Minister of Water on Business Process Review (BPR) & Department of Water Affairs Strategic Plan 2012

Water and Sanitation

16 April 2012
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs noted the need for a turnaround strategy in the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and said that a legislative review of three pieces of legislation related to water was also under way. She then introduced the experts who comprised the Business Process Review Committee (BPRC), and said that they would be working with the DWA in a complementary role. Water was not yet seen as central to development, and many of the infrastructural challenges were historic and based on apartheid patterns, and the current legislation did not allow for effective change or public participatory processes. The difficulties were exacerbated by lack of skills, particularly in engineering, and policy reforms needed to be pro-poor.

The BPRC was established in July 2011, to prepare a report on the operations of the DWA, based upon ten work streams. Each of the members of BPRC present then outlined the focus of his or her work stream. The Finance stream was concentrating on audit issues and had already achieved substantial progress, was interrogating finance capacity requirements and ensuring suitable personnel, as well as achieving alignment across  the various projects, regions and municipalities. Members asked if there had been consultation also with other departments in relation to the turnaround, if reporting conflicts were being addressed, and if Departmental staff were giving support. They enquired about water resource management at a local government level, questioned the high staff turnaround, and how funding requested would be used.

BPRC then outlined its operational analysis and culture, the communication methods n the Department, citing nine projects, and noted that it was seeking a new service provider for ICT solutions, with the intention of a handover process from September 2012 to March 2013. The legislative review was briefly mentioned, although the DWA went into more detail on it later. Institutional alignment was seen as a consultative process and there would be hearings with stakeholders. The water boards could be democratised still further, to allow greater public participation, through a tribunal, and through rewriting of the National Water Resource Strategy. The need for greater awareness and education was stressed, as well as the need to improve the whole value chain.  Members asked about hindrances to infrastructure development, whether the asset register now included dams, the position at Nandoni Dam, and the possibility of centrally planned strategies. They questioned the objectives of the human resources team, vetting, whether retired engineers would be hired, whether skills audits had been done, and empowerment of existing staff. Members asked about the wisdom of moving sanitation services away from the DWA, requested further engagement on the proposed tribunal.

The Department of Water Affairs started with the presentation of its strategic plan and budget, emphasising the legislative review, the filling of posts, and the budget cuts. The presentation would continue of the following day.

Meeting report

Minister on Business Process Review (BPR)
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Hon Edna Molewa, introduced her delegation which included Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and the Business Process Review Committee. The need for a turnaround strategy in the department was stressed. The Leader of Government Business had already been informed of the Department’s intention to amend parts of existing legislation. Members were introduced to the thirteen experts comprising the Business Process Review Committee. The role of these experts who, unlike previous “consultants”, would work complementary and not superior to department employees, was outlined. Emphasis was placed on the need for water to be seen in government as central to development as it currently was not being seen as a sector leader.

She acknowledged that most of the infrastructural challenges faced in the provision of water were inherited from the country’s history of injustice. Also, current legislation did not allow for some of these challenges to be addressed effectively. The National Water Act [No 36 of 1998] and the Water Services Act [No 108 of 1997] in particular did not allow for public participation in changing the status quo. Some suggested the various water users associations were at times suggested as solutions however democracy in their establishment was questionable. These infrastructural challenges were exacerbated by lack of skills, particularly in engineering and related fields. Policy reforms need to address equity with a pro-poor bias. This would lead to re-allocation of water as currently 62% of the country’s water was used in agriculture with only 2-3% allocated for household use, stalling numerous housing developments for the poor.

Business Process Review Committee (BPRC)
Ms Bridgette Mabandla, Chairperson of the Business Process Review Committee (BPRC), said her team was established in July 2011. Its task was to prepare a report on the operations of the Department based on their terms of reference which they had sub-divided into ten work streams:
▪ Human Resources and Organisational Development
▪ Finance
▪ Infrastructure
▪ Water Trading Entities
▪ Institutional Realignment,
▪ Mandate and Strategy
▪ Communications
▪ Management,
▪ ICT
▪ Policy and Legislation

She proceeded to introduce those team members in attendance and their relevant work stream, and apologised on behalf of those absent owing to work commitments.

BPRC: Finance
Mr Abel Dlamini, BPRC: Finance, introduced himself – and his colleague (in absentia) in the Finance work stream. They were Chartered Accountants with numerous years of public finance experience. Together they worked on two aspects within Finance – Financial Management and Auditing; with the latter driven by his colleague and the former by himself. Work in this stream entailed the goal of achieving clean audits from the Auditor-General. Remarkable improvement was already shown thus far, with very few remaining audit-related queries as would be seen in the Chief Financial Officer’s report. Part of their mandate was also to interrogate capacity requirements in the Department’s finance divisions and put in place mechanisms to ensure the employment of suitably qualified personnel. Aligning the financial activities of the Department’s various projects, regions, provinces and municipalities was also a priority.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked if consultation had taken place with other departments who underwent successful turnaround strategies like Home Affairs. He asked if conflicts arising from regional financial managers reporting to regional political heads instead of their national financial counterparts, had been addressed.

Mr Dlamini responded that consultation had taken place with the Department of Home Affairs and had helped to make expectations of their BPRC team outcomes more realistic. The duration of their term was one year whereas the Home Affairs turnaround took roughly three years to complete.

Ms Sharlotte Naidu, BPRC: Human Resources, noted that the changing of reporting lines was something the Department would need to make a decision on, based on whether there was a real need.

Mr G Morgan (DA) expressed pleasure that vacancies had been filled and asked whether BPRC members had received sufficient support from the Department’s permanent staff in light of possible territorial conflicts.

Mr Dlamini responded that regional financial managers and Department senior managers were happy to have them participate in their operations because they were not like consultants employed by the Department previously.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked what the Department was doing about water resource management at a local government level.

Minister Molewa mentioned that institutional realignment and the Department’s turnaround aimed to make this more efficient at a local government level.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked if any reasons were uncovered for the high staff turnaround and vacancy rates and whether prejudice and nepotism had been ruled out of the Department.

Mr Dlamini responded that staff capacity was something they got involved in only at the short-listing phase by checking the job specifications and applicant qualifications. He did not respond to the question about high turnaround.

Dr S Huang (ANC) mentioned newspapers reporting that the Department was looking for R578 billion rand to fund some of its projects – some of which was expected to come from international investors. He asked how the Department intended to use these funds.

Minister Molewa responded that the Department was not addressing the need for R578 billion in its strategic planning and financial reporting this year, however the Department was thinking of major infrastructural developments to support the country’s development and the New Growth Path. R236 billion was required over the next ten years for institutional realignment of water boards – for creating nine water boards for nine the provinces (instead of arbitrarily created ones), R96 billion was for maintenance of the country’s dams and related water infrastructure, and R59 billion was required for internal value chain support. She said the Committee should be wary of newspapers sensationalising such reports as water was central for the country’s development.

BPRC: Human Resource and Water Trading Entities convenor
Mr Tlhopeho Modise, BPRC: Human Resource and WTE convenor, spoke on the committee’s organisational analysis of the Department’s operations. Implementation of policies was a problem because the culture was more authoritative that it was performance driven. In a meeting with the Minister and top management three weeks previously, it was agreed that intervention was needed to make it more action-oriented.

BPRC: Communication
Dr Themba Mkhonto, BPRC: Communication, reported on communication methods in the Department particularly within the communications directorate and how it handled internal and external communication. Currently the BPRC team was working on nine projects with clear deliverables regarding communication – these were due before the end of the BPRC tenure in June this year.

BPRC: ICT
Mr Ray Motsepe, BPRC: Institutional Alignment, reported on behalf of Mr Joshua Kanjere, BPRC: ICT, about the Department’s ICT initiatives and strategies. The Department was currently looking for a new service provider for IT solutions and Mr Kanjere was currently in Pretoria briefing interested bidders. A new service provider would be appointed by September 2012 and the hand-over process from the old to the new would take place till 31 March 2013 when the new service provider would operate on its own. Capacity within the Department would also be increased by approximately six people to enable proper management of the service provider so as to avoid a “tail wagging the dog” scenario which was common in the past with the service provider dictating terms to the Department instead of the other way around.

Ms Mabandla added further that the realignment of IT across the Department nationally was in collaboration with Finance, Treasury, and the Auditor-General.

Minister Molewa added that the current service provider had operated for three consecutive terms and the renewal to the third was subject to the signing of a handing over clause to enable a new service provider when the term ended. However, legally the current provider was not precluded from bidding again.

Ms Mabandla said that legislative review was something the Department had been already working on before the BPRC team was appointed. However, BPRC looked at this process in terms of existing policy and the White Paper. Therefore the Department was expected to approach Parliament to amend the Water Act – importantly, to include a clause for the establishment of a Water Tribunal; while the Water Services Act required some aspects repealed.

BPRC: Institutional Alignment
Mr Motsepe explained that institutional realignment should be a consultative process and as such hearings would start tomorrow with a national rollout of various forums with all stakeholders, however Prof Muxe Nkondo would elaborate further.

Prof Muxe Nkondo criticised the lack of consistency in applying policy according to the White Paper on Water over the last 18 years. Water was a basic right; therefore the importance of participation of everyone – particularly the poor – was vital. Such participation was already taking place through water boards however it could be democratised further through the amendments to establish a tribunal. Rewriting the National Water Resource Strategy was also a priority. In the White Paper, the prominence of the state in interventions to bring about equity had also been lacking. Also there were insufficient enforcement mechanisms, as the Department and the Minister were not empowered to ensure policies and regulations were enforced. The role of water had such a fundamental and ubiquitous nature – critical to agriculture, mining, and tourism – yet the role of the Department as a sector leader was not sufficiently emphasised in the current policy environment. There was also inadequate education in schools and universities about water management and awareness of water as a scarce resource. Therefore liaising with basic and higher education to include this in the curriculum was a priority.

Mr Modise spoke on regional water utilities and the need to establish a water trading entity as well as defining policy on cooperation between the water utilities and the Department.

Minister Molewa agreed on the importance of enforcement mechanisms to ensure that policies and bills that were passed went beyond the jargon and were enforceable. She emphasised the need to refine and improve the entire sewer-to-tap-to-sewer value chain, making the entire business process efficient.

Discussion
Infrastructure Development
Mr G Morgan (DA) asked if there was any legislative red tape to infrastructure development, given current institutional alignment and autonomy of the three spheres of government.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked whether, since the previous year, the asset register had been updated to include those dams and other infrastructural developments identified as missing, and whether “the mess at Nandoni Dam” had be addressed.

The Chairperson asked if the possibility of a centrally planned strategy to infrastructural development had been looked into, so as to avoid uncoordinated programmes that conflicted between the different spheres of government.

Institutional Design
Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked for more information regarding the objectives of the multi-disciplinary human resources team, particularly whether their focus would be on present or future focus.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) asked if senior management vetting happened before employment was confirmed, as issues facing the department suggested that the Department tended to wait for a problem to happen before vetting took place.

Mr Morgan asked if the Department had any intention to hire some retired engineers, given the skills shortage it currently faced.

Mr Mathebe asked if a skills audit of the Department had been done to see if the right people were hired for the right positions.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) mentioned that the Department did have some skilled personnel employed in positions where they were underutilised, so maybe ways to empower existing staff were needed.

The Chairperson agreed with the Minister that certain aspects of the National Water Act, No. 36 of 1998, were outdated and needed revision, particularly Chapter 4, which had obligated the Department to check on water licences/allocations and how they were given in the past instead of focusing on the present. He expressed scepticism about the wisdom of moving sanitation services to another department, as Millennium Development Goals risked not being achieved, as outlined in the presentation by Mr van Wyk. He requested further engagement on the Department’s plans to establish a tribunal, as progress might be halted as a result because of capacity and knowledge.

The Minister stressed that the tribunal was meant to democratise water allocation and was meant to be an institution, not unlike a school’s governing body. She highlighted that the revising of the legislation was a project independently managed by the BPRC. For the posts advertised by the Department, vetting did take place, more than once, at the different stages of an applicant’s application – particularly so for senior positions.

The Minister noted that she was pressed for time, and would ask BPRC members to answer further questions on the multidisciplinary human resources team and empowerment of existing employees. She noted, however, that retired engineers were being sourced by the Department through the Department of Public Works database, to find extra skills capacity. In regard to the comments about sanitation being moved to another department, she noted that this was a decision made by the President, but if the prevailing view was that it should return to the Department of Water Affairs, then further engagement should be held on the issues at a later stage.

The Minister was excused and the BPRC chairperson asked her members to answer some outstanding questions.

Mr Motsepe requested the Committee to note that local government budget cycles differed to those of provincial and national, creating problems for strategic planning for the Department. In addition, municipalities blamed other spheres for “fiscal dumping”.

Mr Modise told members that, when assisting the Department with filling vacancies, BPRC assisted with the entire process to ensure adequate vetting, and sufficient reasons for excluding those applicants not shortlisted.

Prof Nkondo emphasised the need for water education at basic and higher education level and said engagement was necessary between the Department of Water Affairs and the two departments responsible for basic and higher education respectively. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) would also be approached to ensure that engineering students had work experience included in their completion requirements to receive their degrees. He also said under-performing water boards which either lacked skills or had poor funding would be merged to create greater capacity.

Department of Water Affairs Strategic Plans
Mr Trevor Balzer, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Water Affairs, introduced the delegation.

Mr Maxwell Sirenya, Director General, Department of Water Affairs, read through the Department’s strategic plans (set out in the attached handout), and the Director-General’s Overview (see attached document). He emphasised that the Department was busy with a legislative review of the Water Act, Water Services Act and Water Research Act. He also noted that the Water Research Commission, formed in terms of the Water Research Act, currently had a vacancy in the position of Chairperson.

In relation to the Department, he commented that the senior management organogram positions were filled except for that of Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services. That incumbent was presently on suspension and legal action was pending. No replacement could be appointed until that process had been finalised.

Ms Nthabiseng Fundakubi, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Water Affairs, tabled and explained the presentation on the financial matters (see attached document for full details). She noted that some of the programmes had seen budget cuts and this arose because of underspending in those programmes, or late submission of budget proposals from relevant budget directors.

At this point the meeting was adjourned, to be continued on the following day.

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