that was under funded.

Ms Thompson asked about the status of the projects that were moved to the National Youth Commission.

Mr Nel wanted answers about the investigation into Empowerdex.

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya asked about the Department’s relations with Onderstepoort and Agrivet.

The Department was instructed to respond to some of the questions in writing and to the rest when it next met with the Committee.

Revised Committee Programme for the Second Quarter of 2007
The Committee decided to meet the Department on 6 June 2007. The second term programme was adopted with amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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