AGRICULTURE, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and her officials were harshly criticised in Parliament on Tuesday for achieving less than 20% of their targets while spending 99% of their R4.9bn budget.
The public protector is investigating complaints against Ms Joemat-Pettersson over an R800m tender for her department’s patrol vessels and alleged improper conduct in her capacity as a Cabinet minister.
MPs serving on Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries slammed the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for its failure to achieve 51% of its planned targets during the last financial year.
They also expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of answers given by Ms Joemat-Pettersson and her department’s acting director-general, Sipho Ntombela.
"When you fail to give us responses that we can check on the ground … then how do we measure your performance?" asked African National Congress (ANC) MP Salam Abram.
"Your achievements have been less than 20%, but you have spent 99% of your budget … You know full well that you are a dysfunctional department (and) you will not be able to deliver."
Ms Joemat-Pettersson missed two of the committee’s meetings this year due to last-minute cancellations or excuses of ill health.
At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, chairman Mlungisi Johnson (ANC) instructed that the committee, Ms Joemat-Pettersson, Deputy Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Pieter Mulder (Freedom Front Plus) and senior department staff should meet every two weeks to address issues.
"No excuses will be accepted for missing any of these meetings," Mr Johnson warned.
He emphasised that in future Ms Joemat-Pettersson and her staff had to attend meetings, particularly those at which the department’s annual report and budgets were discussed.
Mr Johnson sent Mr Ntombela and his staff away with a list of questions that were either not answered on Tuesday or met with answers that were considered of very poor quality.
These included issues such as tractors earmarked for emerging farmers that were either idle or were being hired out at exorbitant rates; the high vacancy rate in the department; overseas travel expenses amounting to R17m; and expenditure of R1.5m on consultants.
Democratic Alliance MP Annette Steyn said the message had to be communicated that patience was running out over Ms Joemat-Pettersson.
"We have called for President Jacob Zuma to dismiss her from the Cabinet as she is just playing around with taxpayers’ money while the country faces serious challenges around food security and agricultural development," she said.
Ms Steyn said there was no plan attached to the R800m Presidential Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative that was supposed to help emerging farmers gain access to seeds, maize and tractors.
"It is not clear if the department is supposed to manage this fund or not as it does not fall within its list of programmes," she said.
The fund has been launched in Mpumalanga, North West and the Eastern Cape.
Ms Steyn said it appeared that the area around Mr Zuma’s home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, was the fund’s biggest beneficiary.
Mr Ntombela responded that he did not know where the R800m came from and suggested to the committee that the Treasury be asked about it.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating complaints laid by the DA against Ms JoematPettersson for wasting taxpayers money on a trip to Sweden in 2010 and for staying at hotels rather than her official residence.
Ms Joemat-Pettersson said she was not concerned by the probes. "I know I have always been within the prescripts of the ministerial handbook. I have maintained my innocence and have nothing to fear. (It is) completely insignificant," she said.
The DA had also laid complaints with the public protector about the R800m fisheries protection tender and concerns about breaches of Parliamentary ethics.
Ms Joemat-Pettersson said the investigation of the tender was of particular interest to her as it concerned corruption within the department’s supply chain management.