Lack of leadership at department of agriculture, say MPs

Members of the parliamentary oversight committee for agriculture are worried about a lack of internal leadership and monitoring in the agriculture department.

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The performance track record of the department leaves a lot to be desired, and there seems to be few dedicated people working within the department, they said during a discussion of the departmental Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report in parliament.

They were concerned that, year-on-year, the department hasn’t engaged with the issues, but instead presented a report that appeared to be a cut-and-paste job from previous years. Outcomes presented didn’t appear to be a correct and clear reflection of what had been stipulated.

ANC MP Nozibonelo Phaliso said she was concerned that only the "comfortable" issues were reported and that the committee seemed to get information only if the department felt it needed to know it. "I don’t feel the annual report can be fully trusted and I get the impression that administration in the department is very poor," she said.

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Although director general Langa Zita was new to his post, he should have taken a firmer and more hands-on approach, added Phaliso. Committee chairperson Mlungisi Johnson said issues raised in the auditor general’s report, such as irregular expenditure and poor performance information, indicated some officials in the department weren’t doing their job.

The department received an unqualified audit, but still needed to address the challenges around a lack of internal controls, lack of effective monitoring and evaluation systems, and the unreliability of reported performance information, said the committee.

ANC MP Salam Abram asked, "Are there any dedicated people with integrity in the department, who’ll be able to capacitate the new farmers completely, and give them logistical support? Because in the past, this hasn’t been the case."

Zita responded by saying the department had very dedicated officials, as shown by the number who held PhDs and who could, no doubt, be earning larger salaries elsewhere. Deputy minister Dr Pieter Mulder said some criticism was justified, since, although there were many dedicated civil servants at the department, there were also some who didn’t do good work.