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Meeting reportLAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
25 October 2007
AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT 2006/7: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West)
Documents handed out:
Department Annual Report presentation [Part 1][Part 2]
Department of Agriculture Annual Report 2006/07 [available at www.nda.agric.za]
Audio recording of meeting
The presentation focused on the successes of the Department and the projects that are currently underway, as well as improvements that had taken place in its seven programmes. Also discussed was the Auditor-General’s Audit Report. The Department of Agriculture had received an unqualified audit report but the Agricultural Debt Account was given a qualified audit report.
The Department was asked why it talked of so many success stories yet on oversight visits, the Members could see nothing happening on the ground. The Committee said that they wanted to know not only about the successes but also the failures the Department had faced and how they dealt with the challenges that had arisen in the implementation of the projects.
Mr Luvuyo Mabombo (Chief Operating Officer and Acting Deputy Director General) outlined DoA’s seven programmes: African Agricultural Development Programme (AADP), Agricultural Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (AgriBEE), Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme (IFSNP), the Knowledge Management, Natural Resource Management, and National Regulatory Services (NRS).
The AADP was an advancement of the New Partnership for African Development’s (NEPAD) Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). Some of the highlights of AADP included the successful coordination of development of the National Medium-Term Investment Programme (NMTIP) for the national implementation of CAADP, the success of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) trade protocols, which were on track for implementation in 2008, and the SADC Customs Union (SACU), which was on track for 2010. Mr Mabombo said that the successes of AgriBEE included the upcoming support of agro-processing in line with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) objectives. The Department had also invested R 18.9 million in bursaries and training to benefit the sector, as well 160 graduates being placed in internship programmes in the sector. CASP had received R750 million for farmer support from 2004/05, other highlights within CASP include, monthly early warning climate advisories that have been put in place to warn farmers, an awareness campaign on risk and disaster management, the alignment of the Micro Agricultural Finance Institutions for South Africa (Mafisa) with other departmental programmes for accelerated and coordinated service delivery and the success of the Mafisa pilot projects in Limpopo, Kwazulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The IFSNP’s successes included a programme called the Special Programmes for Food Security (SPFS), which was expanded to all nine provinces, hence promoting the Millenium Development Goals and supporting ASGISA. Ten percent of the CASP budget was allocated to projects contributing to food security, and the Department led the 2006 World Food celebrations in Pietermartizburg. The Department had continued to provide current agricultural information in its Knowledge and Information Management Systems, it had developed and launched a hyperlinked Agriculture Marketing Information System for producers, processors, manufacturers and consumers as well as publishing regular economic overviews on the sector. In terms of Natural Resources Management, the DoA had had some success, such as the development of the Drought Management Plan, started last year, where the department developed schemes long before the drought in order to prevent damage.
A total of R468 million was allocated towards drought relief projects, such as fodder distribution and water system repairs. National Regulatory Services had seen an increase in border control measures through human capacity and canine intervention in order to prevent undesirable foodstuffs coming through OR Tambo airport. There had also been an expansion of international engagement with trading partners to promote trade, as well as the containment of outbreaks of animal diseases.
Presentation on Livelihoods, Economics, and Business Development (LEBD)
Mr Sam Malatji (Acting Deputy DG: LEBD) examined the LEBD programme and its achievements. Some of the achievements included the launch of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping System (FIVIMS), the management of 741 CASP projects with 46 627 beneficiaries, and the training of 280 Community Based Organisations in collaboration with Jobs for Growth Micro Enterprise and Micro Finance Program.
Presentation on Bio-Security and Disaster Management (BDM)
Ms Emily Magajane (Deputy Director-General: BDM) examined the Plant Health and Inspection Services that have had some success such as the inspection of major liquor products, plant products, plant propagating material, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and animals and animal products. There had also been a three-month international training course, which was given to beagle dogs and their handlers, in order to detect illegal agricultural products brought into South Africa via the luggage of international travellers. The BDM had also developed Risk and Disaster Management, such as creating early warning systems and early warning information, the implementation of a drought relief scheme, assessments of drought situations and this information was utilised to forecast adverse situation’s countrywide. There had also been the implementation of the cold spell relief and flood relief.
In terms of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, achievements included the amendments for export standards for frozen fruits and vegetables as well as red meat regulations, which were concluded. The animal feeds policy, the pesticide management policy and stock remedies policy were published for public comment and the groundnut and potato export standards as well as requirements were gazetted and completed respectively.
In terms of animal health the improvements in the Department included the compilation of new regulations for keeping ostriches as well as a protocol on bio security on ostriches, the training of animal owners and the marking of animals took place. The Department had managed to bring difficult situations under control, such as the Classical Swine Fever in the Eastern Cape area, as well as the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the Limpopo province.
The challenges the Department had faced with BDM were:
- the acquisition and retention of suitable skills for various directorates within the programme,
- with regard to veterinary services, communication with provinces to implement programmes remained a special challenge, and
- the occurrence of certain diseases including the highly fatal Rabies in certain provinces.
Presentation on Sector Services and Partnerships (SSP)
Ms Vangile Titi (DDG: SSP) stated that the programme achieved the following highlights: the establishment of the National Agricultural Education and Training Forum Executive Committee (NAETFEC), signing a partnership agreement with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for capacity building to benefit South African professionals, strengthening agricultural relations in the SADC region through a programme on Multilateral Engagements and the finalisation of the report profiling extension and advisory services
Report of the Auditor-General
Mr Tommie Marais (Chief Financial Officer: DoA) said that the Audit Committee reviewed and discussed the audited financial statements with the Auditor-General and the Accounting Officer. The Auditor General’s management letter and the management’s response were reviewed, as well as the revision of significant adjustments resulting from the audit. Mr Marais told the Committee that the Audit Committee agreed with and accepted the Auditor-General’s conclusion on the annual financial statements.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) commented on the myriad of programmes that had been started by the Department, that left one thinking that everything had been planned and was in progress, but oversight visits showed otherwise. He had gone to Tzaneen where he learnt that trees were dying because of flooding from a burst dam wall, that had not been fixed, and once flourishing farms were now dying. He asked why the Department’s reports were glowing yet out there, there was disaster.
Mr Mabombo replied that land reform projects were quite complex, therefore the Department would have a challenge answering the Member’s question. He asked if Mr Krumbock was referring to the restitution programme. Certain land reform programmes had failed but there had been others that had been successful. The provincial Department of Agriculture had tried to do something about the failed projects in Limpopo. Some of these projects needed time.
Mr P Swathe (Chief Programme Officer: DoA) added that the complexity - of what looks good - was the maintenance of projects, which was a provincial duty.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) referred to the R18.9 million the DoA had invested in bursaries and asked for whom were the bursaries, and if emerging farmers were benefiting from them.
Ms Titi replied the Department was trying to compile a list of mentors for farmer training. In respect to bursaries, the Department was targeting school-going youth, as well as tertiary students; they were also trying to cover what was called the scarce skills field.
Mr Mzizi wanted to know how the Department assisted farmers when in it came to warning them about climate change, as it affected their livestock.
Ms Mogajane replied that early warning systems had been put in place and the Department was also working closely with weather services to get early warning. She stated that the issue of climate change was a global one
Mr Mzizi also asked about the retention of skills. What benefits were the Department offering in order to retain skills so that people did not leave.
Mr Mabombo replied that there had been a number of intervention strategies, one of them being to harmonise similar jobs, in other words paying those who work in the same field the same amount, because rural provinces suffer from a migration of skills, as those working in urban areas get paid a better salary. The Department also wanted to develop skills alongside internship programmes
Mr Mzizi commented that people needed to be educated about GMOs, because most people did not know what they were eating. He asked the Department to enlighten him on this matter.
Ms Mogajane said that the process of assessing GMOs was thorough. The Department also worked with research institutions to assess the toxicology of GMOs. She suggested an educative debate in the future in order to give people a clearer picture of GMOs
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC) stated that he agreed with the comment made by the Auditor-General about the Department’s report, that it was indeed fragmented, and that there was a lack of evidential documents. He felt the Department was trying to hide something. The section on Human Resources in the Annual Report was difficult to read. There was no mention of the President’s State of the Nation address. He commented that the annual report was the worst he had ever seen, and that there were a lot of contradictions between the annual report and the strategic plans of the Department.
Mr Mabombo replied that the comment made by the Auditor-General was an unfortunate comment in that the performance audit had not been done yet, but already there were comments which put the Department in a difficult position.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) asked why the open vacancies in the department had not been filled.
Mr Marais replied that the Department had implemented an organisational development committee that assessed the creation and abolishment of posts, therefore the problem of vacancies had been identified and the Department had tried to clean it up.
Mr Van Rooyen commented on the Integrated Food Security Programme, which said the Department would distribute 60 000 food packages per annum, yet there were 2.2 million households that were insecure. It would take 20 years for the Department to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating hunger. Mr Van Rooyen said that he was unsatisfied with the 10 percent fund allocation from CASP going to food security as it was too little. It seemed the Department’s priorities were not in order as a higher percentage of CASP was going to research.
The Chairperson asked the Department to elaborate on who was doing the research for whom, if so much money was spent on research.
Mr J Venter (Director: Budgets and Reporting: DoA) replied that sometimes the Department used the research skills of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), which they then pay for. But if the Department did not use their services then they did not give out funds. The DoA sometimes did its own research which was funded under CASP.
Mr Mzizi said that although some food stuffs were not allowed into the country, was the Department aware that people did travel and eat the food overseas as they had no education about GMOs. He believed DoA should really educate people about this, and agreed completely with the idea of a debate.
Ms N Oliphant asked if the Department faced problems with capacity and if they did, how did they overcome this challenge, especially in relation to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal. She also asked about the Mafisa allocation, what was the criterion?
Mr Mabombo replied that in terms of challenges the Department allocated human resources where they felt there was a lack of capacity. There was also a team that monitored on a monthly and quarterly basis.
The Chairperson concluded that the subject matter of the report had been complex. Committee Members want to know about practicability on the ground, and whether projects were succeeding or failing. Members want tangible results.
Consideration and Adoption of Minutes
Minutes from 1 August, 5 August, and 9 October were considered and adopted.
The meeting was adjourned