The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefed the Select Committee on its Strategic Priorities for 2014/15 – 2018/19. Given time constraints the Department only managed to speak to the strategic priorities of two of its Programmes which were Programme 1: Administration and Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation. A strategic objective under the Administration Programme was to have adequate and appropriately skilled staff. Setting the vacancy rate of the Department as a performance indicator, the targets for 2014/15 and 2018/19 had been set at 9.5% and 8% respectively.
The strategic priorities of the Biodiversity and Conservation Programme were the expansion and effective management of conservation estate, mitigation of threats, legislation and regulatory review and lastly the sustainable use of ecosystems and species.
Members raised a concern as to whether there were consequences to non-compliance to air quality requirements by certain industries. Specific reference was made to DEA inspectors and the inference was made in terms of what their powers were.
Further information was requested regarding a private-public-partnership which the DEA had entered into with regards to a building. The information was requested because in many instances private-public-partnerships were more to the benefit of the private party than government.
There was a feeling amongst Members that perhaps the format of the presentation had been too detailed and comprehensive. The presentation could consequently not be completed due to time constraints. A more simplified presentation would have been more useful to Members.
The controversial issue of rhino poaching was raised and the efforts of the DEA on it were questioned. Of interest to Members was what the stance of the DEA was on the proposed sale of rhino horn as a commodity to prevent the slaughter of rhinos.
Members also questioned what the DEA’s Local Government Strategy entailed. Due to time constraints many of the questions remained unanswered and the DEA agreed to furnish the Committee with written responses in due course.
Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefing on its Strategic Priorities for 2014/15 – 2018/19
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director General, DEA, stated that officials from her delegation would take over where relevant.
She provided the Committee with a brief synopsis of each of the DEA’s seven Programmes which were Administration, Legal, Authorisations and Compliance, Oceans and Coasts, Climate Change and Air Quality Management, Biodiversity and Conservation, Environmental Programmes and lastly Chemicals and Waste Management. She also referred to the legislative framework within which the DEA operated. Ms Ngcaba told Members that the DEA would not be bringing any real legislation before the Committee during 2014.
Mr J Parkies (ANC, Free State) interjected and stated that the Committee was limited as far as time was concerned and asked Ms Ngcaba to go directly to presenting the DEA’s Strategic Objectives.
The Chairperson agreed that there were time constraints and that Members should still have time to ask questions.
Ms Ngcaba proceeded directly with the strategic objectives as set out in the Administration Programme of the DEA. In the interest of time she was not able to go into too much detail.
Programme 1: Administration
The DEA had a strategic objective of having adequate and appropriately skilled staff. Setting the vacancy rate of the DEA as a performance indicator, the targets for 2014/15 and 2018/19 had been set at 9.5% and 8% respectively.
Another strategic objective set was to have an efficient and effective information technology (IT) service. The performance indicator used was the percentage availability of IT services. The targets set for 2014/15 and 2018/19 was to have availability of IT services at 97% and 99% respectively.
Improved access to information was another strategic objective. The performance indicator used was the number of website hits per annum. The targets set for 2014/15 and 2018/19 was 450 000 and 660 000 hits per annum respectively.
Effective cooperative governance and local government support was a further strategic objective set. The DEA had developed and implemented a local government support strategy and it was used as a performance indicator. The target set for 2014/15 was to have an annual action plan implemented. The target for 2018/19 was to have the local government support strategy reviewed and to have the annual action plan implemented.
Ms Ngcaba asked whether the Committee wished her to elaborate on budgets or should the next Programme be presented.
The Committee agreed to deal with the next Programme.
Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation
An official from the DEA provided the Committee with a very brief presentation on the strategic priorities of the Programme. The following strategic priorities were presented:
Expansion and effective management of conservation estate
The DEA wished to have:
- A business case for the Vredefort Dome
- A nomination dossier for Nelson Mandela memorials
- A list of 2 biosphere reserves
ii) Mitigation of threats
- The DEA wished to develop a CITES COP 17 lobbying strategy
- The intention was to curb rhino poaching and wildlife crime
- The DEA wished to implement biodiversity and mining guidelines
- The aim was also to do a UNCCD NAP Review and a NBSAP Review
- An IPBES hub had been established
iii) Legislation and Regulatory Review
- The NEMBA and NEMPAA were to be reviewed
- The implementation of the TOPS and CITES Regulations needed to be reviewed
iv) Sustainable use of ecosystems and species
- Advancing Wildlife Economy: NBEDS had been finalised
- The Vision 2024 implementation was to create 60 000 new jobs
- The Biodiversity Economy Indaba was still to take place
He spoke to the controversial issue of rhino poaching and said that the figure for 2014 to date was well over 700 rhinos that had been poached. As previously stated the national strategy for the safety and security of rhinos was being reviewed.
Ms Ngcaba interjected and stopped the briefing in order to allow time for Members to ask questions.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa on her arrival.
Minister Molewa apologised for joining the meeting late and further apologised for having to leave the meeting before its conclusion. She had another meeting to attend.
The Chairperson referring to DEA inspectors for air quality asked whether there were specific consequences for non-compliance in highly industrial or mining areas.
Ms Ngcaba replied that there was an Environmental Affairs Inspectorate. The DEA had its ways in terms of recruiting, training and designating inspectors. The inspectors had similar powers to that of the South African Police Services. Inspectors were used in the air quality area.
A DEA official added that if air quality licence requirements were not adhered to and emission levels were unacceptable then inspectors would step in. There was a compliance framework in place.
Mr J Parkies (ANC, Free State) referring to capacity at provincial level said that there were no people to monitor and check what was happening. It was true that biodiversity contributed greatly to the SA economy. The briefing spoke about a total of 60 000 new jobs by 2024. The Committee needed greater detail on biodiversity and what it entailed.
The DEA spoke about a wildlife economy and mention was made of three natural resource based projects. He asked for greater clarity over the issue.
He further asked for greater detail on a private-public –partnership (PPP) as mentioned in the briefing document in relation to a building. In many instances PPP that government entered into tend to be more to the benefit of the private party. This was however not necessarily the case with the DEA PPP.
Ms Ngcaba replied that the PPP building procurement process had been undertaken. It had been a 2-3 year process. An audit had been done so Members could rest assured. She noted that the private party had built the building upfront and would run the building for 25 years to recoup their investment. Government had paid a certain portion of the building. The process had been in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and PPP guidelines.
Mr A Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) pointed out that when the Committee interacted with the DEA Members learnt new things. There was so much detail to absorb that perhaps the Committee needed half a day or a full day to interact with the DEA.
He asked whether the DEA was satisfied that its Programmes were relevant. Was there a need to increase or decrease the number of Programmes?
Members of the Committee represented the interests of the provinces. Given that the projects of the DEA were located in certain areas Members would have like information regarding projects in all provinces represented by Members.
With regards to the targets of the DEA, was there a tool with which Members could verify and monitor performance.
He referred to the briefing and said that the format of the presentation was perhaps too detailed and comprehensive. Was it not possible to simplify the presentation in order for Members to do justice to it? Members had to work in a constructive manner.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) felt that the Committee needed another interaction with the DEA to obtain a comprehensive presentation. A summarised version of the current presentation would be preferred and it should contain priorities relevant to SA.
On the issue of the rhino poaching Members needed to get an indication of what the DEA was doing.
He also asked why there were two acting director generals amongst those attending the meeting. How long had they been in their acting capacity and when the posts they were occupying were to be filled?
Minister Molewa responded to some of the issues raised by Members. The first issue she spoke to was about the DEA’s strategic priorities and to structure a report in such a manner that was more understandable to Members and was secondly much more summarised.
The Committee and the DEA had to be on the same level of information. It was a bit unfortunate that the Committee and the DEA was at different departure points. Strategic priorities as under Annual Performance Plans flow from 5-year Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) plans. This was followed by all government departments.
The DEA had its Programmes which set targets in terms of its strategic priorities. This was the accepted format used. If a summary was to be made it would be a different report altogether as it would be in chunks. It would not be strategic priorities. Taken out of the current document could be information relevant to Members in terms of numbers of jobs, numbers of skills, number of women and number of youth. She noted that such information could be provided over and above the strategic report.
She felt it best to take each Programme of the DEA chunk for chunk. It was best not to restructure the current report but rather to speak to specific issues.
Ms Ngcaba explained that there were no vacancies in the DEA as far as deputy director generals were concerned. The two officials present were in acting capacities due to the fact that one deputy director general was off sick and another was abroad. The DEA did have some chief director posts that were vacant.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) proposed that the Committee be briefed on two Programmes each of the DEA and the Department of Minerals.
She asked what the DEA’s Local Government Strategy entailed. How did it fit in with the legislative framework on water management? It was also asked what chemical waste and positions approved entailed.
She requested more information regarding the infrastructure grant given to public entities.
She suggested that the biodiversity and conservation legislative review should be done through the Committee.
It was furthermore requested that the Committee be privy to the National Environmental Management Act Regulations.
Where were the two biosphere reserves located? In which two provinces were the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS).
She referred to Programme 6 and asked when the Risk Report was going to be completed. What were the four operations that were registered?
Ms Ngcaba explained that the infrastructure grant to entities like SANParks was for staff accommodation, fences, hospitality facilities etc.
Mr A Singh (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) noted that in the interest of time he would not repeat questions asked by Members. If over 700 hundred rhinos had been killed to date in 2014 was the DEA in control of these losses. Was the DEA on top of things or was the battle being lost? He asked what the stance of the DEA was on the sale of rhino horn as a commodity to prevent the slaughter of rhinos. He asked whether the DEA was aware where rhino horn stockpiles in provinces were.
Minister Molewa stated that if she was to fully respond to the question whether the DEA was winning the fight against rhino poaching it could take the better part of an hour to answer. She would have to elaborate on the poaching figures, reasons for poaching, what actions the DEA was taking and what new proposals were being made over the problem.
The issue of whether the selling of rhino horn by government would act as a deterrent to rhino poaching was being considered. In 2008 government placed a moratorium on the sale of rhino horn. The DEA was trying all measures to eradicate the problem. Security tightening, identifying and catching organised syndicates as well as closing loopholes in legislation were all attempts made by the DEA. The DEA was even working with user and transit countries. It was true that there were government stockpiles of rhino horn and the possible sale thereof was being considered. She emphasised that the sale of rhino horn stockpiles by government was still only being considered and was not a foregone conclusion. There was a team in place to evaluate the matter of whether rhino horn should be sold or not.
Years ago SA had sold stockpiles of ivory. Since then no elephant had been killed for its ivory. It did not mean that it would work with rhino horn as well. There was also the option of dehorning rhinos. The DEA would analyse whatever proposal the team came up with. A scientific approach was being used by the team. The team’s proposal would be taken to cabinet. It would then be presented at COP17 which was to be hosted in SA in 2016.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) agreed that the DEA could support local government but the DEA also had to regulate and keep local government and other institutions accountable. Water in SA was a scarce resource yet local governments were polluting rivers. He asked where the DEA’s Local Government Strategy came into play.
Ms Ngcaba pointed out that the Local Government Strategy covered all areas. The Strategy itself was differentiated as the needs of municipalities differed.
Mr J Parkies asked what bio-security diseases were.
Minister Molewa in the interest of time suggested that written responses be forwarded to the Committee by the DEA.
The Chairperson asked the DEA to note the questions of Members and to provide written responses in due course.
Ms Ngcaba noted that the DEA’s work was very technical. If the Committee wished the presentation to be repackaged then it was best that the DEA workshop the Committee beforehand.
The Chairperson gave the DEA up until Tuesday, 2nd September 2014 to provide the Committee with the written responses to the remainder of the questions.
Mr Rayi suggested that Members be allowed to forward additional questions to the DEA on its other Programmes as well.
Mr Parkies stressed that the workshop be held before the Biodiversity Indaba.
The meeting was adjourned.
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