Red tape blamed for DAFF’s vacant posts

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has put the blame for the high vacancy rates in the department primarily on slow verification of documents and security checks.

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Delays at the South African Qualification Authority in verifying applicant qualifications, and delays at the State Security Agency in checking applicants’ criminal and citizenship statuses are affecting the filling of more than 900 vacancies, said DAFF spokesperson Selby Bokaba. He was responding to a tongue-lashing the department received in parliament recently.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries wanted answers from DAFF on why so many vacancies were unfilled. Bokaba also pointed out that the 950 vacant posts amounts to a vacancy rate of 13,4% from a total of 7 100 possible posts in the department. Salam Abram, ANC MP and portfolio committee member, said DAFF is heading for trouble and won’t be able to move forward if it can’t fill the vacancies, as these are making DAFF “dysfunctional” and contributing to the country’s high unemployment rate.

“The staff shortage is compromising the department’s ability to deliver services to people,” explained Abram. “We’re supposed to have extension officers helping farmers, but as a farmer in the Free State, I have not seen one in 15 years.” He added that, in the Free State, Grain SA is doing the mentoring and training instead. The appointment of people in acting positions is also hampering progress within the department as this doesn’t give them job security and further affects performance, continued Abram.

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“When you’re acting, you’re always looking over your shoulder; not sure if the job is yours or not. The department is in a shambles.”  Annette Steyn, DA MP and agriculture spokesperson, said the current situation at the department is unsustainable. And the vacancies aren’t the only problem. There’s also the fact that DAFF is employing unqualified individuals.
“Some people in the department don’t even know what their jobs entail,” said Steyn, adding that she’s concerned about the money spent on consultants in the absence of people who can do the job.