Committee Report on Water Affairs 2014 Budget

Water and Sanitation

09 July 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider the Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Commission, Catchment Management Agencies, Water Boards and Komati River Basin Water Authority on their busget votes for 2014/15.

The Committee went through the Draft Report thoroughly. Besides minor grammatical and spelling amendments, the Committee sought amendments to the recommendations, findings and discussion section of the Report for more weight to be given to the use of consultants, regulation of water tariffs and concerns around the raising of the budget needed by the Department over the next ten years. A Member also noted the omission of the empowerment of black businesses which felt should be included under the Committee’s recommendations.

Discussion was held on the DA’s right to reserve comment on the Report. The DA did not have time to caucus the Report so they requested their reservation to comment (which was neither an acceptance nor rejection of the Report) be recorded. The Chairperson and other Members felt this was not acceptable as the DA actively participated in the meeting but would not be bound by the results of the meeting. The party’s right for reservation of comment was recorded but the Chairperson would consult further on the matter as there were concerns on the possible precedent set by this practice. The Chairperson stressed that internal party mechanisms should not impede on the Committee’s work.

The Department’s Budget Vote 38 debate would take place on Tuesday 15 July 2014.


Meeting report

Opening Comments
The Chairperson apologised for his late arrival as he had a doctor’s appointment which ran over time.

He highlighted the Committee would today be considering and adopting the Draft Report of the Water Affairs 2014 Budget.

The Chairperson was impressed by the speed at which the Committee staff compiled the minutes from the previous meeting as there were bad experiences in other Committees with minutes being adopted months later by which time Members had forgotten what had been discussed. He wished for this to be kept up. He thought it was important to appreciate good work when it was done and so far the Committee was doing well.

Committee Report on Water Affairs 2014 Budget
Mr M Mpontshane (IFP) noted the he had only received the Report now and not last night as other Members but he was satisfied with going through the Report now.

The Committee proceeded to go through the Report line by line. 

Mr L Basson (DA) requested it be recorded that the DA reserved the right to comment on the Report at this stage as the party would only caucus on it the next day. The party thus neither objected nor accepted the Report but was reserving its right to comment until it had been caucused. 

The Chairperson found this very unacceptable. He explained that internal party practices should not impede or impact negatively on the work of Parliament as Members knew the agenda for today’s meeting last week already. This was regardless of any political party. Furthermore, programming was done by a multi-party committee so it could never be said some people knew about the agenda while others did not.

Mr Basson respected this but the DA would not be dictated to by the Chairperson. The party was merely saying it would not vote for or against the Report at this stage. There was no rule which obliged the party to vote. It was the right of the party to reserve its comments and if there were differences, this would come out in the Budget Debate.

Mr Mpontshane said this was a problematic matter as conventionally, if any party had objections or amendments, it would be brought to the Committee so that all parties would have the opportunity to argue for or against the amendments or objections. It was a pity that the DA’s comments would come once the Report was already dealt with.  

Ms M Maluleke (ANC) noted this was a Draft Report and the Committee did not even get through page one so what was the DA rejecting? Agreement or rejection could only be decided once the Report had been considered in its entirety by the Committee.

The Chairperson clarified the point was that the DA was neither accepting nor rejecting the Report at this stage. He proposed the Committee go ahead considering the Report. Speaking openly and bluntly, he said the Committee must not be held at ransom by any party as collectively the Committee had a job to do. Water and sanitation had no political tag and the important goal was to ensure access for those who did not have access to water and sanitation, for existing infrastructure to be maintained and exercising oversight to ensure this happened – nothing more, nothing less. He reiterated internal political party systems should not negatively impact on what was expected of the Committee. This should be a rule for the Committee to adopt. The Committee’s budget vote debate would take place on Tuesday and whatever views were held dearly would be expressed there.

The Chairperson went ahead going through the Report page by page calling for comments.

He asked that it be noted in the Report that the Deputy Minister had attended the meeting as often the executive was criticised for not attending Committee meetings.

Mr M Shelembe (NFP) questioned why “1998” was inserted after the Constitution had been referred to.  

The Chairperson thought the issue was around the entire phrasing of this particular sentence.

Ms Shereen Dawood, Committee Content Advisor, explained this was the year of the Constitution. She provided alternative wording for the sentence. 

The Chairperson explained in short the sentence was making reference to section 24 of the prescripts of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution – of 1996 not 1998.

Ms Mahdiyah Solomons, Committee Secretary, also provided alternative phrasing for the sentence.

A few grammatical amendments were raised by Members.

The Chairperson requested the Committee be provided with the respective legislation governing the entities from the Committee Secretariat and support staff. He wanted this before Wednesday’s meeting. 

Mr T Makondo (ANC), under the Committee findings, recommendations and decisions regarding the Department and the Entities’ programmes, plans and budgets in the Report, thought there was an omission on the empowerment of black business. The Committee had raised this in the meeting that the empowerment of black business was happening on a very slow scale or not happening at all. He was concerned about this omission as the Committee discussed the matter at length. 

The Chairperson asked where this should be captured.

Ms Maluleke thought this matter should be a subsection by itself under section 7 of the Report.

The Chairperson highlighted section 7.3 which dealt with the use of consultants and noted this was an important point which the Committee needed to make follow ups on. He suggested a resolution be taken for the Committee to interact with the Department and Portfolio Committee on Public Works on their role in the execution and roll-out of a number of infrastructure projects and the inclusion of consultants in the matter.

Mr Shelembe agreed with the Chairperson noting that the budget for consultants was expected to increase.

The Chairperson noted a resolution would be taken on the matter. Similarly, a resolution should be taken on the regulation of water tariffs as this was a critical matter.  

The Chairperson noticed a couple of spelling corrections and numbering amendments.

Ms Dawood provided wording for a paragraph on black business empowerment to be numbered 7.4.

The Chairperson wanted the Minutes to be adopted before returning to the adoption of the Report.

The Chairperson felt there was no uniformity or standardisation when discussing the responses of the entities. 

Mr Mpontshane thought the amendment should note the limits of empowering black business. 

Ms M Khawula’s (EFF) translator explained she had requested for all the documents to be translated into all official languages so that it could be understood by all and for it to be easier. Would this be possible?

Ms Solomons replied that she would submit the request but she understood that language services provided vocal translation. She did not know if they had the capacity to translate documents. She would come back to the Committee on this.

Ms Khawula spoke in isiZulu.

The Chairperson translated that the Member said it was possible for translation to take place both in terms of written text and vocal translation. This required an effort because at times documents were also received in Afrikaans. It should not be an issue for documents to be translated for any language of choice. Furthermore only one language requested here was - isiZulu. He requested that documents that came before the Committee were duly translated.

Mr Basson requested it be recorded that the DA reserved its right on the Report – this was neither rejection nor acceptance.

Mr Shelembe asked how the Department would raise the estimated R670 billion needed to provide water and sanitation to South Africans over the next ten years bearing in mind that people acted negatively toward the government or municipality when services were not delivered.

The Chairperson noted the Report requested that the Department and entities provide a breakdown on the proposed budget and projects for the medium term regarding this budget. This would include information around sourcing the budget.

Mr Shelembe highlighted that R570 billion was presented by the Department while the Report said R670 billion – which figure was to be used? 

The Chairperson had the same question but it had been stated over and over again that the figure was R670 billion. The Department would unpack this budget further to the Committee and this would allow Members a chance to engage.

The Chairperson asked how the DA’s reservation would be noted in the Report.

Mr Basson suggested a simple sentence.

The Chairperson was concerned this created a free-for-all although he was not against the DA’s reservation. He was concerned that Members engaged in the meeting but could not commit to the outcome of the Report. This was an anomaly and inconsistent.   

Ms Balindlela was mindful that internal party issues should not impede on the Committee’s work but Members needed to learn from internal systems. 

Ms Maluleka moved for adoption of the Report with amendments and Mr D Mnguni (ANC) seconded this. 

Mr Basson asked if the amended Report could be sent to Members today.

The Chairperson indicated that it would be. 

Mr Mnguni commented that everyone had the right to air their opinions in the meeting and if there were any issues it should raised in the Committee. Processes would be delayed if Members first needed to consult. Members were mandated by their parties to discuss what the people of SA needed. 

Mr T Makondo (ANC) was worried about the precedent set by reserving the right to comment. If this was so then Members should not attend meetings and participate.

Mr Mpontshane proposed the Committee agree with the Chairperson’s earlier proposal to look into the matter, consult colleagues and come back to Committee. It should be remembered democracy was tyranny under the majority and this should be accepted.

Mr Basson did not want Members to dwell on the matter as he was merely asking that it be recorded the DA did not accept nor reject the Report. This was their right. He did not represent himself but he represented a party and acted on instructions from the party exactly as other Members acted on the instructions of their parties. He had made proposals in the meeting which were recorded in the Report so it was not a rejection of the Report. There was nothing wrong in requesting the right to reserve comment.

The Chairperson said the matter was being dwelled on because the Committee did not want to be disorganised by a party. If a party had not done its homework this should not impede negatively on the Committee’s work.

Mr Basson felt the Chairperson was putting words in his mouth. He did not understand how the Committee could get into a dialogue over whether something was going to be recorded or not. It was his right to have the request minuted and if the Chairperson would not do so, that should be indicated. 

The Chairperson said the request was minuted a long time ago. Mr Mpontshane was spot on – he would consult with the House Chairperson as it was an anomaly for Members to participate in a meeting but was not bound by the results of the meeting. This was democrazy not democracy – it had gone beyond democracy to craziness.   

Committee Minutes dated 25 June 2014

The Chairperson took the Committee through the minutes.

The minutes dated 25 June 2014 was adopted with minor amendments.

Committee Minutes dated 2 July 2014

The minutes dated 2 July 2014 were adopted without amendments.

Other Committee Business

The Chairperson noted there would be no meeting next week but there would be extended public committees. The Committee would meet again on 25 July 2014. 

The Committee’s Budget Vote 38 Debate would take place on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 in E249, National Assembly.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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