Committee Report on Environmental Affairs 2014 Budget

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

07 July 2014
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider and adopt two sets of Minutes as well as its report on the 2014 budget for the Department of Environmental Affairs and its entities.
The Committee went through the Report meticulously as it was the first time Members were reading the document. There were some reservations from Members of the opposition to comment on the Report as they had not interacted with it before.

The DA reserved its right to comment on the Report, indicating that it would submit recommendations to the Chairperson at a later stage as discussed. The EFF, similarly, could not vote on the adoption of the Report as it believed that the points in the Report were not talking to serious environmental matters and access to resources. The Report was nevertheless was adopted, with amendments, by the majority of Members. The Committee’s Budget Vote 30 Debate would take place on 17 July 2014 at 14h00.

The Chairperson spoke briefly about what the Committee would deal with after the recess in the second quarter of the Fifth Parliament. Some of these items were relaying information to communities, new sustainable development goals, meeting with the entities and the Auditor-General’s view on the Department of Environmental Affair’s performance for 2013/14.
 

Meeting report

Apologies

The Chairperson noted the long standing apology from Mr Z Makhubela (ANC) who was still in hospital.

Committee Minutes

Minutes dated 25 June 2014

The Chairperson tabled the document for consideration.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) noted that his name was incorrectly spelt under the attendance for the meeting. 

The Chairperson requested that Members names be preceded by “Honourable Member” instead of “Mr” or “Ms”.

The Committee noted and corrected a few other spelling and grammatical amendments in the minutes.

Mr S Mapilo (ANC) felt the minutes captured the essence of what transpired at this meeting so he moved for its adoption with amendments.

Ms T Stander (DA) seconded the motion.

The Committee went through the second half of the meeting which provided an overview of the briefing by the Department to the Committee on its mandate.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) noted she was not listed under Members in attendance for this meeting.

The Chairperson made the Member aware that she was not present for the first half of the meeting, the election of the Chairperson, but she was present for the second half of the meeting, the Departmental briefing. Amendments to the minutes would highlight this.

Mr Bonhomme moved for the minutes in its entirety with minor amendments. This was seconded by Ms Maluleke. 

Minutes dated 1 July 2014

The Chairperson tabled the document for consideration.

Ms Maluleke noted that she was “Ms” not “Mr” as stated in the attendance.

Ms J Steenkamp (DA) noted her surname was incorrectly spelt under attendance. 

The Chairperson asked that the presentation given by Mr Scotney Watts, Committee Researcher, before the Department’s presentation, be included in the minutes. He also wanted the disruption with the microphones and overhead projector which occurred at around 19h00 during the meeting to be noted. Parliament needed to look into the matter as the Committee formally requested permission to sit until late and the closing of Parliament was not expected as an interruption.

Ms Stander seconded the proposal to include this as it would also raise awareness that Parliament’s recording system for the meeting shut down as well. 

Ms Stander moved for the adoption of the minutes with amendments. This was seconded by Ms H Kekana (ANC)

Committee Report on Environmental Affairs 2014 Budget

The Chairperson tabled the document for consideration.

Ms Stander asked why this Report was only received now by the Committee when Members were supposed to receive documents by 22h00 the night before. Had this been the case it would have helped today’s process as Members would have gone through the document before the meeting.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee only got some responses and clarifications from the Department late last night, which meant the Report could not be circulated earlier. It was felt that Members had interacted with the broader documents (APPs, METF estimates and the strategic plans) so they could just come and make informed inputs to the Report prepared. He assured the Committee that the staff, led by himself, had done everything in their power to include all issues which were very pertinent. It was in Parliament’s rules that before a report was adopted, it must be gone through meticulously by the Committee, line by line. Members had all day so he would even propose that Members go and make the necessary amendments and the Committee could come together later again. Alternatively, Members could make the changes now 

Mr Mapilo agreed with the Chairperson’s explanation even though it was expected that Members should receive reports at least by the night before a meeting. He proposed the Committee deal with the Report now instead of adjourning as Members had interacted with the relevant documents.

Mr A Mngxitama (EFF) proposed an addendum be included at least from the view of his party to display his lack of confidence in the Committee going through the Report this rapidly. He was not that concerned with the reflection of the documents but more so with the discussion during the meeting. 

Ms Stander was satisfied to go through the Report line by line as proposed but she also agreed with Mr Mngxitama to reserve the right to comment at a later stage because she could not confidently agree with what was in the Report before applying herself properly.

The Chairperson suggested the Committee go through the Report now and make amendments. The rules of Parliament allowed for Members to make any amendments before adoption. Fundamentally, the Committee had to agree with what was put before it before passing the budget. The Report had been crafted by human beings and so it was very likely that each and every intervention made at the meeting was not covered. Broadly, however, the Report needed to carry the weight of the meeting and what was presented to them before passing Budget Vote 30.

He noted the Committee would be engaging in a serious public platform in matters in relation to this Budget Vote. In this debate, Members were not limited to what the Report said but could bring any other angle that might not be covered in the Report. All was not lost.

The Chairperson took the Committee through the Report line by line for the first two pages. 

Mr Mapilo found the Report thus far, in his view, in order, well captured, free flowing, relevant, brief and to the point. He did not think it needed to be amended. 

Mr Bonhomme seconded the view of Mr Mapilo.

The Chairperson took the Committee through the next three pages of the Report.

Ms Stander reserved her comments on the Report thus far.

Mr Mapilo reiterated that the Report thus far was in order and well captured. 

Mr Bonhomme agreed that the Report was in order and this part of the meeting was very well captured in the Report. 

The Chairperson highlighted that all Members of the Committee were to work in unison to hold the Department accountable particularly on major issues and identifying what these major issues were. If the views displayed in the Report did not match what Members thought these major issues were, they had better speak up to assist one another. Importantly, Members were here representing millions of South Africans who had entrusted them. He had no problem at all with party positions but did the party position assist the Committee in holding the Department to account within the legal framework and constitutional obligations imposed on the Department as the Committee spoke. No matter what was done or where Members came from, the main expectation was to hold the Department accountable in terms of how and where they spent the budget. 

Ms Stander noted the Chairperson had the Members support and the reservation of the DA’s right to comment at a later date was not an obstructionist position. They simply did not have adequate time to consult this Report. 

The Chairperson then moved on to take the Committee through the next few pages of the Report.

Ms Stander noted a grammatical error. She thought there should be more of an emphasis in the Report on the strategic objections for 2014/15 not just 2016-18 as the Committee was essentially passing a budget for 2014/15. This would ensure the Committee held the Department for the objectives set for the current year and not in future years.

The Chairperson was in full agreement and noted that years which read 2013/14 should read 2014/15.

Ms Stander did not mind the reflection on 2013/14 but was more concerned about objectives for 2016/18 which should actually be focused on 2014/15.

The Chairperson said this was correct as the Report needed to deal with the 2014/15 budget so where there was 2013/14 it should be 2014/15. He agreed that the Department needed to be held accountable on its strategic objectives for the current year.

The Chairperson proceeded to take the Committee through the remainder of the Report. 

Ms Stander referred to the observations and said that some matters needed to be stated more definitively and accurately. She also noticed there were some anomalies with the figures between what was in the Committee’s Report and what the Department had presented. Paragraph headings and terminology were not always consistent which meant the Report did not tie in with DEA’s strategic plan. Similarly, there were inconsistencies with figures, times, numbers, dates and general format.

The Chairperson noted the Committee still needed to meet and seriously engage with the entities. The difficulties of SAWS were detailed in the Committee’s observations in the Report because Members had discussed it. The necessary amendments would be made based on what the Member had highlighted. 

Ms Steenkamp noticed a few spelling errors.

Mr Mapilo appreciated the detailed, comprehensive, well-put together Report. In its entirety, the Committee observations were well captured as was the interaction with the Department. He felt that “Working for Waste” should be included under Programme 6: Environmental Programmes but otherwise the overall Report was very comprehensive.

The Chairperson corrected his earlier remark about the next COP which was COP21 not 20 in Lima while COP21 would be in 2015 in Paris. He would check the anomalies with figures in the Report against what the Department presented.

Ms Stander highlighted that more consistency was needed with the figures presented by the Department in its strategic plan and what was in the Committee’s Report.

The Chairperson assured the Member that this would be looked into.

He noted many of the proposed amendments were straightforward and asked Members if the Report could be adopted with the amendments or if a new Report should be compiled based on today’s discussion for adoption at a later date.

Mr Mapilo proposed the adoption of the Report with amendments as all the Committee’s concerns were taken on board and reflected. Furthermore, the Report was comprehensive, detailed and well-captured.

Ms Maluleke seconded the views of Mr Mapilo.

Ms Stander said that in light of what was stated boldly at the end of the Report – “The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs recommends to the 5th democratic Parliament to adopt the Department of Environmental Affairs Budget Vote 30 allocation for 2014/15 financial year, with the allocation of R5.668 386 billion” – she wished for the DA’s right of reservation on this particular point to be recorded. The party would submit its recommendations to the Chairperson as discussed.  

Mr Mnxgitama said that similarly his party could not vote on this budget. He thought the points in the Report were not talking to serious environmental matters and access to resources which was unacceptable. He would elaborate further on this point in his debate.

The Chairperson worked on the basis of the majority as there was no other basis to work on. On the basis of the majority the Report was adopted. He appreciated the input from Members and noted parties would have the time to tell the House their views during the debate. Those who crafted this Report took into account all elements of what was presented to the Committee but the Report had its limits to look at the information needed to inform the budget vote. It was also the right under the Constitution for Members to reserve their right to pass the Report. It was up to Members to have their say in the debates but the Report had been adopted by the majority so it was therefore a Report of the Committee. The Report would be polished to be in line with today’s discussion and amendments proposed. 

The Committee’s debate would take place on 17 July 2014 at 14h00. All Members were to prepare for this. The Committee Secretary would inform Members of the time allocated per party.

Second Quarter Items

The Chairperson said that the Committee was likely to take recess for a week or two after the debate. When they returned, Parliament would be in its Second Quarter. During recess Members were to involve communities in matters which affected them, for example, those living with pollution like in Witbank and Secunda. Interaction should also be had with polluters themselves and their plans to reduce pollution and if these plans were in tandem with what the Department had said. As Mr Mnxgitama had said, the Committee could not discuss climate change without interacting with those directly affected by it. Members were political animals and they needed to find a way to go back to communities with information in a format that masses of people would understand.

The Committee would also need to look at new sustainable development goals and see the entities – SANParks, SANBI, SAWS and iSimangiliso to get a sense of what they did every day.

International activism around climate change was also an important item along with the conservation of wildlife including the rhino.

In the next term, the Committee would deal with the Auditor-General’s (AGs) view on the performance of the Department in 2013/14. There would also be a scheduled meeting with the Department to ascertain whether it could fulfil its targets set out in its strategic plan

The Chairperson noted there was still ample time to discuss next term’s programme but the urgent matters on the Committee’s agenda had been attended to.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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