Postponement of meeting with Department of Environmental Affairs on the analysis of COP17

Water and Sanitation

07 February 2012
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting to look at the assessments and analysis of the COP17 meeting did not take place as the Department had requested a delay as the document had to first be circulated to the other Departments and had to be passed by Cabinet. The Committee members were not impressed to have received a note only in the morning of the meeting reflecting bad planning on the part of the Department. The Committee took the opportunity to discuss their programme for the year. They also had a chance to convey their disappointments to the Department who joined the meeting later.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members many of whom were attending their first meeting in 2012. In addition, he welcomed Ms M Wenger, the new DA Member, who replaced Dr S Kalyan who had been promoted to a new position and would no longer be in the Committee. The Chairperson asked the DA Members to convey the Committee’s best wishes to Dr Kalyan on her new appointment.

Postponement of Meeting & Update on Programme
The Chairperson noted that in terms of the agenda the Committee was scheduled to engage with the Department of Environmental Affairs about the COP17 conference. However, he had been informed that very morning that the meeting would no longer be taking place because the presentation document had not yet been approved by Cabinet and must still be circulated to other departments before it could come to the Committee. The Department had therefore requested a postponement and the Committee had acceded to this.  He was nevertheless outraged that no one from the Department had arrived at the meeting.

The Chairperson highlighted some of the activities on the Committee’s programme noting that the Department’s strategic plan would be tabled on 7 of March after which the budget could be processed.

He had tried to fit into the programme the report for acid mining drainage and had set aside the last week of June to look at implementation of climate change. He had asked Mr Morgan and Ms Manganye to set up a team to look at the proposed study tour somewhere to the East of China as China was seen as one country who had done a lot already on water matters and on the issue of climate change. The Committee would also need to take a few days or a week to spend with the Department in Pretoria.

An official from the Department of Environment entered the meeting at this stage and the Chairperson expressed his disappointment that it had not taken the time to come and inform the Committee in person even though he had received the note in the morning.

Ms Judy Beaumont, the newly appointed Deputy Director-General for Climate Change informed the Committee that Department was quite confused and it needed to get instructions from the Director General who had only just landed in the city. The Department had received different instructions from different places causing confusion.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had been very accommodating with the Department and all he was asking of the Department was some respect for the process. The Department needed to heed to the requests by the Committee to be present as only the Committee could decide.

The Chairperson further stated that there was a need for an assessment on how to get to the next COP in December. He was hoping that the Committee would get the assessment documents soon. He requested that the Department needed to give the assessment to the Committee by the end of the day.

Ms Beaumont informed the Committee that the Assessment was on the Cabinet schedule, and was going to Cabinet the coming week on 22 February.

The Chairperson said that things could be moved around on the 28th of February. He congratulated Ms Beaumont on her appointment and he trusted that her relationship with the Committee would be a fruitful one. He informed her that the Committee was still processing the report on the white paper as there were one or two shortcomings. He requested that the Department to start to get other Departments on board such as Energy, Finance and Water Affairs to see how to get a structure going as stated in the white paper.

Mr G Morgan (DA) echoed the Chairperson’s concerns about the arrangements for the day. He was worried that the Department had spent roughly R20,000 to come to Cape Town only for the meeting not to take place. This pointed to a waste of resources. He asked the official to convey a message to the DG that the Department was wasting resources due to bad planning.

Ms Beaumont explained that the Department was not just in Cape Town for the current meeting but was also attending others such as the National Planning Commission meeting. However, the Department had taken the point about bad planning. In going forward, the Department had started the process of doing analysis of the deliverables and stakeholders. It would be moving with speed since there was a limited time frame. She asked the Committee for specific directions from its process with the white paper.

The Chairperson replied that if the Department had come to the meetings frequently, it would have received very good summaries of the discussions that took place. There were a couple of errors that were in the white paper that needed to be dealt with though the most important thing was the structures that needed to be set up and operating.

The Chairperson asked the Department if the amendments could be made available to the Committee.

Mr Peter Lukey, Acting Deputy Director-General: Climate Change and Chief Director: Air Quality, Department of Environmental Affairs, informed the Committee that the document had been sent to his office a week before, but he would resend it.

As there were no further issues to be discussed, the meeting was adjourned.


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