Department of Environmental Affairs & SA Weather Service Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2015, Minister present

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

17 March 2015
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee, in the presence of the Minister of Environmental Affairs, met with the senior officials of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to receive a briefing on the DEA's strategic plans for 2014 to 2019. However, time precluded anything more than the general overview and Programme 1 being presented and discussed and the remainder would be deferred to later in the week. The DEA was aligned with the National Development Plan, and particularly its focus on a society and economy characterised by qualitative growth, job creation, leading to growth that was sustainable and internationally competitive. Its plans were anchored in sustaining ecosystems and the efficient use of natural resources, coupled with sufficient climate change mitigation and adaptation response, a low-carbon economy resulting from a just transition, enhanced governance systems and capacity and sustainable human communities. This would be linked to sustainable innovations and incentives. At the moment, there was low economic growth that resulted in National Treasury introducing several budget cuts, that had also affected DEA. However, it was hoping for growth and investment in new and existing green sectors and industries through the Green Climate Fund, was focusing on changing consumer behaviour on waste and industrial waste, mitigation of greenhouse gases, and emphasised that commitment was needed from all sectors. The Department could play a key role in influencing the global agenda. Its internal objectives were concentrated on developing and setting the environmental agenda, building a culture of sustainability, coordination and monitoring. Members were interested to hear how cooperation and linkages with other departments was achieved, asked how its goals to increase access and ensure fair and equitable benefits and improvements could be achieved, and whether any areas of work might be scaled down because of the economic outlook. For this reason, the Committee felt that perhaps the strategic plans were not clear enough. The Minister stressed that the Department was both regulator and implementer, and its objectives straddled all the programmes, although it was also true that some required compliance by other departments. She was at pains to explain how the budget cuts affected its programmes, and later also to explain the choices of the Department in regard to filling posts. Members asked if there were any departments with whom the cooperation was not sound, and the Chairperson suggested the need for this Committee to also meet with others. Some of the other programmes were further expanded upon that involved other research institutions or departments. In relation to Programme 1, the DEA outlined its specific targets, expanded upon education and information management, and preparation and submission of reports. Members asked about the representation of disabled people at senior management level, when equity targets were likely to be reached, an explanation of the vacancy rate and funded posts, asked for examples of projects invested in and their overall contribution to the objectives, and asked for more information on the legal division and how international funding was allocated. The remainder of the programmes stood over for presentation later.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) presented its five-year strategic plan, noting the mandate, vision and mission and its obligations. It was to contribute to climate change and variability adaptation, for the safety of life and property, and to ensure sustainability of metrological competence by helping to build a national talent pool in the atmospheric and related sciences. It had begun with career-pathing, achieved a 72% rate in employee satisfaction, developed a national education plan and published a series on the general climate of SA. Bursary graduates were absorbed. A key project was the National Climate Change Response Policy, as a global framework for climate services and national flagship programmes for critical skills. SAWS was concentrating on sustainability, resource mobilisation, strategic partnering/collaboration, positioning of SAWS and relevant projects in line with the needs of the country. Later it was also stressed and illustrated that many of its goals were directly related to those of the DEA. More explanation was provided on how it managed stakeholder, partner and key client relationships, promoting its distinctive capabilities and ensuring its sustainability as well as emphasising its status as pre-eminent meteorological institution nationally, regionally and globally. It was growing aviation and commercial revenue and consistently building a talent pool for atmospheric science and related services. The presentation on its income highlighted seven years of unqualified audits, and the fact that it was not receiving any government capital grant in 2015/16. Employee costs were R210.149 million, or about 69% of expenditure, supplemented by commercial income, but operating costs had been kept low. It was focusing on funding for infrastructure life-cycle management, implementing the Master System Plan, building relationships with the regulator and aviation industry. Members asked about the retention targets and skills, asked if it could increase customer satisfaction, wondered how meaningful the engagements were and received an explanation of the projects. They asked if students were passing their studies, and questioned whether its move to other areas of work was not at odds with the declining grants and whether it was not at risk of over-stretching. Members questioned why the APPs of DEA and SAWS appeared to be different, felt that targets were not clear, and commented that more clarity could be given in the next engagement. 

Meeting report

Chairperson's Introductory Remarks

The Chairperson noted this important meeting would involve the Committee looking at the strategic plans and Annual Performance Plans (APP) of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and one of the Department’s entities, the SA Weather Service (SAWS). Although the Committee originally planned to hold full-day meetings, new programmes on the National Assembly’s agenda prevented this, and the meetings would be continued on Friday. The House would be adopting the Division of Revenue Act which was tabled by the Minister of Finance, from which this Department's budget would derive. He reminded Members that the people expected Parliamentary Committees to hold government accountable on the appropriated finances and performance.

He noted his and the Committee's sadness at the passing away of one of South Africa's most reliable and hard working Ministers, Honourable Collins Chabane. The Committee rose and observed a moment of silence in his honour.

Department of Environmental Affairs Medium Term Strategic Plan 2014-2019

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, noted the Department had tabled its Strategic Plan to Parliament on 11 March 2015 in terms of the rules. The plan was in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) particularly with the 2020 vision focused on a society and economy characterised by qualitative growth, job creation, leading to growth that was sustainable and internationally competitive for a prosperous South Africa (SA). The strategic plan priorities had been developed in line with government’s prioritised outcomes approach, where the Department was aligned primarily with Outcome 10. The priorities of the Department took into account external factors and assumptions in the context of low growth and threats to environmental sustainability. The plan was anchored in sustaining ecosystems and the efficient use of natural resources. The Department wanted a sufficient climate change mitigation and adaptation response, and hoped to meet priorities in respect of environmentally sustainable growth and ensuring that growth of the country was achieved in a manner not detrimental to the environment and health of the citizens of the country, to reach a low-carbon economy resulting from a just transition, enhanced governance systems and capacity and sustainable human communities. To achieve this, the Department required coherent and conducive policies and a fiscal and regulatory system to facilitate innovation and incentives.

The fiscal environmental was not at the best and there was low economic growth. Therefore, National Treasury had outlined that government was not to exceed certain expenditure, and budget cuts were experienced, including in the DEA, which had received a decreased budget for this MTSF. The Department hoped for growth and investment in new and existing green sectors/industries through the Green Climate Fund (which would be accessed later this year) and other bilateral funds. The Department was also focused on consumer and public behavioural change in how waste was handled and how the industries itself dealt with waste responsibly for recycling and ensuring that as little waste as possible went to landfill sites. This also applied to solutions to mitigating Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from energy efficiency and demand management, both from public buildings and at a human settlements level. An economy-wide commitment was needed for this transition to a low-carbon economy – government could not bear sole responsibility.

She directed Members' attention to the strategy map (see attached presentation) and noted that linkages were highlighted where equity was the key pillar. The key outcomes of the Department included that:
- environmental economic contributions should be optimised
- ecological/environmental integrity should be safeguarded and enhanced
- socially transformed and transition communities be achieved
- the Department should be key in influencing the global agenda
- the Department would meet global/local obligations for enhanced international cooperation, supportive of SA’s environmental/sustainable development priorities.

The Department’s internal strategic objectives were centred on developing and setting the environmental agenda, building a culture of sustainability and coordinating and monitoring.

The Department still had its seven programmes, namely, (1) Administration (2) Legal authorisations, Compliance and Enforcement (3) Oceans and Coasts (4) Climate Change and Air Quality (5) Biodiversity and Conservation (6) Environmental Programmes and (7) Chemicals and Waste Management.

Discussion

The Chairperson questioned the transition to a low-carbon economy, seeing that the Department was not the only player in this space. Other government departments were also involved. He asked how this was incorporated in the strategy of the Department?

Ms Ngcaba highlighted the key point that the Department was an enabler to growth based on sustainability principles. The strategy map outlined what was within the Department’s control, but also showed how it would facilitate those and take action to ensure the transition was achieved. The Department also had the ability to pilot programmes which would facilitate and catalyse behavioural changes both for industry and sectors. An example of this was the Green Fund where technologies could be demonstrated and tested for improving the emissions profile of the country. Energy was critical in the transition to a low carbon future because it was one major contributor to GHG emissions. Renewable energy was a big sector where there was a plan in place to work with energy and transport (motorised and public). The Department had an opportunity to lead in these areas.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) sought clarity on the goals to increase access and ensure fair and equitable benefits and improvement of social economic benefits, and asked for an explanation of the difference.

Ms Ngcaba explained that access to fair and equitable benefits referred to benefits which were in the Department’s control, like bio-prospecting or natural resources which were ordinarily exploited by industry. However, through the Biodiversity Act Access and Sharing regulations, the beneficiaries and knowledge owners would receive benefits from the proceeds. Improving socio-economic benefits referred to programmes where the Department undertook to improve natural resources' use, like controlling alien invasive species using labour-intensive methodologies instead of insects, to create socio-economic benefits and to contribute to social upliftment and transformation.

The Chairperson thought the strategic plan was not clear nor well articulated how the Department interacted and influenced with others in the transition to a low-carbon intensive economy. He asked if there were any particular areas of work that might necessarily be scaled-down because of the economic outlook which was highlighted. It happened all over the world where projects were arranged over a longer period than initially expected, due to the economic outlook. He asked also if government was included when reference was made to consumer and societal change. Government as a whole was the driver in the transition and needed to have actively participation, so he wondered if the DEA had articulated plans with government in this regard to influence actions?

Ms Ngcaba highlighted that the Department’s role in monitoring and coordination was outlined in the strategic plan. The Department would coordinate and monitor effective partnerships, cooperative governance and local government support, use effective knowledge and information management for the sector and enhance sector monitoring and evaluation. DEA had a Chief Directorate focused on agility, where threats were monitored around the achievement of sustainable objectives. This would also generate information and knowledge to be packaged and made available to counterparts in government. Other objectives were to build a culture of sustainability for an improved profile, support and capacity for the environmental sector and improve compliance with environmental legislation. Influence could also occur through the objective of developing and setting the environmental agenda, specifically through a coherent and aligned multi-sector regulatory system. Environmental authorisations were a key feature here, in mining and water. The Department was already contributing toward changing behaviour, but hoped to do more. The "low-hanging fruits" in the transition were being focused on - like as buildings, where DEA was already working with the Department of Public Works (DPW), looking at the whole portfolio of public buildings for possible retrofitting to reduce energy wastage. Work was also being done with municipalities and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) to roll out programmes in municipalities, such as solar-powered street lightening and robots. There was thought being given, in each programme area of the Department, as to how it could facilitate and influence the transitioning and changing of behaviour. It was also hoped that, at some point, the whole of Parliament would be energy efficient. If investment was made into new technologies Parliament could save a lot of money in the long run.

Ms Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs, added that the Department was a regulator and implementer at the same time, citing the example of its objective to improve compliance with environmental legislation. The objectives of the Department as outlined permeated all its programmes. Some of the objectives required the compliance of other departments, such as Department of Transport or Energy. This was where the monitoring role of the DEA was apparent. Strategies were developed, in discussion with other departments, to come up with plans and programmes for efficient responses in the transition to a green and inclusive economy. She qualified that the cuts made by National Treasury (NT) came from another dialogue where the Department sat with NT to look areas where the Department's allocation could be reduced. This process also occurred with other departments. There was discussion around suspending some of the Compensation of Employee programmes until the economic situation improved. In any case some of the posts might not be that critical. New allocations were also made to Compensation of Employees, Goods and Services, and some programmes of the Green Fund (taken to the next outer year) and money would be reinstated when the economic outlook improved. The Department would suffer a little bit because it was still a relatively new Department, and needed a high level of capacity, but it was a temporary setback.

Ms T Stander (DA) thought the Chairperson raised an important point on DEA influencing other departments to achieve what was outlined as DEA’s mandate. This Department crossed over with Departments of Energy, Transport, Mineral Resources, Police, Justice and Human Settlements. She highlighted the example of China, where government invested heavily in solar panels which brought the price down so the public could afford them. Similarly, there was work done by other departments which impacted on the work of DEA, like the kinds of RDP houses built and where they were situated. She wanted to know which departments DEA was not influencing, and which departments DEA was actively engaging with, in order to achieve outcomes. Furthermore, where there was engagement, she enquired what the response was like.

Mr Makhubele was pleased the Minister and DG seemed to be clear on various areas of work but he was not clear on the risks and mitigation factors. These might not be inherent in each and every programme.

Ms Ngcaba noted the equitable and sound corporate governance objectives, under people and infrastructure capability, which included risk. The strategic plan also made reference to the objective to ensure effective and efficient performance, risk and financial management practices within the Department, by ensuring 100% compliance with all governance prescripts by 2020.

The Chairperson thought it prudent to provide a broad overview of each and every sector, in relation to the transition, because this was such an important matter which spoke to the strategic outlook of the Department. It would be very useful for this Committee to meet up with other portfolio committees once Members had a sense of where matters were and what were the legislative framework that departments must adhere to.

Minister Molewa indicated that although the Department was a regulatory and coordinating one, it was also at the same level with all other departments in terms of the Constitution, and this was a further point to bear in mind. The principles of cooperative governance allowed for engagement if departments or spheres of government were at loggerheads in terms of a specific area of work. Engagement was the first priority, before litigation. The DEA would not sit around a table and decide on policies for other departments, but rather engaged on policy responses. In the climate change response strategy, reference was made to issues of land, water, biodiversity, energy and so forth, for mitigation and adaptation. Another policy instrument was the strategy on the green economy, which had eight pillars, of which one spoke to the need for buildings to be sustainable and energy efficient. This obviously included government buildings, human settlements and the private sector. There was a plan for government to install one million solar water heaters instead of connecting people to the grid where they would consume fossil fuels.

Further implementation occurred through other research and academic institutions, like the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR) that could research technologies for new buildings. China already had inexpensive technology. South Africa should be moving to the point where it could rely on internal manufacturing instead of always relying on imports. This was not only in the case of solar water heaters. The Department was involved in building green houses (also called “light houses”) in municipalities where the buildings were energy efficient and temperature regulated. There were bricks made of cement and sawdust (chopped wood), as they ensured that the house was cooler.

Another policy instrument was CoGTA’s “urban rural development” to connect the urban-rural divide through infrastructure and development. It was too early to tell if these were success stories but there was no resistance from other departments. The current challenge was with the maintenance of the solar water heaters. There was great movement in energy efficiency for the future, and LED light bulbs were already being installed in RDP houses throughout the country. The tools and policies were in place for execution.

Programme One: Administration

Ms Limpho Makotoko, Chief Director: Business Performance Management, DEA, took the Committee through the essentials of this programme (see attached presentation), noting the Department had 100% compliance with Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) (score of 3.5) which was used by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. 65% of the Department’s funding went to affirmative procurement. There was a focus on value-added funding, with an amount of US$40 million that this Department would like to mobilise from bilateral and multilateral engagements. The Department was aiming for projects to be financed through international investments.

Another objective in this programme was focused on an adequate, appropriately skilled, transformed and diverse workforce. There was a renewed focus on women in the SMS level. However, in the short term the Department was unlikely to meet this 50% prescribed target at the SMS, unless men in some posts were asked to resign, and this problem was compounded by the fact that the structure was being reduced.

The Chairperson interjected to ask when this 50% equity target would apply. It was understood the society was patriarchal, and this was even worse in the private sector. He wanted to understand the historical context behind this target.

Ms Ngcaba noted that in previous Annual Reports, the Department had less than 30% female employees in SMS level. Now it was at 42%, as against a target was 50%.

The Chairperson noted this was a challenging target but the Committee would still need to hold the Department accountable.

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) questioned why the vacancy rate was so high when unemployment in the country was also high, and expressed the concern that departments were too slow in filling vacancies.

Ms Ngcaba said there was a challenge of funding linked to the vacancy rate. NT took the position that the Department must thoroughly question why a vacant post should be filled, instead of simply not filling it because of the issue of funding. The Department also had a delay in funding but government’s target was that the vacancy rate should be kept below 10%. By the end of the year, the Department would stand at 9% so in essence it would still be within the prescripts. If there were further budget cuts, the Minister would either need to abolish the posts or they would be kept vacant but unfilled until other sources of funding were found. The budget for operations was already reprioritised and this could have an undesirable effect on compliance and enforcement and other operational actions, if people were unable to carry out the work because there were not enough funds. The ideal ratio was 2:1 with 2 being budget and 1 being personnel. Currently the Department was at almost 1: 0.8, which was unfortunately inadequate.

Ms Makotoko continued with the presentation on Programme 1, highlighting efficient and effective information technology systems which referred to the Master System plan. There was an objective to improve profile support of the Department and enhanced capacity for the environmental sector. This involved public participation programmes, awareness campaigns and facilitating environmental education in school curriculums - the training of teachers would be paramount in this regard to pass on knowledge of environmental management. There was also a focus on training DEA’s own environmental inspectors and municipal managers, especially in the area of waste management. The Department would continue with implementation of its local government support strategy for capacity building. In terms of enhancing sector monitoring and evaluation, there was a challenge in developing impact indicators.

Another objective was effective knowledge and information management for the sector. The Administration programme also focused on enhanced international cooperation supportive of SA’s environmental and sustainable development priorities, in terms of positions on climate change, chemicals and waste management and biodiversity for negotiation and engagement. In this area the Department had mandatory international and national reports prepared and submitted within timeframes.

Discussion

Mr Mabilo wanted some examples of the projects invested in and the value they played in the overall objectives of DEA.

Mr Alf Wills, Deputy Director General: Environmental Advisory Services, DEA, said there were two sources of funding - bilateral and multilateral. On the bilateral side, US$35 million was committed over a three year programme with Germany. With the USA, the Department had an implementation programme on climate change for US$10 million. With Norway, the Department had a programme with US$3 million. In terms of multilateral funding, the major source was the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), from which the Department had an allocation of R22 million for biodiversity, an allocation of R17 million for climate change and R8 million for land degradation. There was a remainder in GEF to cover international waters, chemicals and others. The Department was also engaging, on potential sources of funding, with Sweden, Finland and the EU, which had yet to commit to concrete funding for programmes. The Green Climate Fund had just been replenished to US$10.2 billion but at this point in time, the funds were not yet operational for allocation.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) wanted the Department to provide the Committee with a list of the vacancies which would not be filled because there was no funding.

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operating Officer, DEA, explained that in respect of the vacancies, it was a rate and not individuals that were referred to, because the Department had natural continuous attrition of people resigning. Currently, all of the Department’s posts were funded, and some non-priority posts were filled. DEA could only delete the post or freeze it from the structure if it was not occupied. When new vacancies occurred, the Department needed to test to see where, in the natural vacancy rate for the remainder of the year, it could be cutting down on posts. Posts which became vacant were not considered priority posts, but the DEA was currently filling all vacant priority posts. The Department had a quarterly vacancy management committee, chaired by the Director General, where this exact exercise of evaluating posts was carried out.

Minister Molewa added that this Department’s structure was fairly new and it was being filled incrementally and this was always the agreement with National Treasury. The Department continued to monitor natural attrition and critical posts which it could not do without and where there could be no compromise. Members were asked to keep this holistic picture in mind.

Ms Stander asked if any of the positions that it was anticipated might be cut were in the Legal, Enforcement and Compliance programme. She asked for the name of the online platform to manage licensing environmental impact assessments and permits, and asked when the Department might foresee this programme being up and running? She noted that some of the baseline figures were lower than in the strategic plan that the Department had submitted last year, and asked why were these baselines dropped?

Ms Makotoko said that in line with the DPME framework on planning, the baseline information should be derived as at the end of the third quarter. At the end of the third quarter DEA was at 93%, while at end of the financial year it was at 98%.

Ms McCourt explained with the critical skills in legal, authorisations, compliance and enforcement (LACE), there were increased targets and ambitions, but these were true of many of the Department’s programmes and not just LACE. Money was moved from Operations to fund critical staff, and the Department tried not to cut posts in these areas. Some of the money from Operations was also funding Compensation of Employees, exactly in the areas where "human hands" were needed. The Department also improved its efficiency of processes in order to need less human hours to carry out the same amount of work.

Minister Molewa requested that the correct language be used; namely that the Department was “not able to fill posts” instead of “cutting posts”. She emphasised that the positions or structures were there, but certain posts were consciously not being filled. There was a big difference between this, and cutting a post. Real monitoring of vacancies was occurring, to ensure the Department was efficient and effective.

Mr Ishaam Abader, Deputy Director General: Legal, Authorisations, Compliance and Enforcement, DEA, said the online system was called the Coordinated and Integrated Permitting System (CIPS). An initial testing would take place on 25 March. Three areas would be targeted – Environmental Impact Analysis (EIAs), waste and air quality permits. He was not sure when the programme would go live but there would probably be a five week gap from the initial testing, but this was not confirmed.

Mr Makhubele questioned the baselines for external funding. He asked if the international funding allocated to the Department was calculated per quarter? He was concerned that if the funding was in fact not allocated then the Department was not reflecting matters honestly in the strategic plan because that funding was dependent on others.

Ms J Malukele (ANC) asked about the Department’s targets for women and people with disabilities. She noted there was a target for 50% of women at an SMS level, but asked if the Department was not envisaging certain percentages of disabled people at an SMS level.

Ms McCourt said employment equity targets were prescribed in the public service system. DEA was already exceeding most of these targets, but it had bigger dreams than what was reported. No levels were excluded in the targeting process, so there were people with disabilities at senior management level.

The Chairperson noted that the discussions and presentations on the DEA's programmes would stop now, to allow the SAWS to present its strategic plan. The remainder of the programmes at the DEA would be presented and discussed on Friday, when the meeting could start earlier.

South African Weather Service: Five Year Strategic Plan

Dr Linda Makuleni, Chief Executive Officer, SAWS, began the presentation noting the mandate, vision and mission of the organisation. She then discussed the obligations of the entity, highlighting that nationally SAWS was to contribute to climate change and variability adaptation for the safety of life and property and to ensure sustainability of metrological competence like building a national talent pool of atmospheric science and related services. SAWS also had regional and international obligations.

In terms of the equity distribution of core skills, SAWS’s target was aligned to the demographics of the country where 64% was black, 10% coloured, 24% white and 2% Indian.

Looking at its other successes, SAWS had begun the implementation of career-pathing, achieved a 72% rate in employee satisfaction, developed a national education plan and published a book set on the general climate of SA, consisting of six volumes. There was absorption of bursary holders which focused on students from disadvantaged communities,

She outlined the key strategic goals and objectives in terms of the SAWS 2015/16 – 2019/20 strategy. A main point of this strategy and foresight was the National Climate Change Response Policy, as a global framework for climate services and national flagship programmes for critical skills. For the SAWS roadmap, the areas of focus were sustainability, resource mobilisation, strategic partnering/collaboration, positioning of SAWS and relevant projects which spoke to the needs of the country.

Dr Makuleni outlined the strategic goals and objectives of the entity. SAWS aimed to ensure the effective management of stakeholder, partner and key client relationships. SAWS objectives in this regard included promoting the entity and its distinctive capabilities, managing and leveraging strategic partnerships and collaborations to ensure SAWS's sustainability, and positioning SAWS as a pre-eminent meteorological institution nationally, regionally and globally. Another strategic goal was to address the short term viability and long-term sustainability of SAWS's revenue, and ensure continued fiscal discipline.

Another objective was to grow aviation and commercial revenue and maintain fiscal discipline. The next goal was to ensure the continuous organisational effectiveness and efficiency. The objectives were to improve and enhance the optimal observation network, processing and dissemination platforms and retain certification and maintain the Total Quality Management System. Another goal was to create a strategy-driven human capital capacity for SAWS performance. The objective was to ensure the availability of strategy-driven human capital capacity, and build a talent pool for atmospheric science and related services.

The key programmes of the Service were

(1) Climate Change and Variability. Through this programme, SAWS was able to alert disaster managers and the public to minimise impact of natural disasters: for instance, the flood in Limpopo in March 2014

(2) Commercialisation and Resource Mobilisation

(3) Infrastructure Recapitalisation

(4) Business Optimisation and Re-alignment

(5) Human Capital development.

Ms Marelize Hoogendoorn, Chief Financial Officer, SAWS, took the Committee through the projected income and expenses for 2015/16, highlighting the 5.2% increase in the operational government grant (from R152.489 million in 2014/15 and R160.423 million in 2015/16) It was important to note the entity was not receiving a government capital grant in 2015/16. She further reminded Members that, because this was a Schedule 3 public entity under the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), its income and expenditure had to balance exactly. The budget was therefore aligned to bring expenditure in line with expected revenue. There was 42% growth in commercial income from R26 million (2014/15) to R36.98 million (2015/16). This was due to additional commercial income initiatives in order to sustain operations and expenditure expected in the coming year. Employee costs were R210.149 million, or about 69% of expenditure. Operating and administrative costs only increased by mere 2.5% from 2014/15 to 2015/16. The operational grant for 2015/16 (R160.423 million) only supported 76% of SAWS total salary bill, and the balance of 24% of employee costs was funded by commercial and aviation income.

Dr Makuleni concluded the presentation by noting that the critical success factors for SAWS included funding for infrastructure life-cycle management, the Master System plan implementation and human capital requirements. There was a closer relationship with the aviation industry and the regulator, and effective implementation of the Commercialisation and Resource Mobilisation Programme. Key considerations for the future included aligning projects to the National Development Plan and SA National Infrastructure Plan, the financial model, positioning of the organisation and collaborations. SAWS continued to be committed to organisational excellence, increasing its capability and maturity levels, addressing key challenges and identified critical success factors.

Discussion

Ms H Kekana (ANC) questioned the increases in percentages for retention targets and core skills.

Dr Makuleni said SAWS looked at the market it competed in, in terms of retention targets and the retention rate amongst scientists in the field. This rate was around 10%, and SAWS felt it could work around 6%.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) thought the presentation was good but asked when the entity would receive 98% or 100% for the satisfaction survey.

Dr Makuleni noted that some of the issues with satisfying customers were complicated by the fact that once one need was satisfied, a new one emerged. SAWS was striving at least to be more than 72% on customer satisfaction as it moved forward. It would be a real challenge meeting 98% because not everybody could be satisfied. She assured Members that the entity identified the gaps from the survey to ensure that internal customers were satisfied.

Mr Makhubele asked if the collaborations and engagements referred to were successful or meaningful. He also asked how the country was faring in producing the scarce skills required by the entity and sector?

Dr Makuleni responded that a lot of work was occurring with engagements. There were projects looking at solar energy, with funding from the Department of Science and Technology. There were collaborations on some air quality activities with municipalities. SAWS was working with DEA closely in this area. In relation to the skills, capacity was focused on both internal and external engagements throughout the national educational plan, and SAWS had been consulting with local government municipalities and universities over the past two years to ascertain the capacity. The plan was presented to the Department of Higher Education, and Training, but a lot of funds were needed to build the capacity required. SAWS did have the base numbers for filling the capacity the municipalities required.

Mr Hadebe sought clarity on the number of bursaries awarded and students completing studies. He found it worrying that a number of bursaries were awarded but the number of students completing their studies was low.

Dr Makuleni answered that some of the degrees for the bursary programme took three years, so some of the students were on different years and not all students graduated at the same time. SAWS had Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with various universities, including University of Pretoria and University of Zululand. The majority of the bursary holders were passing their studies, and the SAWS did keep track and discussed how their students were progressing.

Mr Mabilo noted that inadequate government funding was noted as a challenge in the entity’s APP. This seemed to be at odds with the fact that it was embarking on a number of other activities, including renewable energy, air quality monitoring and others. With this kind of workload and responsibility, he wondered if SAWS was not doing more than it could. He also asked for more elaboration on what was meant by "improving stakeholder management maturity”.

Dr Makuleni indicated that although in some areas, there was not enough funding to do the work which needed to be done, it was also important for the entity to have a strategy in place which was collaborated upon with different partners, including DEA. This document could be taken to National Treasury, so that it could apply for funding for programmes. The concept of "stakeholder maturity" was one where both parties would define the benefits sought and see if a partnership could come out from there. SAWS did a lot of integration of work from various departments, like Department of Environmental Affairs, Water and Sanitation, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, so a mature relationship was a necessity to ensure better work. This also applied to relationships with private sector stakeholders.

The Chairperson welcomed the good work done by SAWS for the country. He asked if SAWS had discussed its plans and potential achievements with the Department of Environmental Affairs? He did not hear this coming out clearly, and it formed part of the Committee’s oversight. He wanted to see targets and achievements highlighted with performance per quarter, and then for the whole year. He commented that a comparison of the APPs of the DEA and SAWS showed substantial differences of methodology in compiling those plans, and that was why he had asked if the two were talking to each other. The Committee needed to hold the entities and Department accountable, on a quarter to quarter, and year to year basis.

Dr Makuleni said SAWS did work with the DEA, through programmes on air quality and climate change, so the goals of the Department were matched with those of SAWS as well. The entity's responsibility was to provide the baseline information for the Department to determine outcomes - for instance, the national climate change response strategy. SAWS was key to providing the framework to the strategy and supporting DEA.

The Chairperson said the strategy presented did not have clear targets to meet the goals set out for the year under review and perhaps even the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF).

Minister Molewa agreed that the information in the presentation was not fully adequate but the full breakdown was provided in SAWS's APP. Perhaps the entity could provide the Committee with a quarterly breakdown for monitoring. Speaking to the role of the DEA in relation to that of SAWS, she said that as the implementation of the climate change response policy was advancing, as well as that in other programmes, DEA looked to the SAWS and the other entities for programme support. This was an obligation, and the programmes of the entities also required funding. Linked to this was the shareholder compact where DEA played more of an oversight role wherever there may be challenges. This perhaps provided an overview of the relationship between SAWS and the Department.

Dr Makuleni confirmed that the actual targets were outlined in the APP for each quarter as well.

The Chairperson indicated this was acceptable. He noted that SAWS would be asked to return to the Committee soon for further discussions. He understood the responsibility the Department had over the entity but outputs needed to be clear.

Mr Bonhomme complimented Dr Makuleni and her team for her outstanding record of seven years of unqualified audit outcomes. He wondered why the SAWS was planning the launch of a road hazard weather forecast for road users, through insurance companies, and wondered why this was the partnership chosen.

Mr Hadebe supported the idea of SAWS returning to the Committee, because he needed more clarity on a number of issues.

The Chairperson noted that, to a certain extent, some of the issues were discussed in the APP of the entity. The Committee wanted a broad reflection which spoke to targets, because the Committee was interested in what the entity planned to do this year and over the MTSF. It might be useful for SAWS to go and interact with the Department on this, and start afresh when it returned to the Committee. The main point was that SAWS needed to have a presentation which spoke to the entity’s APP in precise terms.

The meeting was adjourned.           

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