Disaster Management Amendment Bill: briefing by Department of Cooperative Governance

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

24 February 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Officials from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ Disaster Management sector briefed the Committee on the proposed amendments in the Disaster Management Amendment Bill. Disaster management was a functional area listed in Schedule 4A of the Constitution. The Disaster Management Act of 2002 was intentionally reputed for its emphasis on prevention and its relative comprehensive approach to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The principal Act was centred around the creation of appropriate institutional arrangements for disaster management. The ideals of disaster management could not be achieved without structures to support its myriad actions. However the implementation has posed significant challenges, particularly at the level of local municipalities. Therefore the purpose of the review was to tackle these challenges by maximising the effect of disaster management legislation for communities, especially those most at risk.

Some challenges were experienced in implementing the principal Act which necessitated that the Act be amended making it simpler to implement, to strengthen certain regulatory provisions, avoid ambiguity and provide legal certainty. There were however two issues which could not be dealt with by the Disaster Management Amendment Bill; one was the notion that implementation challenges were experienced due to the inappropriate location of disaster management centres within the organizational structures of provinces and municipalities. Second was that there was no specific funding allocated for disaster risk reduction efforts across the spheres of government.

The disaster management approach of the Department of Cooperative Governance paid specific attention to the pressing needs of poor communities in both natural and human induced disasters in the context of a developmental state. In many instances, especially in sector departments and local municipalities, little or no organisational capacity for disaster management currently existed. The Amendment Bill re-emphasised the requirement to establish capacity to implement disaster management effectively. It would affirm these responsibilities by having organs of state assign the required resources to perform its mandated functions. It would also protect interests of vulnerable groups through a focus on disaster risk reduction across the spheres and sectors of government.

Some of the questions by Members noted that local government was already struggling financially, so how would the implementation of the Amendment Bill be financed? Would it be out of existing budgets? Also, with regard to Clause 5 and Clause 8 of the Amendment Bill, why was the Director General being substituted by the Minister. Why was the Bill relying on the Minister to handle staff related matters? Could the Department share all the views expressed during its consultations? The dominant concern was that local municipalities were already under capacitated and did not have the funds to efficiently implement their functions. Would funding for the implementation of the Bill’s amendments come from additional funding in the equitable share?

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
Chairperson Mdakane welcomed the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and noted that apologies were received from the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Director-General who were unable to attend the meeting. He indicated that under normal circumstances the meeting would not continue without the political heads of the Department present, but he understood that they were involved in very serious meeting which meant they could not attend the Committee meeting.

Disaster Management Amendment Bill: briefing by Department
Mr Ken Terry, Head: National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), COGTA, introduced the team from the Department.

Ms Ane Bruwer, NDMC Executive Manager: Legislation, Policy and Compliance Management explained the Disaster Management Amendment Bill was recently sent to Parliament by the Minister for tabling. Disaster management was a functional area listed in Schedule 4A of the Constitution. This implied that the national legislative authority had concurrent competence with the provincial legislative authority. The Disaster Management Act of 2002 was intentionally reputed for its emphasis on prevention and its relative comprehensive approach to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The principal Act centred on the creation of appropriate institutional arrangements for disaster management. The ideals of disaster management could not be achieved without structures to support its myriad actions. However the implementation has posed significant challenges, particularly at the level of local municipalities. Therefore this review aimed to tackle these challenges by maximising the effect of disaster management legislation on communities, especially those most at risk.

The aim of the principal Act was to ensure implementation of an integrated and coordinated approach to disaster management across all spheres of government involving all relevant stakeholders. Some challenges were experienced in implementing the principal Act which necessitated that it be amended making it simpler to implement, to strengthen certain regulatory provisions, avoid ambiguity and provide legal certainty. Cabinet approved the publication of the draft Disaster Management Amendment Bill for public comment in June 2013. Once consultation was completed, Cabinet approved the submission of the final Bill to Parliament on 17 September 2014. The Bill was then sent to Parliament.

The review of disaster management legislation formed part of the strategic plan of the Department of Cooperative Governance (Strategic Plan: 2009-2014).The disaster management approach of the Department pays specific attention to the pressing needs of poor communities in both natural and human induced disasters in the context of a developmental and capable state. She explained that calls to amend the Disaster Management Act came from a number of stakeholders, and these included the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DIMSA) and the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum (NDMAF).

Consultation resulted in the drafting of the Disaster Management Amendment Bill which aimed at:
- Clarifying terminology
- The representation of traditional leaders in the disaster management advisory forums
- Providing for the NDMAF to serving as the SA National Platform for DRR thereby incorporating the obligations set out in the Hyogo Framework of Action
- Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of organs of state to assist the disaster management structures
- Strengthening reporting on policy implementation, DRR, relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts using IGR structures
- Re-affirming the role of municipalities (both at district and local level) to establish disaster management centres and improve capacity for the development and coordination of disaster management plans
- Granting the Minister authority to make regulations on education, training, research and the classification and declaration of disasters.

There were however two issues which could not be dealt with by the Disaster Management Amendment Bill; one was the notion that implementation challenges were experienced due to the inappropriate location of disaster management centres within the organizational structures of provinces and municipalities. Second was that there was no specific funding allocated for disaster risk reduction efforts across the spheres of government. Careful consideration should therefore be given to the placement of Disaster Management Centres in the organisational structure to fulfil its strategic role to effectively reduce the risk of disaster and be responsive to the needs of communities in the municipality. A legislative provision should ultimately also raise the profile of disaster management centres within the respective spheres.

With regard to the implementation of the Bill, the Chief State Law Adviser had suggested that the Bill be tagged as a Section 76 Bill since it contained provisions affecting the interests of the provinces. The NDMC would support the parliamentary process. Once the Bills was passed into law, the Department would have sessions to engage with provinces and municipalities (including SALGA) on the substance of the Amendment Act. There would be no new implications for government. However, the principal Act already required all organs of state to have capacity to develop and implement disaster management plans and perform the disaster management function. In many instances, especially in sector departments and local municipalities, little or no organisational capacity for disaster management currently existed. A few local municipalities had recognised the need for dedicated disaster management capacity and had appointed officials to coordinate and implement the disaster management function in the municipality with positive results (such as Tlokwe LM in NW; Polokwane LM in Limpopo; Kwadukuza LM in KZN; Greater Giyani LM in Limpopo; Rustenburg LM in NW; Mafikeng LM in NW). The Amendment Bill re-emphasized the requirement to establish capacity to implement disaster management effectively.

On financial implications, she said of the current legislative provisions, that organs of state across the spheres and sectors of government already had a responsibility to provide for developing disaster management plans and their implementation. The Amendment Bill would affirm these responsibilities by having organs of state assign the required resources to perform these mandated functions. With regard to constitutional implications, the Bill would give effect to the principles of co-operative government set out in Chapter 3 of the Constitution through clear guidance on disaster management across the spheres of government. Further, by placing emphasis on reducing the risk of disasters, it affirmed the collective duty on the part of each sphere of government and all organs of state to ‘secure the well-being of the people of the Republic’. The Amendment Bill would protect the interests of vulnerable groups through its disaster risk reduction focus..

Discussion
Mr K Mileham (DA) asked about the financial implications of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill was to assist in the implementation of disaster management centres and to assist in disaster management functionality at local government level. He argued that local government was already struggling financially; how would the implementation of the Amendment Bill be financed? Would it be out of existing budgets? If it was going to be funded by the national fiscus, the Bill then became a Money Bill meaning it should be introduced by the Minister of Finance. Could the Department provide clarity on this? Also, with regard to Clauses 5 and 8 of the Amendment Bill, he asked why the Director General was being substituted by the Minister. Why was the Bill relying on the Minister to handle staff related matters?

Mr N Masondo (ANC) asked that the Department indicate where the disaster management centres are.

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) indicated that he only received the presentation document during the meeting; therefore he had not had enough time to study the documents. The Committee needed a better understanding of what the proposed amendments were. The presentation indicated there had been some consultation; could the Department share all the views expressed during these consultations? What were the financial implications?

Ms Bruwer responded to the question on the Bill’s financial implications and said the Department has had a lot of engagement with National Treasury. However there was no agreement that the Bill was a Money Bill. After consultation with National Treasury the Department came to the conclusion that finances would be made available through the normal budgeting process. As organs of state, including municipalities, already had this responsibility in the principal Act, there were no new obligations. The amendments would become part of the normal municipal plans. There was also provision in the national fiscus for the equitable share. Provisions for disaster management therefore have been made, there were no new provisions or requirements, the Bill would simply be strengthening existing legislation. Therefore, there were no new financial implications.

On Clauses 5 and 8, she said the Department had engaged the Department of Public Service and Administration. Cabinet had approved that the disaster management centres would become a government component. These were not provided for in the principal Act in 2002. There were certain responsibilities which the head of the centre already had in terms of the Act. However provisions needed to be made for the Minister to intervene. With regard to the disaster management centres, she explained that the existing Act required each municipality to have a disaster management centre in its area. In total there were 62 disaster management centres throughout the country, some of them are doing very well. Therefore there needed to be continuity in investing in these centres. The Bill stated that a local municipality in a district municipality could made an arrangement to take over the centre if they had enough capacity. With regard to what the content of the Bill covered, she replied this included terminology, the role of traditional leaders, responsibilities of organs of state and strengthening of the spending requirements. Municipalities needed to be held accountable for the money which was given to them by government. The other highlight was that of giving the Minister some authority to make amendments.

Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) responded on the matter of Members not getting documents earlier and explained that the meeting had been scheduled to take place in March, but was moved forward at short notice.

Chairperson Mdakane thanked the Department for the presentation. He said it would be up to the Committee to decide when it would be an appropriate time to deal with the Bill clause by clause.

Mr Mileham followed up on the financial implications and asked what elements of the equitable share funding would be allocated to the Bill. He agreed that there has been a desire to establish disaster management centres as standalone entities, however this had implications. Why was this option being explored now?

Mr Hlengwa asked if traditional leaders in various communities had been engaged with regard to unlocking land.

Chairperson Mdakane noted that the principal Act was passed in 2003. This meant that local authorities should have already implemented the Act. The Bill was now trying to simplify implementation of the Act. Therefore there would be no new financial implications. The principal Act had initially not made any mention of the role of traditional leaders. Climate change also necessitated amendments in the Bill. The laws of the country needed to be drafted in a way which accommodated local and global changes.

Ms Bruwer responded to the question on equitable share and said according to National Treasury, disaster management could not be ring-fenced. It could not prescribe how municipalities must deal with their equitable share. However National Treasury has outlined guidelines on how the equitable share can be used better.

Mr Terry said in terms of the government component, the Act said disaster management was also a function of the President, meaning that the President could move disaster management to a department if he sees fit. Government components can be established by the President. In terms of equitable share, the Department was also responsible for fire services for disaster management centres. However some of the current legislation was very old. The Minister will also look into revising the current funding model. The current system needed to be restructured.

Mr Mileham raised a concern that in all the municipalities he visited, fire services was completely under-funded. Was this going to be a government component and from where would the funding come? A lot of equipment was needed. For example, at the Buffalo City fire department there were no safe suits for firemen. All their suits were worn out. The argument was that there was no money to buy the fire suits. Even if this was going to become a national government component, the focus on implementation will be at local municipal level, there had to be additional funding allocated to disaster management. Would there be additional funding in the equitable share? These implications had to be considered because currently municipalities were unable to implement and meet the current needs of their communities.

Mr Terry responded that the government component was at national level, it did not go down to municipalities. The current provincial and municipal structures stayed the same. The funding model included the NCF funds which were allocated for disaster management. These funds would be restructured to deal with the current local government component. There was no new money coming in. Coordination took place at national level. The head of the disaster management centres needed at times to make decisions on the spot, without waiting for approval from the Minister; these were some of the amendments which were needed in the principal Act. The Department has conducted a feasibility study, and this would be made available to the Committee. No new money would be needed. The focus of the Bill was on re-prioritization. Other amendments in the Bill allowed for some of the districts to take over some of the functions of disaster management.

Mr B Bhanga (DA) asked who constitutes the advisory committee.

Mr Terry responded that the Advisory Forum was chaired by the Disaster Management Centre and all sector departments were represented, all provincial disaster management centres were represented, all regulators such as the National Nuclear Regulator, and representatives from universities and institutions. Everyone involved in disaster management had representation, including international bodies such as the Red Cross.

Chairperson Mdakane thanked the Department and said Parliament would set up its processes and deal with the Bill clause by clause. The Department would be invited again. The amendments were necessary. Parliament’s legal team would also be consulted. He thanked Members for their engagement with the presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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