The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism reported that there had been no unauthorised or irregular expenditure and they had received an unqualified audit report from the Auditor-General. The Department was top of Department of Public Service and Administration’s audit list. Their internal audit committee was fully functional.
The Committee fielded many questions which included challenges in terms of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) functioning capacity, carbon footprint of government departments, abalone protection, environmental courts, integrated waste management plan readiness of municipalities, Greening 2010, green grading of hotels, reduction of un-permitted waste sites, Vredefort Dome proclamation as a world heritage site, hazardous medical waste, learnerships, bursaries and vacancies.
The Director General, Ms Nozipho Ngcaba, the Chief Financial Officer, Mr Dirk van Schalkwyk, Mr Ishaam Abader, DDG: Corporate Affairs, Mr Fundesile Mketeni, DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation, Mr Monde Mayekiso, DDG: Marine and Coastal Management were part of the DEAT delegation that addressed the Committee on the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Annual Report 2008/09.
The Director General looked at the performance of each six programme of the Department (see document):
Programme 1: Administration
Programme 2: Environmental Quality and Protection (EQP)
Programme 3: Marine and Coastal Management (MCM)
Programme 4: Tourism
Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation (B&C)
Programme 6: Sector Services and International Relations (SSIR)
She spoke about the transfers to each of the Department’s agencies such as Isimangaliso Wetland Park, SA Weather Services, Marine Living Resources Fund, South African National Biodiversity Institute and SA National Parks. There had been no unauthorized or irregular expenditure. They had complied with all disclosures. They had received an unqualified audit report from the Auditor-General. The Department was top of Department of Public Service and Administration’s audit list. Their internal audit committee was fully functional. In terms of their financial statements, there was an under-spending of R7,6 million. This was slotted for air quality testing equipment that had not been put in place yet.
Mr G Morgan (DA) congratulated the Department on coming top on the DPSA list and for spending 100% of their budget. He said that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism was the best performer of all the departments on financial management. He asked them to expand on the Vredefort challenges and what was going on with the Vredefort proceedings. He asked them to expand on EIA practitioners and where they were with regards to the formation with the industry on a co-ordinating body. He said Minister van Schalkwyk had engaged with that particular industry and said they would work together in creating an institution which would be like a board of charted accountants that regulated itself. He asked where were they with regards to achieving this and what had been the challenges getting there. He asked if the gazetted standards and quality of practitioners were equally applied to both people in provincial and national departments. He worried about the Free State and Gauteng which had massive vacancies and asked what they were doing to fill those vacancies.
Mr Morgan said that it would be important to add to their performance management a carbon footprint performance measurement. It was good that they had decreased on paper and energy use but that they should set targets for everything and decrease it year on year and then report to Parliament on the steps they had taken to minimize their carbon footprint. They must lead the way as it was something which all departments must come to grips with shortly. He asked whether there was a process in the Department or marine coastal management that was specifically looking at a solution to the abalone fishery problem. He asked if there was a move to open the fishery or parts of the fishery. He asked if the science was up to date on the fishery as the decision of whether to open it up fully, partially or not at all - was based on science and it was important that an informed decision was made.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked what the priority crimes mentioned in the report were and what was considered priority crimes. She asked when the environmental courts would be in place. She referred to page 24 of the report where it mentioned that there was a baseline of 75% conviction rate and now it appeared they were sitting with a 0% conviction rate. She asked what they were measuring against and what was the baseline. It was her understanding that municipalities should report on waste management plans and asked if they did do this and whether it was assessed and if they kept tabs on the municipalities’ implementation on waste management. She said some municipalities implemented greening programs for 2010 and asked if there was an overall management of the greening of 2010 World Cup. The Director General had spoken about programs like street cleaning but street cleaning was not a sustainable means of waste management. If they wanted people to stop littering they needed to stop putting out the message that littering created jobs - she asked them to respond to this.
Ms Lovemore said that their energy and paper reductions were wonderful and asked why water and general waste reduction besides paper were not included. She asked why they did only carbon foot printing and why not all foot printing such as water. She asked if they were actively engaged in encouraging other people to foot print, that is, environmental foot printing and not just carbon. She asked about intergovernmental interaction on this. She was led to believe that a number of governmental departments were meant to have environmental plans in place. She asked if this was in place and if they kept tabs on this. She asked if they were involved in hotels receiving green grading as a star rating based on environmental factors.
Ms Lovemore said that plastic bag levy was 4c and that if 2 billion were sold, there should be R80 million in their budget but according to the report there was only R20 million. She asked what had happened to the other R60 million why this financial environmental levy was not entirely utilszed by the Department.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked if would be possible for members of the committee to be work shopped about global warming climate change. They needed to be very clear about it because they were the people that should explain it to the masses. She asked what was being done about reducing un-permitted waste disposal sites as she was worried because there were people squatting on the dumping sites. She asked whether the greening of the nation and community areas was still happening and if it involved the growing of vegetable gardens.
Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) said he wanted to congratulate the good leadership in the department. He said on page 18 of the annual report they complained about capacity issues and asked to which capacity issues they referred. He was worried they were referring to not having the necessary capacity for external communications because this was how they reached the communities they were representing. The vacancy rate issue was something that all the departments were faced with and he suggested that they should have a meeting with the directors general of all the departments to discuss this. He said they should start the employment process in the previous financial year so that the people could start working in April the next financial year. He asked if there was an asset management policy that had a register that contained information of the particular asset, its origin and lifespan. He said they needed to be more educated than any other Members on environmental issues such as global warming climate change so that they could go out to the communities with the necessary capacity and information.
Mr P Mathebe (ANC) referred to the environmental learnership they were providing to students. He understood that the recruitment for this was placed in national papers. There were some deep rural areas that did not have print media and asked how they sent this information to those areas. He referred to the money they transferred to other organisations other than the department’s agencies and asked whether they had measures in place to see whether this money was being used for what it was intended. He asked how they allocated this money to the organisation and what criteria they used to dish this money out.
Ms H Ndude (COPE) referred to where the report mentioned that some work areas could not be performed and implemented because of shortage of staff and she asked which areas had vacancies. She was worried about the hazardous waste dumping which affected the poorest communities. These dump sites were often close to the people and she had heard that there were hospital companies that dumped their dangerous hazardous waste near the townships. She asked if the plan mentioned in the report to prevent this included the different municipalities and whether there was a time frame for the plan to be implemented. The department at a national level was a custodian of these environmental concerns and they should play a role of monitoring and inspecting that implementation was taking place even in the municipalities.
Ms Ndude referred to the training of the Small, Medium, Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and said the figure was very high and impressive but asked it was concentrated in only one province or region or if it reflected the whole country. She asked from where the SMMEs were coming. She said that rural provinces all suffered the most. The present government was always talking about the importance of rural development and asked if there was any integration of the broader plan of government with this issue. She asked if the SMME training reached the rural areas. She asked what measures the Department was taking against industries that were not complying with green house gas emission regulations. The regulations were there but what was lacking was implementation. The Department as custodian must make sure that implementation was there. She said that they needed to go out to rural South African and run awareness programs as many people were unaware of important issues such climate change and that the environmental educational material needed to be translated into the vernacular languages.
Ms Manganye (ANC) referred to page 23 of the report where it mentioned that they had reached 2.5% of their targeted 30% reduction of un-permitted waste disposal sites. It mentioned that all municipalities owning 116 sites had been visited and compiled applications. She asked what was the progress and if they as a national department had gone back to those municipalities to see if they had complied with those regulations. Did they do follow ups on those municipalities that had not aligned themselves? She said that the report mentioned the better practice of a bio-plan that they said would be much better and asked to have the details of this plan clarified. She referred to what was mentioned in the report about the non-availability of hunting norms and standards and asked what the situation was like now and whether hunters were really free to do as they liked
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) referred to the challenges mentioned by the Department in meeting the target for employment of disabled people. She said that many disabled people were unable to market themselves and their occupations, non-government organisations (NGOs) were lobbying for the employment of these people by government departments. She said that the Department must obtain more information about what occupations were offered. She asked why it had taken so long for the Department to investigate these occupation because she knew the NGOs were there lobbying for the employment of these people. She asked if the Department had any knowledge of the White Paper on the Integrated National Disability Strategy where disabled people identified the areas/occupations that needed to be taken up by the various government departments.
The Chairperson said they needed to congratulate the Department on doing well with their finances. She said that they would be asking the Department to do a workshop on climate change. She had heard that people chose to live on the dumping sites because this was how they made their money - by sorting out the waste and selling it to recycling depots. She referred to the hazardous hospital dumping and said that the Department must make a plan with the stakeholders and hospitals and find ways to avoid this from happening. She asked what the relationship was between provincial MECs and municipalities.
Director General’s response
Ms Nozipho Ngcaba said that the EIA practitioners’ institution of a self regulation initiative was still in progress. They had a business plan that committed funding for all the planning and all the work connected to interacting with the sector and also the qualification board. There was R500 000 allocated for this but with Treasury’s tight fiscal situation there was a bit of slowing down. Thus, although they were supposed to have approved a three-year plan with industry, they had only been able to commit to one year. This current year they were financing but she was not sure if they could conclude the work in the following year subject to availability of resources.
They had a general challenge in terms of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) functioning and people were complaining about the delays with EIA. In some instances there were problems with the consultants because regulation required whoever was a developer must get an independent consultant to get an environmental impact assessment and process that with the authorities, either with the national department or the provinces. What then happened was that inexperienced service providers were then given responsibility for complex EIA processes. Due to that, there was an undermining of the process overall and there were delays back and forth from authorities to service providers. They had launched an independent review to assess what one could do better to improve efficiency and effectiveness of environmental impact assessment. She mentioned the issue of practitioners and said that a qualification had to be established and retained, so that there was a proper benchmarking system and include this in the self regulation package.
On the issue of vacancies, the Director General said that there were a lot of environmental impact assessment vacancies in the provincial departments and there were not enough practitioners to process EIAs due to the fact that very few had the proper qualifications. Due to these vacancies they could not cope with the EIA processing. They were working on a monitoring database system which would migrate to a national environmental assessment investigation system when fully operational. The provinces could then send them data and this would be provided to MECs. It would contain information such as vacancies and this would have a direct bearing on the processing of EIA applications. One of the big problems was not enough support to the provinces and they were appointing consultants that would provide support to deal with the backlog. However funds were becoming reduced and necessary funding for this was not available. They would continue with a support program if there was enough money.
With regards to performance management of the carbon footprint, they wanted to eventually expand to an entire environmental footprint. They had decided to start small so they could look at how to measure this and put this in place and to get a baseline and analyse the status quo. However, it required people spending time from work as they could not employ people especially to do this. They wanted to do it properly so that they had a recipe for other departments. They were considering using it in clusters and making sure other departments would follow their example. They wanted to introduce an element that requested private sector to report and monitor their footprint like they report their financial statements, especially companies that were listed. For the first five years it would be something voluntary and thereafter become something mandatory
She said that with regards to the abalone question, there were areas where the abalone was still prone. People could still fish in those zones as they did not have a completely collapsed stock. They were not allowed to fish as much as before and the levels for total allowance captured had gone down. The principal issue was that coastal poverty could not be solved through fish and fishery. The abalone was a type of fish species which took time to re-grow. It could take 5-10 years for it to recover. They faced a serious problem with poaching which Marine Coastal Management (MCM) had not been able to get on top of. There was an element of morality in that if they closed the fishery, people were negatively affected and the fish were still getting out the water through poachers. They were working on a document to present to Cabinet in two weeks’ time that made the necessary recommendations on what to do. The key warning they had received from scientists was that the stock could collapse if they opened the fishery - or even if they do not, because of poachers. They were putting together an enforcement strategy and if the security forces could not help them and they did not have enough resources, they would attempt to leave off other priorities and face this important issue. She spoke about the Priority Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice and the legislation to declare priority crimes. Their department had a list of what they had declared as priority crimes (such as land contamination and hazardous waste contamination) and they could work as a team together with provincial officers to perform busts in these areas.
She said that on the issue of environmental courts, the Minister had met with the Minister of Justice and there were more administrative processes they needed to present as a final product to the Minister in terms of the environmental courts. There were issues about whether to have a regional court or provincial court or normal court that had certain hours dealing with environmental crimes and the prosecutors with which they would work, had to have enough understanding of environmental crimes. The baseline on convictions was based on the previous year. They had taken information from previous practice and used that as starting point and wanted to improve from that point.
She said that with the integrated waste management plan, municipalities were meant to have these in place and the legislation was passed in July and this would give them the measures to enforce compliance in municipalities. It was difficult to force municipalities to comply and she did not know what could be best idea on this. She had been to most meetings in the districts in SA to understand if there was a thinking on environment. She had realized that there was not one person dedicated to run the function or budget. When she looked at the balance sheet of the poor municipalities, they were literally running for only basic services and environmental issues were not seen to be a basic service. It was thus very difficult to make environmental functions a bread and butter issue in those poor municipalities. Even with provincial funds the projects that they ran in the municipalities were not permanent interventions. They would run certain projects but they could not be there permanently. After a period of years when they would expect the municipalities to maintain the projects on their own and attempt to pull out, they would realize that their investment was going be a waste as it was not going to be something sustainable.
With the Greening 2010, they had issued broad framework guidelines for all host cities such as greening of areas and waste minimization. However many of the hosts cities had to fund interventions themselves and therefore they did not have full control of the strategies implemented. With the host cities that they were co-financing with donor funds, they would be able to monitor the implementation. At the end of World Cup the host cities were required to report on strategies implemented, the success rate and to reflect if the national strategy or framework had borne fruit. On the remark that street cleaning sends out the message that littering created jobs, she would have to answer, yes and no, street cleaning was not a luxury, it was a function that was financed and that happened every week. Street cleaning sent out awareness that showed the people that one needed to live in a clean environment and it discouraged littering but education and awareness must also be used to reinforce this. On an environmental plan for all departments to follow, in terms of NEMA, DEAT was compelled that for all functions of government that had an impacting function on the environment, they must develop an environmental implementation plan. All departments that had management functions must have an environmental management plan. They themselves had produced a four-year plan that was published for comment and then monitored. There were structures created in the Department where the DG looked at recommendations and approved them. Some departments did not comply and the Minister sent them warning letters.
On the issue of green grading, they had agreed on the system and that there were industry initiatives that members had explored for green grading and standards for grading in hotels and they had already run that as independent system. They had realised that they need to have a national system so that there was a national benchmarking framework. She said they were partnering with the National Heritage Council to look at a system.
In reducing un-permitted waste sites, they had intervened and appointed service providers to assist municipalities. They had identified 116 sites and were now waiting on them. They had had 88 applications that they were now dealing with and part of those were the 18 sites that DEAT had identified as needing to be closed as they were not in suitable places where there should be landfill site. Those were the things DEAT was working with municipalities and with the money they had, they provided the support. It would take them time but they would come back to the Committee to tell how long it would take to reduce the backlog.
They had done the costing on improvement of the whole waste permitting function and proper infrastructure for landfills which would cost the state R5 billion. Treasury was aware of this. They had participated in the process of municipality infrastructure grant review which showed that only 4% was allocated for waste management which included street lighting. That would not make a dent in terms of making decent waste facilities in those municipalities and they need proper investment in those area but it was out of their control as national department. They had a greening programme for the schools that involved the planting of vegetable gardens and indigenous trees. With the issue of capacity, they did not provide well for financing a communication function and in the future they would provide people to do the work and engage in the communities and with the community radio stations so that they can get the information out there. They did have an assist management policy and it did have a code but she was not sure if it was linked to a supplier or point of origin.
Mr Dirk van Schalkwyk referred to the Department’s accountability to municipalities and said that they did not transfer funding to municipalities. The municipalities got money via the province budgets through the Division of Revenue Act. On the matter of training, the training was linked to projects in relation to whether it was, for example, the Expanded Public Works Programme and then the people would be trained in plumbing. With the EIA issue, they were also waiting for what Treasury would give them for the new financial year and based on that they would have to identify what priorities they could attend to within their means.
When they transferred funding to other organisations, they complied with Section 37 of the Public Finance Management Act where they gave them clear principles that they needed to agree on. They needed to deliver on the goods and DEAT audited this and payments were based on that. Normally those institutions were used for specifics knowledge they had in a certain area.
Mr Fundisile Mketeni (DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation) said that there were problems in Vredefort that had started after they had tried to proclaim the site as a world heritage site. There were objections from landowners and this was when they started to get involved as a department. Initially there were two provinces engaging landowners, Free State and North West. DEAT wanted four things to happen: develop an Integrated Management Plan which had been done by Free State. However the landowners were not happy with it and said they had never been consulted and so they had started afresh and reviewed the same plan. They also wanted to have regulations to protect the site and have a management authority in terms of the Act. There were problems with the landowners as they were divided. Most wanted to have the site protected but some were busy with illegal developments. Therefore they were doing inspections and had given some landowners notices to comply. Some landowners wanted regulations that were very weak which DEAT felt would not protect the site. There was pollution in the Vaal River which was government’s problem but it was also caused by illegal developments by landowners. The landowners wanted to have veto rights on the board which was not possible in terms of the legislation and they want to take them to court. By February 2010, he said that they should have the site proclaimed and the deal closed with the landowners
With the bio-plan they had developed guidelines to guide the development of the plan. They had a couple of them in country. They wanted each bio-origin to have a plan because the areas were all different and there were different interests and land users in each area. The western part of the country was dryer, the northern part more woodland and the eastern part was tropical. They want each municipality to work with landowners and other developers to deliver the plans. During the next financial year, they wanted to push for more co-ordination in prioritising land users. Hunting was a business today and it was an industry that needed to be cleaned up as it was giving South Africa a bad name. Currently it was being controlled in terms of different legislation and the industry themselves had developed a code of ethics, but this was not enough. There were still a lot of bad elements involved in hunting. Some NGOs wanted to ban hunting in this country but he thought that could not work as it was a recognised industry and a recognised land use. Therefore they should develop norms and standards to make it cleaner and more attractive.
Mr Ishaam Abader (DDG: Corporate Affairs) said that there was a lack of EIA capacity both nationally and provincially. It was a multi-skilled discipline and therefore very difficult to pin down what an EIA practitioner should have as a qualification. The other issue was that if they found someone who was reasonably qualified there was usually poaching between national and provincial departments. What they had done was to try and standardise it and hopefully provide more clarity amongst practitioners. It would be difficult to have qualifications both in the private sector and in government and they would try as far as possible. They had appointed 50 learners in various government organisations and they would within their limited budget, try and get as many qualified people into the posts as possible. They were developing a sector skills plan and offering bursaries and internships to address the lack of skills.
The communication function was an issue of money. At the moment the Department did not have sufficient capacity in the communication section. That was being addressed and one of the Minister’s priorities was ensuring that environmental messaging was taken to the rural communities. They were busy developing a strategy and communications plan that specifically addressed public awareness particularly for people in rural areas
The issue of employing disabled people has been an ongoing problem for them. They had engaged with organisations that supplied these skills and they had identified posts in the Department for the filling of these skills but one of the problems was that disabled people had become very marketable and moved around often as everyone wanted to meet their equity targets but they had engaged various organisations to try and deal with the issue.
Ms Ngcaba said that, on the question of hazardous waste, she was not sure on the time frame and would have to come back to them on that. They had finalised a policy for incineration because part of the problem was medical waste because hospital incinerators were running at incorrect temperatures. The bio-products were still hazardous when dumped at the landfill sites. On learnerships, it was true that they were relying on print media but they would have to think of improved, more viable ways to reach the rural areas.
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