Disaster Management Centre operations and how its funds are distributed

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

28 August 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Nlhengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee heard that changes in climate warranted an increased investment on how disasters were handled as the extreme weather conditions would strain public resources. The National Disaster Management Centre was currently hugely understaffed, and it was not possible to deal with all the issues that the Centre was confronted with. However the Minister was determined to make the system work. The Minister was asking fundamental questions of municipal managers and MECs. The critical aspect up to now had been the lack of monitoring and evaluation in the provinces and municipalities. Detail was provided on how the different funds worked for disasters.

The Committee emphasised the importance of the National Disaster Management Centre committing to a programme of assessing the readiness of all the disaster management centres. The NDMC Head said a proper assessment of all the disaster management centres would be completed by the end of the year. The funding for Disaster Management was R775 million in 2012; R510 million in 2013; and R540 million in 2014 and the Committee wanted to know the reasons for this apparent decrease. The Chairperson noted that insufficient detail had been provided in the presentation.

Members sought clarity on the kind of education programmes that were happening on mitigating disasters and sought reassurance that the country could handle any disaster situation.
 Members voiced displeasure at the slow pace it took the Department to assist disaster victims, especially those in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape province. The Department promised a full report on KwaZulu Natal and explained that the verification process had taken a long time for homes of the 6 000 KZN families affected by floods in 2010. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson noted there would be a briefing on the Disaster Management Centre operations and how funds were distributed. This followed their visit to
KwaZulu Natal where assistance was lacking for victims of the various disasters that had beset that province. A follow up visit was needed to ascertain if assistance had been rendered to the victims of Cyclone Irina.

National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) presentation
Mr Ken Terry, Head: National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), said Government was constitutionally responsible for disaster management. Disaster management in SA was regulated by legislation. The Disaster Management Act made provisions for the establishment of centres in all three spheres of government. The centres were meant to make recommendations on the disaster funding.

The functions of the centres included communicating with disaster management role-players beyond government; establishing a disaster management information system; and prevention and mitigation. The centres should give guidance on how to assess, prevent and reduce disaster risks. But they should also monitor performance of disaster plans.

The NDMC administered the Fire Brigade Services Act which provided for the establishment, maintenance, employment, coordination and standardisation of fire brigade services. The Act was under review to ensure it was applicable with other relevant legislation.

Mr Terry said the current changes in climate warranted an increased investment on how disasters were handled. The increase in extreme weather conditions would strain public resources. Priority should be given to disaster management structures across the spheres of government for improved disaster risk reduction.

The NDMC had recently conducted an assessment to determine the functionality of the disaster management centres in the country. The results revealed varying degrees of functionality. The transition process to a stand-alone function, from the Defence Force and the Police, of disaster management had not been implemented at speed.

The creation of new municipalities had also contributed to the slow migration process. Nevertheless, a program of support had been put in place to fast track the transformation process to ensure all the centres were fully functional.

Mr Terry said the funding mechanism was in place for disaster management. The Provincial and Municipal Disaster Grant, commonly referred to as the Immediate Relief Fund (IRF), was for use within three months of occurrence of a disaster. An amount of R1.85 billion was allocated for the Immediate Disaster relief over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. The main objective was to proactively respond to the immediate needs after a disaster had occurred.

There was the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Funding that was sourced from National Treasury's contingency reserve fund. This fund was meant for medium to long-term support. The third one was the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Funding that was earmarked funds in the sector departments.

All organs of state could financially contribute to response efforts and post disaster recovery and rehabilitation. The cost of repairing or replacing public infrastructure should be borne by the department responsible for the maintenance of such infrastructure. All organs of state should budget for disaster response and recovery costs.

Once those budgets had been exhausted the concerned organ of state might request financial assistance from the National Treasury. Provinces should be able to fund response and recovery from the equitable share through a process of reprioritisation. The MTEF figures were R775 million in 2012; R510 million in 2013; and R540 million in 2014.

The Chairperson interjected and asked why there had been a decrease in the allocation. She said in a briefing earlier in the year, a department official indicated that this was “not a decrease”. Could Mr Terry explain that and how it came about?

Mr Terry replied that the National Treasury determined the figures; there was no indication as to why the figures were reduced subsequent to the initial sum. The Department had engaged National Treasury, and it had been hoped that they would be present. In an initial meeting COGTA had with National Treasury, it indicated that this was immediate release funding only. National Treasury had worked on the immediate release funding that was paid out in the first year, and funding was reduced based on that. This was done unilaterally, and not in consultation with COGTA.

Mr Terry said the amount was currently indicated under COGTA's Budget Vote. This amount showed substantial amount of under spending by the Department; and one could not spend the money on anything else as it was earmarked for disasters. National Treasury was thinking of putting the money on Treasury’s budget vote, as it was the final approving authority for the funds. This amount would not be indicated in COGTA's budget in future.

The reconstruction and rehabilitation funding was requested from National Treasury in line with the normal budgetary requirements. Reconstruction as a result of the 2010 disaster floods amounted to R3.8 billion; in 2011/12, R752 million had been distributed across the eight provinces affected, and the remaining amount would be distributed over the MTEF period.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) asked if there was an ongoing education in communities on climate change?

Mr Terry replied education of communities was ongoing. One of the chief directorates had a section whose main focus was to conduct education and advocacy. A director headed the section, and education was happening in provinces and municipalities. The Minister had asked the Department to include the indigenous knowledge systems as well as empower local leaders.

Modiegi Sethusha, Chief Director, COGTA, replied that NDMC had a directorate dealing with training. The directorate worked with sector departments and mainly in winter the training focused on fighting fires. The Department had published information tackling different risks such as lightning conductors, fire and floods. COGTA supported municipalities by providing information when they conducted awareness campaigns. Recently there had been two workshops with councilors in the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape.

The Chairperson sought clarity on why the programmes were winter-focused and only focused on fire. She said it would be ideal to furnish the Committee with the kind of information that was contained in the education materials of the NDMC.

Ms Sethusha replied that awareness campaigns dealt with all the risks and were not focused on fires. During winter most inland provinces would focus on fire, as it was the kind of risk that provinces would be exposed to during that time.

She said leaflets and brochures would be submitted to the Committee and they were on the department website as well.

Mr P Smith (IFP) asked how the NDMC could assess its capability to respond to disasters. Had the institutional capacity been measured, or was there any way of knowing the country's readiness for disasters. He wondered if there were formal assessments. He asked if the Department could give an indication of how functional the centres were as well.

Mr Terry replied that assessing capacity was difficult, but what had been done towards that end was not based on any factual foundation. The Department would like to do that in a more comprehensive manner to give proper statistics.

Mr Terry said the NDMC was hugely understaffed, and had only hired a few other people in January. With the number of employees at the NDMC, it was not possible to deal with all the issues that the Centre was confronted with. However the Minister was determined to make the system work. The critical aspect up to now had been the lack of monitoring and evaluation.

Funds were distributed and reliance had been on the municipalities and provinces to spend that money; there was no follow up. COGTA had set up a chief directorate. The Minister had undertaken to personally visit some of the sites that were affected by floods. The Minister was asking fundamental questions of municipal managers and MECs.

Mr Terry said NDMC was not ready but with all the structures that were available from government, the institution would be able to deal with any major disaster. He said airports and Eskom had very good storm related disaster plans that were tested regularly. Transnet had a plan in place to deal with major rail issues. The country would be able to mobilise the resources it had and deal with any kind of disaster. Ultimately it would be ideal to get to a situation where it was a function of NDMC to put in place plans for any contingency. Currently this was a bit fragmented.

Mr Smith asked when the Department would be in a position to undertake the assessment. It was important for the Committee to ascertain that which the NDMC could not do. He would prefer it if the NDMC would commit to the programme of assessing all the disaster management centres.

Mr Terry replied that a proper assessment of all the disaster management centres would be completed by the end of the year. There would be a look into all the plans and NDMC would be able to inform the Committee on all the disaster management centres.

Mr Smith wanted to know the length of time it took to release the immediate funding. The presentation indicated that the Department would rather have this speeded up; what would be the actual target by the time processes were in line.

Mr Terry replied that Immediate Disaster relief funding was meant for people that were adversely affected. Disaster relief funds could not be used to substitute for money that had been earmarked for maintenance of roads and bridges and repairing of houses. Use on such purposes as maintenance would limit the pool for disaster.

It was correct that there were incomplete Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) structures that would be damaged further by adverse weather. This was not what disaster funding was meant for. The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) should account for incomplete house structures, and explain why the allocated budget was not being used. The immediate disaster funding was for those communities whose infrastructure had been damaged by storms.

He said the Minister was adamant that unless the municipalities and provinces could give an indication that they had correctly spent, it would be difficult to release funding. Also verifying damage was a challenge. This was where the engineers were so important because they could determine if demolition was deliberate or was on account of natural causes.

Mr Smith asked who was responsible for ensuring that all organs of state were required to budget for disaster. Did COGTA have any role to play in determining if institutions complied with the imperative of budgeting for disasters? He also asked for an explanation of how the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Grant worked. Take the Committee through the process of accessing the Grant, and if it required National Treasury's approval.

Mr Terry replied that funding for construction and development was not part of the disaster grant, but to correct when there were infrastructure projects that went wrong. Sector departments got allocated funding for infrastructure.

He explained that the process differed with municipalities as some had budgets. The Act explained what channels to follow, and once all of that had been exhausted then a municipality could ask for immediate relief funding. Very rural municipalities were given priority in terms of the Immediate Relief Funding.

Mr Smith asked if the allocation of money was linked to the frequency of disasters. He asked if it was possible for the Department to give details on the frequency of disasters through a decade.

Mr Terry replied there was no direct answer to the question as most officials had only been with the Department for just a little over a year. A written reply would be prepared and forwarded to the Committee within seven days.

Mr Smith sought clarity on the extent to which the Department was understaffed, and if there were any vacant critical posts at NDMC.

Mr Terry replied that the team was all new at the Department. There were four vacancies, and were junior staff.

The Chairperson interjected and said the Department was not new. The repetitive use of the word new, could signal that he was a junior official. She disputed that and said if the team was that new, the Committee could well send it away.

Mr Terry replied that he was simply emphasising the point that the team had been at the Department for no longer than 18 months. He said the Minister was busy with the review process of the establishment to ensure that it was enhanced and could meet all the requirements of the NDMA.

Mr Smith said a system of volunteers was catered for in the Act. What had happened to that notion of recruiting, training and deploying volunteers to assist in disasters?

Ms Ane Bruwer, Chief Director:
Executive Manager: Legislation, Policy and Compliance, COGTA, replied the Disaster Management Act provided for the establishment for units of volunteers. The responsibility to manage the volunteer lay with the municipality. The recently promulgated regulations provided for the details of the volunteer programme.

The Chairperson sought clarity on the recruitment strategy especially within the NDMC section of the Department. She asked if there were any bursaries to attract people into the section; and if the Department could elaborate on the role of the apartheid-era experts on the field.

Ms Sethusha replied she would answer the first part of the question on bursaries. There was a bursary programme offered to students. The students were placed at the Universities of Free State and North West; but also negotiations were entered into with the Universities of Venda and Zululand. There were ±26 students that were currently enrolled at universities. The Department advertised in the Daily Sun newspaper when it wanted to recruit.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) commented that three months was too long when people had been affected by disasters. Why should people wait for so long to access funding; three months was too long if the money was there.

Mr Terry replied that the Act stipulated "within three months" so that did not mean one had to wait for that period to elapse. If a disaster was declared sooner, the money could be accessed in a much shorter period.

Mr Boinamo commented that South Africa had seen a lot of disasters caused by fire; this was nothing new. It happened every year and was now affecting the cities. The people dealing with disaster funds needed to look at the cause of this, and be practical about it. In Botswana people were jailed for torching grass, was it not the right time South Africa copied that example.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) asked how far the process of reviewing the Fire Brigade Services Act was. She wondered if there was not a need to look at this Act, and the Disaster Management Act concurrently as the two Acts had a bearing on each other.

Mr Terry replied the Fire Brigade Services Act was being reviewed to bring it in line with the Disaster Management Act. Currently the NDMC had no jurisdiction over the Fire Brigade Services Act; the changes would ensure an oversight role for the NDMC.

Ms Bruwer replied that the Fire Brigade Services Act was really an old order Act that required a complete overhaul. The process was happening to change that. The role of NDMC was very limited, but the intention was to introduce the role for the NDMC. It was a comprehensive process of rewriting the current Act, thus it would take a bit longer. There was a discussion document that was being worked on; and hopefully by next year a White Paper would be available.

Ms Nelson asked if the Immediate Release Fund (IRF) included immediate intervention such as tents. She asked if the Department of Social Development would use its grant for immediate social relief, or if the money would come from the IRF.

Ms Mabidilala replied that when grant funding was legislated in the Division of Revenue Act (DORA); there would be a framework from National Treasury that stipulated that the Immediate Release Fund was only allocated when sector departments exhaust emergency funding available to them. The role of NDMC was more of coordination.

This year the Department had moved in this financial year to assist Mpumalanga, but the province had attended to the disaster itself. Some of the challenges crept in during the verification as some of the houses and roads provided to the NDMC were non-existent. This resulted in the Department taking longer to do the verification.

Ms Nelson asked if the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Fund was strictly for infrastructure, or whether it could be used for things such as incomplete and damaged RDP houses.

Ms Sethusha replied the Fund only targeted the infrastructure that had been damaged by disasters.

Ms Neslon wanted to know if there was differentiation in municipalities between the smaller municipalities and the metros. She asked if the Department would assist those municipalities that wholly relied on National Treasury for their budgets, due to inability to generate revenue.

Ms Nelson asked the Department to comment on poor workmanship in housing as it pertained to the grants. She said the Committee had asked for the submission made to disaster management on all requests that had been released to municipalities and provinces so far. The Committee had also asked for a schedule on monitoring, after these funds had been disbursed to municipalities.

Mr M Mandela (ANC) sought clarity on whether disaster management centres existed throughout the country. If that was the case, was the Eastern Cape DMC fully functional? He requested that the three months release of funds after a disaster be contextualised in the incident that occurred in Idutywa and uMvezo in the Transkei in 2010, where victims were yet to be assisted. Who should take responsibility for that? Should the families be sitting for two years without assistance? He asked what was the role of the NDMC and the kind of support they needed to render to affected communities.

Mr Terry replied that the NDMC had never received a declaration of disaster from the Eastern Cape. The NDMC would have to do a follow up, and a proper verification that the disaster had in fact occurred in the specific area.

Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) asked who was responsible for the assessment of district management plans to ensure viability of response plans, but also that there was infrastructure and ability to implement. What sort of stress testing was put on those plans to ensure they were effective.

Mr Terry replied there was oversight from the districts on municipal plans, and the province did all the coordination for all the plans. The NDMC’s primary role was to ensure oversight and that the plans met the requirements of specific areas. These vary by province. He cited an example of the Western Cape and Gauteng that had nuclear reactors. Two exercise drills were run twice a year just to check the state of readiness if a nuclear disaster were to occur.

He said the NDMC had powers to get access to any act or any programmes for disaster management from any entity.

Mr Steenhuizen asked what standards were used at municipal level to meet challenges around fire services. He asked if the Department had a handle on the status of each municipality in terms of fire services. What level of coordination did the Department facilitate between district and local municipalities? There had been tensions between these municipalities on who should actually take control in disasters. He cited an example of district municipalities entitled by the Municipal Structures Act, and local municipalities who owned the fire engines and the personnel. What mechanisms had been put in place to deal with these particular challenges around coordination?

Ms J Segale-Diswai (ANC) asked if the Department was able to say how far it had gone in trying to address the challenge of victims in Kwazulu Natal disasters. The Committee owed those communities a report back.

Mr Terry replied that a detailed document had been prepared for the Committee on Kwazulu-Natal. NDMC would ensure that the document was distributed among Members. The document was intensive and detailed the processes that had been undertaken in Kwazulu-Natal and the mechanisms that had been put in place, and a full plan of how implementation was being done.

Ms Mohanuoa Mabidilala, Chief Director:
Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, COGTA, replied that after visits made to Kwazulu-Natal by National Treasury and NDMC, it had become apparent that proper processes were not followed in submitting the requests. It had been resolved that Kwazulu-Natal would provide NDMC with all the on the infrastructure that was damaged in 2010. NDMC had to ensure that a verification process was done. That process was now concluded, and over 6 000 houses had been verified. A report had been received and a submission would be presented to Parliament. It was also realised during that time that funds had been transferred to sector departments by National Treasury without the knowledge of the NDMC. It had since been agreed that whatever funds had been transferred, National Treasury would communicate this to NDMC so that the money was monitored.

Mr M Matshoba (ANC) wanted to know who monitored projects when materials had been issued to those affected by disasters, and ensured redress programmes were undertaken. At Ingquza a lot of materials meant for disaster victims lay there with no one caring for them for five years.

Mr Terry replied that there was a directorate that monitored the issue of building materials bought to support families. NDMC wanted to create a system where it could report properly but also ensure that it accounted properly and that communities got the kind of services that they needed.

The Chairperson voiced unhappiness about receiving the presentation late as this impacted on how Members prepared for meetings. She asked if the Department could indicate whether the allocated budget was satisfactorily spent, especially to meet the mandate to have a functional centre in each district municipality. Was the performance of the Department satisfying and compliant with the NDMA?

Mr Terry replied no. The Minister had also signed the initial feasibility study for the NDMC to become a government component. The intention was to ensure that the NDMC was appropriately funded; that it had the ability to enforce the Act and that the necessary infrastructure and the human capital was available to do such work. Negotiations were ongoing with National Treasury and the DPSA to ensure funding and human resources were available.

The Chairperson said provinces had indicated it took long to get help due to evaluations and verifications. She wanted to know if legislation was a challenge, and if so, why the presentation was silent on that aspect. She asked if there was any trace-back that the Department did to come up with help for the old incidents in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape.

Chairperson remarks
The Chairperson said the Department should by now know the style of the Committee – that it was interested in details. There was a good working relationship with the Department, and the Committee would not want to follow the example of other Committees in sending away department delegations. The Department was continually furnishing the Committee with incomplete information. ‘Cut and paste’ was not enough for this Committee, the Department needed to research and provide statistical breakdown of information.

The Committee adopted the minutes of 7 and 14 August.

The meeting was adjourned.


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