Department of Water & Environmental Affairs: Strategic Plan 2008 /10: briefing by Director General

Water and Sanitation

10 August 2009
Chairperson: Mr Z Luyenge (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Director General briefed the Committee on the highlights of previous performance and challenges, gave a rationale for their choice of priorities and key performance areas, identified these key performance areas, delivered a First Quarter Progress per branch, and presented monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to oversee programme implementation. The Director General also dealt with the Department’s strategic objectives and finances for 2009/10.

The Committee thanked the Department for its efforts in righting the depleted conditions of the environment and fishing resources in the country. Some members expressed concern for the Department’s initiatives in educating previously marginalised communities about the environment, and they asked how its programmes of poverty alleviation and job creation were going to be rolled out in the rural areas. Another pressing issue the members wanted explanation on was why the Department was struggling to enforce legislation.

Meeting report

The Director General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, accompanied by a delegation, presented the Strategy Plan. She looked in depth at their performance of each of Year 1 (2008) objectives (see document). She said some of the Department’s plans to produce environmental frameworks were over-ambitious and that they needed more than12 months to produce them. For example, the Environmental Management Framework (EMF) was completed but not gazetted. More time was needed to fine tune it.


Further, she recommended the need to open Environmental Courts as most cases had not gone to the courts because of NPA workload.  She expressed satisfaction about the introduction of the Waste Act of 2008; the development of measures to protect biodiversity; the successfully negotiated mandated multilateral positions and secured funding for five project proposals; and for receiving an unqualified audit for 2008/09.

Some of the many challenges she mentioned: operational costs for the marine vessels were problematic due to fluctuations in the price of crude oil and exchange rate; the vacancy rate was at a 20% high because of skills shortage; and disability representivity was very low at 1.4% due to professional mobility of people with disability that were already in the system. For every challenge encountered she suggested a corrective measure.

Also, she outlined the Department’s major priorities which were to:
▪ embark on a public awareness drive about environmental issues especially in schools and previously marginalised communities;

▪ ensure compliance with environmental law;
▪ biodiversity management; and
▪ effective waste and air quality management.
In addition, for the year 2009/10 the Department’s objective were, amongst other things, to promote the conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources, protect and improve the quality and safety of the environment, and facilitate transformation and job creation within the sectors towards poverty eradication.


Finally, the Director General gave a financial report that showed graphs detailing the expenditure trends since 2005/2006 until 2009/2010 financial years.

Challenges identified include a decline in donor funds, continual repriotisation and budget trade-offs, and that the provision of specialised service delivery consultants also contributed to possible budget shortfalls.

Discussion
Mr G Morgan (DA) wanted to know the Department’s opinion on the coalmine application by Coal Africa near Mapungubwe. He asked what the Department was doing to stop rhino poaching. There seemed to be a problem with regard to the announcement of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and that had taken over a month. He wanted to know why, in terms of legislation, this was the responsibility of the minister. Lastly, he asked if the Department would endorse abalone export permits.

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Director: Environmental Impact Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, said the Department had objected to the mining application. The only legal instrument available to it in order to participate in the process was to adhere to the requirements of the Mineral Resources Act. It had forwarded its comments and concerns within the timeframes prescribed by the Act, which included objection to the granting of the permit. It was waiting for the referral of that objection to the Regional Mine Development Environmental Committee as prescribed by the Act.

Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, explained that the main problem about rhino poaching was that the environmental mandate sat within the three tiers of government. Enforcement on the ground was done by the provinces and the Department’s entities. Guidelines and frameworks were developed to guide the process for law enforcement but there was a lack of capacity. Even though the focus had changed in the last five years enabling enforcement of the green agenda, the Department still needed the army to be deployed to the provinces to deal with poaching. There was a moratorium on rhino selling. Norms and standards had been developed for marking the rhino horns so that one knew where they were going and from which owner they had come. An Investigative Forum had been established because there was a lack of intelligence at provincial level.

Mr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General: Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, stated that the TAC determinations would be processed quickly. Even though the survey was made in May, the Department still had to determine if there was not too much mixing of anchovette and pilchard as that could be the possible cause of the delay. Even if the TAC determinations were sent to the minister, the in-season ones would be done locally.

Regarding the export of abalone, Mr Mayekiso said the endorsement of consignments at SA ports of exit was done by Customs, not the Department. On whether there would be new turfs opened, he said the Department was not aware of that but was only aware of lobbying by abalone right-holders for certain areas to be opened but whether that would happen or not it was not known.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) wanted to know if there have been improvements in the areas of Air Quality and Waste Management. She asked the Department to explain how it planned to develop rural areas for food security, and if the implementation of poverty alleviation and job security covered these communities.

Mr Peter Lukey, Chief Director: Air Quality Management and Climate Change Mitigation, Department of Environmental Affairs, answered saying the Department acknowledged the problem of air quality and waste management problems in affected areas like Durban, Secunda and Sasolburg. He stated it was a classic case of bad planning. However steps had been taken by the municipalities affected to improve air pollution reduction. For instance, the minister published the Vaal Triangle Air Pollution Management Plan in order to bring that area to compliance and it was a multi-stakeholder project.

Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, replied, on the issue of food security, that the Department found it difficult to explain the concept of eco-system services. He said the Department was aware that biodiversity underpinned most of the economic activities. The only thing the Department did was to conserve these ecosystems so that people could benefit from them e.g. conserving mountains so that people could get water.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) commented that the Department had done very little to reach the targeted percentage it aimed to achieve in employing the disabled and asked this to be addressed quickly. Further, he asked if money from abalone sales and fines should not be used to assist in the operational costs of the marine vessels.

Mr Ishaam Abader, Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, explained the Department had earmarked posts for disabled people within the Department. It had taken this issue very seriously as a result it was looking at access to the building, lifts, toilets so that all these were able to work for the disabled. He said the Department noted the challenge to meet these targets because skilled disabled people were a scarce resource and they were always offered jobs by other institutions. Hence it was difficult to keep them.

Mr Fundisile Mketeni replied that the money that came from the sales and fines of the abalone was budgeted and used in the normal way. The Department would use some for the operations of the marine vessels though it still needed more.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked why the five hundred municipal waste sites that were not permitted were not solicited or made sure they happened. And she wanted to know about the efficacy of Buyisa e-bag.

Ms Nolwazi Cobbinah, Chief Director: Pollution and Waste Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, said the Department had contracted a service provider whose job it was to go to the municipalities to get all the information the Department required so that it could process the applications for the sites not permitted. The tender was R4 million and it was divided into two phases. Phase 1 dealt with the smaller sites that do not require EIA studies whereas Phase 2 dealt with big sites that required EIA studies and big money. And municipalities do not have money. The Department had put up two things:
- The consultants contracted were meant to engage the municipalities and compile the Municipal Infrastructure Grant applications that would go to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The Department had a problem with the way the municipalities had compiled those applications previously.
- The Department had engaged the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in two major projects: (a) The Municipal Infrastructure Grant Review. The Department made an input in that so that municipalities could get necessary funding for waste management (b) The Comprehensive Infrastructure Plan Project – with this the Department made provision for infrastructure across the country. The Department had made input to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of what the infrastructure requirements were in terms of waste management.

On the question of the Buyisa e-bag, Ms Cobbinah explained when Buyisa was established it spent a lot of time trying to get off the ground and setting up buy-bag centres. There were major problems in the way, for example, the issue of purchasing the land and permits. However, it had a number of buy-bag centres and had given infrastructure to them. Buyisa worked closely with Gauteng in terms of youth programmes. It had been involved with 15000 people in 40 clean-up campaigns across the country. At present, the Department was interrogating three things:
- Buyisa’s Strategic Plan
- Buyisa’s Business Plan (the Department would make an improvement on it as they need to focus not only on plastics)
- Buyisa’s Board (the Department wants to make it properly constituted).


Ms H Ndude (COPE) commended the Department for doing something for the depleting fishing resources in the country. She commented it was not rhinos only that were being poached but other rare species that were found in the Eastern Cape only. She also wanted to know the Department’s priorities in environmental education, and if there were incentives given to the private sector for actions it took towards mitigation.

Mr Ishaam Abader, Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, replied that the Department had embarked on a number of such initiatives. It had made sure that environmental awareness was included in the school curricula, and there were greening projects it was busy with, for example, the Greenest Town / Greenest Village. Competitions of such nature were happening. Many pilot projects were underway but funding remained the issue.

Mr Fundisile Mketeni, on the question of rare species, said a follow-up would be done on the killing and poaching of these rare species. Many of these species, he said, got lost every day due to land issues and many other activities.

The meeting was adjourned.

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