Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - meeting targets: Department of Water Affairs (DWA) briefing

Water and Sanitation

28 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department briefed the Committee on its situation with regard to the Millennium Development Goals and the centrality of water to other outputs in the Goals. There were no direct water indicators and no formal programme for water in the Goals. The following challenges were noted for continuous monitoring and consideration: success factors equalling risk factors; the definition of water services; sustainability of services; the risk of not meeting targets; bulk infrastructure dependency; programme and project management; logical delivery planning; and water resource management. The fragmentation of the services in the Department had resulted in a lack of delivery and resources to fulfil its mission.

Members asked if a mechanism existed to monitor municipalities and the reticulation in areas. The effectiveness of the implementation policies was questioned in relation to policies and legislation.

The Department explained the water related Goals and noted that most of the Goals hinged on an adequate supply of water. The Department did not have a unit that was main-streamed for the Goal targets, and it was noted that without the necessary funding these targets would not be met.

The Committee advised the Department to document its analysis to allow for the engagement with the Minister and to show that the Goals could not be met as the budget had decreased.

Members asked the Department to explain bi-lateral engagements with other Departments. The Department was praised for its establishment of a Water Services Business framework. The Committee heaped commendations upon the Department for its efforts. The Department raised its cognisance of international agreements on human rights that clearly spoke to the need for water and sanitation. Members raised the problem of the lack of delivery by municipalities. Members asked for clarity about how the backlogs were calculated. Members praised the depth of the report and the analysis provided. The Committee adopted 'the Cancun Report.

Meeting report

Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Acting Director-General and Deputy Director-General: Regions, stated that in 2005 South Africa had met the goals of making sure that the number of people without access to water was halved. The sanitation target was met at a later stage in 2008.   So as a country, politically a decision was taken that by 2010 the target was much more ambitious than as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
When embarking on an accelerated programme there were surely things that were compromised in the process. One of them was the operation and maintenance of that infrastructure. There should have been a balance in terms of investment, because there was not only a focus on new infrastructure, but also making sure that there was proper maintenance. The lesson to be shared on international platforms was that proper sustainability principles needed to be in place. The other lesson was that there was much focus by the MDGs on the access to water. This could not be seen in isolation, as there was a need to develop the infrastructure and water resources to support growth. A situation was faced in many parts of the country where water was a constraint to development. This was the country that had come up with the concept of ‘Water for Growth and Development’

Water was central to other outputs in the MDGs. The Department was trying to adopt the programmatic approach it had focused on before to move forward.

Department of Water Affairs briefing:
Mr Fred van Zyl, Director: Water Services, Department of Water Affairs, first provided a brief understanding of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) broadly, and the eight relevant goals specifically. There was no direct water indicator, and no formal programme for water in the MDGs.

The challenges were outlined with the caution that the country faced major challenges. The following challenges were noted for continuous monitoring and consideration: success factors equalling risk factors; the definition of water services; sustainability of services; risk of not meeting targets; bulk infrastructure dependency, programme and project management; logical delivery planning and water resource management.

The international performance related to water and sanitation in Africa was explained as was the strong relationships between the success factors and risk areas. (Please see presentation document). Sanitation had been handed over to the Department of Human Settlements. The Department was not on the same delivery patterns as before.

Dr S Huang (ANC) asked about the backlog for water supply, and expressed confusion about the access to water infrastructure and the 41% increase illustrated in the graph. He could not understand how this was attained. He asked further if the blue line in the graph reflected the backlog.

Mr Van Zyl said that with regard to the issue about certain people having access and the backlogs, the Department had attempted to present both issues in one slide. The title of the slide did not correctly indicate those who had access and those who did not.

Mr Van Zyl replied that the blue line in the slide was used because this was just a technical presentation. It did not matter whether it represented a backlog of 40% or 41%; it carried the message of the backlog.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) commended the Department on the presentation, and asked if there was a mechanism in place to monitor municipalities and the reticulation in those areas.  

Mr Van Zyl replied that only statistical evidence was considered valid and the Department had been instructed not to try to present other envelopes. The Portfolio Committee and Cabinet had issued this instruction in 2003, which stated that only valid statistics could be presented, not other envelopes. The statistics presented here today had been validated by Statistics South Africa.

Mr Mathebe asked how effective was the implementation of policies and legislation in maintaining the MDGs.

Mr Van Zyl said that the question of implementation was a very important one. How did we set this up? The Department could cover all the macro areas and had in the past set up a dedicated support team, which had mobilised from the churches and included the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Where the money flowed to local government, the Department actually had a hands-off approach, so it had cut back on all those implementation actions. The NGOs were trying desperately to assist and were asking why they could not mobilise all their efforts. More resources had to be mobilised to support local government. There were also implementation challenges, for example like the depth of pipelines not being met. The Department was in the process of setting up a database as part of the investment framework.

Mr Mathebe asked how the unit main-streamed the MDG targets into the policies and programmes of the Department.

Mr Van Zyl said that understanding targets was important, as Cabinet wanted the Department to meet its targets by 2014. The Department had to indicate what it needed to do to meet its targets in next three years. More money was needed and the targets would not be met without it. If the Department continued with the current trend then targets would only be met in about another 15 years.  Previously there was 2% eradication, now the level was 0.5%. On the Human settlements programme for the agreed upon Outcome 8, the backlog was at 2.4 million households needing services. 400 000 households were being upgraded over four years; this meant that 100 000 households would be upgraded per year, with a backlog of 2.4million.

The Chairperson suggested that the Department, as part of this input, should give this kind of analysis in writing, and engage the Minister with this input. Cabinet would then see that the Millennium goals on Water would not be met as the budget in real terms had decreased.

Mr G Morgan (DA) complimented the Department on its record keeping and thoughtfulness regarding the challenges of system. The report allowed one to have a snapshot of the country’s situation at any given time. The Department was thanked for the good presentation.

Dr S Kalyan (DA) said that the detailed presentation had picked up on the frustrations regarding certain competencies that had been given to other ministries. The Department was appealing to this Committee for support in taking up a leadership role. She asked what the Department’s interaction had been with the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Health as water was directly involved in other MDGs.

Mr Van Zyl said that during the first five years with the MDGs, the Department had a dedicated bi-lateral task team with the Department of Education and the Department of Health to sort things out. But in the end it was about who lead this programme. The Department was looking at the revision of all bi-laterals.

Dr Kalyan said that the country had progressed well in establishing a Water Services Business framework. She asked what relevance it had for the Department, and what the Committee should know about this.

Mr Van Zyl replied that the country had succeeded in getting a business framework sorted out. This was quite a big business as it referred to the turnover of water services, which was at R17 billion. Total services for economic development had to be strengthened. 

Dr Kalyan asked how much credit the Department could take, and how much credit the municipalities could take in achieving this particular MDG.

Mr Van Zyl said this was a team effort and the Department would drive the process. The focus was on partnerships and the Department would re-activate provincial leadership and the partnership with municipalities.

Dr Kalyan asked if the Ministry had a dedicated unit, which dealt only with MDGs, as she had picked up on a fragmented approach in dealing with certain issues.

Mr Van Zyl replied that the Department did not have a unit dedicated to the MDGs, but it had one for water services; because it was not just for the MDGs, it had been part of the business of the Department for all the years.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation and said that there should be a plan for the Committee developed by the Department of Cooperative Governance (DoCG), the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Water Affairs on the MDGs, as she was concerned that some provinces had been left behind, especially the rural provinces.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that the information provided by the Department was appreciated, and this kind of reporting would assist the Committee in its work.

Mr Helgard Muller, Acting Deputy Director-General: Policy and Regulation, said that even though the Committee had asked for a presentation on the MDGs, one had to look at the issue internationally and see the other international decision that had been taken. The United Nations (UN) had taken a decision last year on the human right to water and sanitation, and this was an important decision. The MDGs had a limit because they spoke about halving the backlog. From an international human rights perspective, however, the UN decision was much more important, because human rights talked about water and sanitation for every individual. So human rights to water and sanitation was far more progressive than the MDGs. Everyone had that right and it was not just about halving backlog.

Ms Mbassa said that this discussion was the best way to take matters forward. What had been revealed here was what the real challenges were. The Constitution had placed the responsibility to provide water on the municipalities. The municipalities were configured with their powers and functions and if one looked back it begged the question if what was required was to revise some of the decisions, powers and functions of municipalities, including the demarcation issues. There was this realisation on the part of Government that the revision of powers and functions needed to take place. The Department had made an input on how municipalities should function, and there were fundamental issues and the structural configuration had to be dealt with; this was a political process. The Department could provide leadership, but it had to be asked what it meant, if the Constitution said that municipalities had to provide water, but history told us that these municipalities, irrespective of the support given, would never be able to perform this function.

The Chairperson said that the powers located at different levels created certain difficulties.

Dr Huang asked for clarity regarding how the achievements of backlogs were calculated. 

Mr van Zyl replied that if, for example, one said that the water supply was 60% and the backlog was 40%, if  one said that the backlog had to be halved, then it meant that 20% of the backlog had to be eradicated. The calculation was done in terms of where the water supply had to be halved. 

Ms H Ndude (COPE) commented on Ms Mbassa’s input and said that she had always responded in the same manner since joining this Committee in 2009. She had reached the point where she became really annoyed when a person said the same thing over and over again. Ms Mbassa was trying to shift the responsibility when she spoke in this manner, and alluded to the fact that it was not the responsibility of the Department as it was always the responsibility of the municipality. Since she had joined this Committee in 2009 she had not come up with a turnaround strategy. When a person was lazy to think they would speak in this manner. Listening to the same response for the past three years had annoyed her.

Dr Kalyan raised a point of order and noted that Ms Ndude had not heard the presentations where the delegation of responsibilities to other departments had been made clear.

The Chairperson said that every Member was entitled to express his or her views. However it should be noted that, in its presentation, the Department had showed how some of their powers had been taken away.

Ms Ndude said that Ms Mbassa always responded in the same way.

The Chairperson said that the input about the fragmentation of water services, and the excellent analysis of the problems faced in last few years where water services were not provided, should have been listened to and taken note of. Functions had been taken away from the Department and given to the Department of Human Settlements.

Mr Mathebe stated that there should be mindfulness about language used; because it was unacceptable to say that a person was lazy to think. Ms Mbassa had responded to the issues that had been raised.

The Chairperson said that a way for the integration of services had to be found. The Committee had seen the analysis and the results of the Department’s efforts. The outcomes called for a response to facilitate improvement and avoid similar outcomes. The Committee needed information of the different standards and the problems that the provinces were experiencing. This information was required in July 2011, as this would form the basis of what the Committee wanted for its oversight. It was important to assess how much there was available, and how much water was needed for services. This would provide critical information on the water situation in the country and would illustrate the percentage that was not monitored. 

The Committee passed 'the Cancun Report' unanimously.

The Chairperson stated that every time the Committee met with this Department, Members became more enthused. The Department should continue with the good work. The new Minister had ensured improvements and this had encouraged the Committee. The National Water Resource Strategy required in August 2011 should include some of the analysis presented here today. This report should be upgraded and should form part of the strategy document.

The following question was raised
Mr Mathebe asked if the Department had factored in the effect of Climate Change while working to attain the target in 2014.

The following concerns were raised
Dr Huang expressed confusion about the total cost estimate of water being at R83 billion rand, with the reticulation at a minimum of 16 years with available funding.

Dr Huang said that, in a list of strategic perspectives for the Department, one of the goals was to achieve 100% coverage by 2014, yet it was also stated that, with the Human Settlement programme, it would be unlikely to achieve this goal. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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