Parliamentary Question: Border management and food inspection




Question 1006, Ms M R Shinn (DA) to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:

1. Whether she has taken any steps regarding the shortcomings of the import inspection services of her department as highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report of March 2007; if not, why not; if so, (a) what key findings in the report have been dealt with, (b) when were they dealt with, (c) how were each of these issues dealt with, (d)(i) which key findings have not been acted on and (ii) why, in each case and (e) what are the further relevant details?  NW1151E

1.The six key findings contained in the report of the Auditor-General on a performance audit of the import inspections services at the then Department of Agriculture (now Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)) in 2007 pertained to:
(1)Access to information;
(2)Number of inspectors;
(3)Skills and experience;
(4)Equipment and infrastructure;
(5)Management information; and
(6)Record keeping.

The Auditor-General’s report also contained the possible areas for improvement as well as comments of the then Department of Agriculture. The comments from the department already incorporated progress made and clarified certain areas highlighted within the report. The following progress has been made in addressing the key findings of the Auditor-General:
(1)Access to information

The department has embarked in a process of developing a web-based system to manage information generated from end to end business processes related to imports, exports and national trade in regulated agricultural articles. The design and implementation of a central web-based solution (import/export system) will ensure the following:

The facilitation of the daily operations associated with importing and exporting commodities by providing key information, as prescribed by the legislation agreement.

The availability of on-line operational information on all agricultural imports and exports.

The availability of management and statistical information to all interested parties within the DAFF and the extended agricultural sector stakeholders.

The enhancement and facilitation of trade in the applicable agricultural legislative framework.

The design and development of the system is approached in two phases:

Phase 1: The preparation of a User Requirement Specification Document which documents the user requirements associated with the administration and management of the DAFF’s import/ export/ domestic trade activities.

Phase 2: The implementation of a solution which will comply with the business description/ user specifications specified in Phase 1 of the IE Online project.

The department appointed a service provider for phase 1 of the project in July 2008. The service provider delivered six deliverables:

The development of the User Requirement Specification;

The Interface Model;

The Information Strategy Plan;

The Systems Development Plan;

The Import/Export Initiatives; and the Project Handover (PH) to leading to initiation of Phase 2.

On the 24th April 2009, after the presentation of the possible options for phased development of a system by the service provider and the project team for Phase1, the Departmental Executive Committee determined that an option that would cost the department R125 million was the preferred option. The preferred option required additional budget for the development of the system and the department tabled a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) proposal as an option for the 2010/2011 financial year to National Treasury in June 2009. However this MTEF option was not funded due to other competing needs and to budgetary constraints due to the recession. The DAFF will resubmit a similar MTEF option for the 2011/2012 financial year.

However, the department has in the meantime reprioritised its budget to cater for the development of a risk management platform, which is one of the phases in the system geared towards ports of entry. This risk management platform will firstly be deployed by the DAFF (specifically, the Directorate: Agricultural Product Inspections Services) as an efficient and effective risk management tool for gathering intelligence, analysing the gathered intelligence, and generating data to provide sufficient strategic intelligence to the DAFF and its stakeholders. The risk management platform will provide a multiple initiatives framework with the ability to measure, manage, and improve the management of the risk associated with an individual, process, functional team, business area and the DAFF and interface with other stakeholders such as the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the Department of Trade and Industry. A bid has been submitted with the SITA on the 29 March 2010 and it is expected that the risk management solution will be completed in the first quarter of the year 2011. The development of this system will also assist in effectively dealing with the finding on management information and record keeping.

To address other critical areas in the key finding on access to information, the department has established within the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee’s (BCOCC) National Border Management Coordinating Centre human resource capacity to maintain a database on all imports from all DAFF human resourced ports of entry.
(2)Number of inspectors

The DAFF has since the Auditor-General’s findings created in the Directorate: Agricultural Product Inspection Services an additional 164 posts and 52 posts in the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 financial years respectively. For the 2010/2011 there are 60 posts created. Future request to fund other posts in the ensuing years will be tabled for discussion as part of the DAFF priority areas.

The DAFF has established a component in the BCOCC’s National Border Management Coordinating Centre in 2008. The DAFF has also extended its full time presence to Lanseria Airport in 2008; the land ports of entry of Kosi Bay, Mahamba, Mananga and Pondrift in 2009; the dry seaport of City Deep and Jeppe’s Reef land border port in 2010. All these ports were previously serviced from neighbouring DAFF offices.

The DAFF has also extended its sniffer dog unit services to Cape Town International Airport in November 2008 and Durban International Airport now relocated to King Shaka International Airport in September 2009. The sniffer dogs are also currently deployed to detect illegal agricultural products in international post office parcels. Additionally, the DAFF procured five dogs in the United States of America in April 2009. These sniffer dogs are used for cargo containers and vehicles at OR Tambo International Airport and will also be deployed in Beitbridge and Lebombo border posts once the infrastructure has been completed by the Department of Public Works. The sniffer dog unit has grown to 27 sniffer dogs over the past three years and the DAFF is currently having a certified trainer for both the passenger and cargo sniffer dogs, which makes it easier for the DAFF to procure the dogs in South Africa and train these dogs for deployment of these dogs and their handlers.

In December 2007, the DAFF set performance standards for inspections and service levels and these standards are constantly measured by management to ensure that inspections are conducted in reasonable times and where these are not adhered to, corrective measures are taken.
(3)Skills and experience

In April 2007, the Directorate: Agricultural Product Inspection Services established a formal training unit that is aimed at training new incumbents within the Directorate and providing refresher courses to existing officials on line function specific courses. The training unit has devised training material for all the Acts that the Directorate is administering and there are currently four experienced officials who are appointed as trainers. In 2007, the unit trained 94 officials, in 2008 there were 184 officials trained, while 92 officials were trained in 2009. The line function training is further supplemented by formal on the job training which is evaluated on a quarterly basis for new employees. Due to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, the training for the 2010 year will be scaled down, with no training conducted from 15 May to 15 July 2010.

The DAFF also has a Human Resource Development (HRD) plan which is followed for the employees. The HRD plan addresses generic or non line function training on an annual basis. During the 2007 season, there were 74 officials who attended generic training; the number rose to 195 in 2008 and in 2009 there were 160 trained. Furthermore, the Directorate has since the beginning of the 2009/2010 (April 2009) financial year merged supervision with mentorship to ensure that the supervisors’ roles spread broader than enforcing prescripts and procedures but also stretches to reciprocal learning of soft skills in the workplace. To ensure better oversight at different ports of entry, the DAFF created management posts in the 2009/2010 financial year to ensure prompt resolution and leadership a port level.
(4)Equipment and infrastructure

The DAFF constantly updates its infrastructure needs assessments [accommodation and residential] and submits these through the BCOCC to the Department of Public Works. Over the past three years the DAFF has through the BCOCC process addressed infrastructure needs and additional requirements at Lanseria Airport (01/09/2008); OR Tambo International Airport (14/02/09); Upington International Airport (04/11/2009); Polokwane International Airport (08/12/2009), Cape Town International Airport (10/12/2009); Bloemfontein International Airport (11/01/2010) and King Shaka International Airport (12/01/2010). There were also needs addressed at Vioolsdrift (2008); Kosi Bay (2009), Mahamba (2009), Mananga, Pondrift, all in 2009; and City Deep seaport (12/02/2010).

The DAFF has digitally connected remote offices to the internet and intranet and these offices currently have e mail connectivity to the Head Office. The connections were made with Golela, Groblersbrug, Kopfontein, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Nakop, Oshoek, Ramatlabama and Vioolsdrift border posts. Similar connections are expected to be concluded at Jeppe’s Reef, Kosi Bay, Mahamba, Mananga and Pondrift towards the end of April 2010.

The DAFF on an annual basis conducts the officials’ equipment assessment and procures this equipment for on an ongoing basis.
(5)Management information

The DAFF has Standard Operating Procedures on inspections adopted on 31st October 2007, has a framework for reporting on inspections and has a repository for all inspections at the BCOCC’s National Border Management Coordinating Centre.
(6)Record keeping

The DAFF has an SOP for handling extended detentions revised in August 2008 and furthermore crafted SOPs and work instructions to ensure uniform application of procedures in administering the legislative mandate of the DAFF in terms of imports, exports and national trade.

For appraisal purposes, officials are expected to provide evidence of the work performed over a period of time. However this is expected to be a temporary measure as a web based system will be able to capture the work load and distribution of work amongst officials and ports electronically once the system is functional.

Other relevant details of importance

The demand for officials with experience in the biosecurity environment is quite high and that the DAFF has officials in remote areas [who want to transfer to urban or peri-urban areas countering the drive by the DAFF to retain skilled personnel from the border. While the DAFF has an Employee Retention Policy (updated 10/10/2008) and guidelines on career management, there continues to be migration from these remote areas towards provincial departments other national department’s offices in affluent areas. It is expected that the current Occupation Specific Dispensation discussions for technicians would assist in stemming the flow of capable officials from remote areas.

In the State of the Nation Address in June 2009, the President of South Africa, President J.G. Zuma; gave impetus to government priorities as proposed by the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster in the Medium Term Strategic Framework to establish a South African Border Management Agency to manage migration, customs and land border line control services and to efficiently coordinate the services of other departments at ports of entry. This statement of intent from the President and the ensuing deliberations for setting up a Border Management Agency (BMA) may lead to the border inspection part of the DAFF being ceded to the BMA. However the DAFF until such a pronouncement is made is steadfastly working towards improving the state of the border environment, including responding to the findings of the Auditor- General.