Millennium Development Goals: Department of Water Affairs briefing, Preliminary BRRR findings for Department of Water Affairs and Department of Environmental Affairs

Water and Sanitation

17 October 2012
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) briefed the Committee on its work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in relation to water, which were basically set out in Target 7C: Ensuring Environmental sustainability. It was noted that although the MDGs were adopted in 2000, South Africa had already, in 1994, set it own goals around water access and infrastructure. The MDG envisaged halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, and without sustainable access to basic and acceptable sanitation, in both urban and rural areas, by 2015 (an extended date adopted in 2008). Internationally, water supply targets were at 89% in 2010, but sub-Saharan Africa was at only 61% coverage, against the target of 75%, with concerns around quality, reliability and sustainability. South Africa’s own goals were to address and resolve all backlogs, and achieving 100% coverage of water access, by 2014. Although there had been progress on that, the existing delivery trends indicated that the goal would not be achieved by 2014. There was some difficulty in reliability of data, but a number of different datasets were used DWA, which had concluded that the main challenge lay in the fact that the growth in household figures matched the delivery rate, particularly in urban areas, and that more funding was required, but was not made available by National Treasury.

There had not been significant changes in the delivery mechanisms and models over the last few years. There was a backlog, formally identified by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), which the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) tried to address. However, there was a spread of related functions across several departments, with limited coordination. The Delivery Agreement had been refined, but was not yet signed. It reiterated the targets and said that sector departments must lead sector programmes, but with overall leadership and monitoring by DWA. A dedicated programme with dedicated management would be set up by DWA, and agreements would be signed with other departments outlining their roles and obligations. Effective project planning and process management were vital. The Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency  (MISA) would be helping with implementation. DWA and CoGTA would be establishing focused task teams to deal with accelerated delivery at “hotspot” areas of high risk. R6.39 billion had been budgeted. Although it was noted that there was infrastructure delivery to 94.9% of households, the functionality averaged only 75% and was as low as 40% in some provinces. This was an area in which special attempts were needed. Vandalism and poor service quality were critical challenges. Lack of ring-fencing of funds for water was another problem. Comprehensive needs perspectives were being prepared on 23 district municipalities and one priority municipality, to be followed by delivery strategies and programmes.

Members insisted that the DWA should compile a full report showing functionality in the municipalities, and the reasons, to be presented to Cabinet to ensure that something concrete was done. They thought this should be incorporated, if not already done, into the National Water Resource Strategy. In general, they commended DWA for what it had done, but thought rural areas were badly neglected, with infrastructure, but no running water, provided. They asked for a full assessment of the key problems, and what DWA still required. 

The Chairperson was extremely angry that no one from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) was present to go through the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill with the Committee, since Members had spent time on the issues, and had tried their best to accommodate the swift passing of the Bill. Members identified the issues that were now included, those that had been left out and those that needed to be flagged for further discussion. The Department was requested to provide a response, by the following day, on the omission to send an official to the meeting.

As there was no quorum the Draft Oversight Report on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and the Budget Review and Recommendation Reports for the Department of Water Affairs, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, for the 2011/12 year, would stand over for adoption on 23 October.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s introductory remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Ms Dlomo (ANC) as a new Member of the Committee, noting that she would replaced Mr P Mathebe, who had been appointed as High Commissioner in Zambia. 

The Chairperson reminded Members that public hearings would be taking place on the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS), and a good spread of submissions were made. 

Water Supply Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Department of Water Affairs: Progress Report
Mr Trevor Balzer, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Water Affairs, tendered the apologies of the Director General of the Department of Water Affairs (DWA or the Department),who was addressing a meeting of the Free State Water User Associations.

Mr Fred Van Zyl, Director, Department of Water Affairs, noted that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) included calling upon governments to make a clear commitment to agendas that would combat poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease, discrimination against women, shelter and environmental degradation. In September 2000, 189 countries (and 147 Heads of State) signed the Declaration. Initially there were eight goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators, but the 2008 framework adjusted this to allow for 20 targets and 60 indicators, whilst also moving the target dates to 2015.

The MDGs encompassed attempts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Mr Van Zyl then looked at the goals that related directly to Water, which were limited to Target 7C – ensuring environmental sustainability – and said that there was a goal to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water (in both urban and rural areas) and to halve the proportion of people without access to basic and acceptable sanitation (in both urban and rural areas).

The Department of Water Affairs’ response to this goal was based on the fact that already, prior to adopting the MDGs in 2000, South Africa had committed itself to ensuring access to basic water services for all. The South African overall MDG target was thus to addressing total backlogs, rather than merely halving the backlogs, to achieve 80% coverage by 2015. On the other hand, DWA aimed to ensure 100% access to basic water supply by 2014, not merely addressing the backlog.

Progress so far had been good. South Africa had excellent policies and legislation, and had established dedicated programmes and a Water Services Business Framework. South Africa had already achieved the water services’ MDG target in 2005, by addressing 80% of backlog eradication, and at present had reached 94.9% coverage of the population, in terms of infrastructure.

Mr Van Zyl then turned to the
basic water supply achievements (of meeting infrastructure standards), tabling statistics on the access to water and backlogs over specific years. He looked at the number of households served, and noted the difference in numbers provided by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) and the Department, with the former showing more coverage. However, there were some challenges in getting accurate data, which explained the differences (see attached presentation for details).

Mr Van Zyl explained this further by looking at the Information Analysis slide, where he noted that, according to a selected sample of the Stats SA’s General Household Surveys, there was a higher water supply performance level and status, coupled with a higher household figure, annual corrections and reverse adjustments to those that DWA had amassed. However, he did note that the household figure was not official and formal, since the results of the 2011 Census were not yet available. The DWA figures were based on the Stats SA surveys, plus a mid-year population estimate, and, although there was no access to household data sets, reports also from the Department of Cooperative Governance (CoGTA) and Department of Human Settlements (DHS).

Mr van Zyl looked at the strategic analysis and delivery trends. Based on the existing delivery trends, both formal and housing-related, delivery mechanisms and management, as well as the figures for funding and financial management, the South African goals would not be achieved by 2014. The delivery trend of less than 0.5% per annum implied that more than ten years was required to address the challenge. The household growth figure was a major challenge, particularly in urban areas, because it was the same as the delivery trends. More solutions were required, with greater funding, but there was no additional funding from the National Treasury.  

Mr Van Zyl then turned to the business and leadership analysis, noting that there were no changes in the delivery mechanism and model. He said there was a formal backlog, as identified by the CoGTA, which it had tried to address through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant. Housing-related needs and informal settlements fell under the Department of Human Settlements (DHS). There was limited coordination.

The Government Outcome 9 Delivery Agreement had been refined in early 2012, but was not yet approved or signed. That Delivery Agreement maintained the target of 100% access to services by 2014, and it also said that sector departments were to lead sector programmes. Extended action plans were included in the Delivery Agreement. Department of Water Affairs had agreed, in principle to accept leadership on this. However, it was a very complex programme.

The first action plan under this refined Delivery Agreement related to the setting up of a dedicated programme, with dedicated management and coordination of oversight, on the part of DWA. Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were included with other sector partners, setting out their  roles and obligations. The Delivery Agreement also looked at the appropriate urban policy, emphasised a “needs” knowledge base and the need for strategic planning around an investment framework, perspectives, interim services, urban challenges and roles.

The second action plan of the Delivery Agreement was to ensure effective project planning and process management, effective implementation of programmes, including those of the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA), effective resource management and support by way of appropriate funding models, institutional arrangements and skills development. Information and monitoring systems were also needed.

Mr Van Zyl said that there was also an agreement between DWA and CoGTA. This envisaged the establishment of focused task teams, which should be established by end September 2012, who would be focusing on achieving accelerated delivery at high risk areas or “hotspots”. The agreement also covered areas of financing, debt management, and skills and capacity building.

Mr van Zyl outlined the financing and expenditure issues focusing on water projects already budgeted for, and the actual expenditure, which was R4.37 billion or 68% of the earmarked funding. The expenditure included financing higher levels of service projects, while R1.5 billion of the R6.39 billion would still be directed to “RDP completed” provinces. Only R4.9 billion was allocated for “needy provinces” to whom funds had not been redirected earlier. He said that this was a critical area. 

Mr Van Zyl then moved on to a slide on functionality. Formal access to RDP infrastructure was at 94.9%. In its functionality assessment, Stats SA showed that between 2010 and 2011 there was around a 75% level of functionality. However, in some provinces it was less than 40%. Special assessments were initiated in the areas of water security, water use efficiency, infrastructure condition, taking into account also water services schemes and by community, and operations and maintenance assessments.

Mr Balzer said this information would be taken to the Working Group on Service Delivery.

The Chairperson interjected to note that the Department of Water Affairs needed to get information on, and record, information around vandalism and money lost in the municipalities. This should then be presented to Cabinet. It was high time that these issues must be addressed. However, he reiterated that all the relevant information and figures must also be presented to back up the reports.

Mr Van Zyl agreed that, in relation to functionality, vandalism and poor service quality were the critical challenges. He said the lack of services posed serious risks to human dignity, as well as social, economic, health, financial, environmental, political and security risks. To date, no formal actions or intervention framework were established to address these issues.

Mr van Zyl noted that the programmes would be complex and posed various challenges. Most important would be leadership will, drive and capacity. This must be coupled with external programme management and coordination, and external implementation with associated dependencies. At the moment, the external grants and financial management were not coordinated, and the grants were not ring fenced to deal with water issues. It was important that there should be compliance with the grant conditions, as well as financial discipline. Attention also had to be paid to the funding deficit and service levels. A specific delivery trend must identify the need for intermediate services. Finally, any plans must encompass full information-gathering, monitoring and reporting.

The Chairperson interjected to ask the extent to which all of this was integrated into the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS).

Mr Balzer said it was integrated into the investment framework, to a large extent. Strategy 10 covered the investment framework. That would include the full value chain of the water cycle.

The Chairperson said that he could have missed this information, for there was a meeting that he had been unable to attend. However, he felt that something like the intermediate services should also be covered in the Strategy.

Mr Balzer said that these were referred to in a number of sub-programmes of the Investment Framework, and were identified by the Minister and the Cabinet Lekgotla as needing urgent attention, especially in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. A request for funding, to address this, had been submitted to National Treasury, calling for R2.2 billion over the next two years. This submission was quite favourably received by National Treasury and funding had been set aside, in DWA’s budget, to get the project management unit up and running. The issue would also receive priority in the CoGTA’s MIG programme. There were plans for community engagement and contribution. He said it was an exciting programme that, to date, had been quite well received.

Mr van Zyl then outlined the key actions initiated. A comprehensive Needs Perspective was being done on 23, plus one priority, District Municipalities (DMs). There was also ongoing development and implementation of an interim or intermediate delivery strategy and programme, and this included a delivery protocol focussing on communities not served at all, then on those with selected functionality only. A Water Investment Framework and Plan had been developed. MISA had been established and would offer implementation support.

Mr van Zyl outlined the international perspective on the MDGs. The world had met the water supply target of 76% in 1990, and had reached 89% in 2010. In four of the nine developing regions identified, 90% of people were served, but Sub-Saharan Africa was not on track, as it moved from 49% to 61% coverage, against a target of 75%. There were also key concerns were regarding water quality, reliability and sustainability.

Mr van Zyl outlined what would be done in the future. There had to be a priority focus on intermediate services, and water security needed to be addressed. There was an urgent need to prioritise and focus on functionality and quality of services. DWA needed to lead on the access to basic water supplies, as set out in Output 9.2. This was a complex matter with a variety of challenges. A programme with clear mandates, good cooperation and resources was needed. There needed to be development of an effective information and monitoring system, as well as the development of a water investment framework and financing model. Additional financing and effective management were needed. Finally, the MISA needed to ensure effective implementation.

Discussion
Mr G Morgan (DA) was appreciative of the presentation and was glad that DWA had a good grasp of what was happening, even if it was hamstrung in terms of its ability to fix problem areas. He felt the DWA deserved the credit for many improvements that had been made in the face of substantial challenges around functionality.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) congratulated the Department in attending to the MDGs. She questioned the municipal water schemes, and also commented that the rural areas were still neglected. She was most concerned that there was infrastructure in many rural areas, yet no running water was available. She asked if the figures given by Stats SA were a true reflection of the situation on the ground.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) also applauded the Department and noted that it appeared as if the comments made by the Committee over time were being taken into consideration.

Mr Balzer admitted that the Department did not have the budget to deal with all the issues related to functionality. However, there were specific programmes to look at some hot-spots or high risk areas, as not all areas could be covered. He noted there were also some areas that fell outside of the 24 District Municipalities identified earlier.

Mr Van Zyl tabled and explained the map to the Committee, showing key areas (see attached presentation for details).

The Chairperson said it was vital to present such information to Cabinet. He said it was clear that good work was being done in the Department. However, he asked Mr van Zyl to fix up a slide that was missing some information.

The Chairperson then outlined what the recommendations of the Committee would be. The Water Service Plan and Functionality Plan should be incorporated to become part of the MDGs. There should be specific performance indicators for functionality. The Committee Members all agreed that vandalism posed a severe challenge to functionality, and wanted all the information on the topic to be collated by DWA. The specific areas that were holding back the Department’s ability to meet the MDG fully must be identified. An assessment of the key problem areas should outlined what the DWA had already, and what it still needed.

Mr S Huang (ANC) questioned why the Eastern Cape only spent 24% of the MIG.

Mr Balzer said the under-spending was due to capacity problems in the municipalities. Sometimes, funding would be shifted away from municipalities that performed poorly against their grants and were unable to spend.

Mr Van Zyl added that project-control and discipline were important, and so were commitment and awareness. The Western Cape Provincial Department of Water had managed to spend almost its entire MIG funding.

The Chairperson said this was noted and would be included in the recommendations.

Lesotho Highlands Water Project Draft Oversight Report
The Chairperson tabled a draft Report and went through it, page by page, highlighting a number of corrections to be attended to by the Committee Researcher.

National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill
The Chairperson was very irate that nobody from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) was at this meeting, to go through the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill (the Bill). This was completely unacceptable. The Committee had tried its best to accommodate the DEA by speeding up the processing of this Bill. He himself had spent many hours going through the Bill in great detail to ensure that he was fully prepared to debate it.

The Chairperson said that he wanted a response from DEA, by the following day, explaining why nobody was present to go through the Bill with the Committee, and to inform the Committee when it would be available. He noted that the Committee would take no responsibility for any delay in the processing of the Bill.

He then took Members through the Bill, page by page, pointing out where changes had been made. He identified where issues had been left out, commented on issues of formatting and identified the clauses that needed to be flagged for further consideration.

Mr Morgan referred to a recent Court judgment and cautioned that there was a need to ensure that the DEA was not attempting to legislate in areas where it could potentially come into conflict with other departments.

The Chairperson said that further deliberations on this Bill would have to be slotting in during the next two weeks.

Draft  Budgetary Review and Recommendation Reports on performance on the Department of Water Affairs, and Department of Environmental Affairs, dated 18 October 2012
The Chairperson noted that the Committee did not have a quorum and so neither of the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Reports could be adopted.

He went through each of the Draft Reports, highlighting, for the Researchers, which areas needed to be changed.

The Reports would stand over for adoption on the following Tuesday, 23 October.

The meeting was adjourned.

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