Department of Environmental Affairs and Entities, Strategic Plans 2015/16 - 2019/2020, Annual Performance Plans 2015/16 and Budget Vote 30 continuation

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

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

SA Weather Service
The SAWS presentation covered its mandate, its strategic plan and annual performance plan, its key programs goals and objectives and its financial projections.

Members asked SAWS if any amendments to its enabling legislation would appear before the Committee soon and if so which areas of the legislation would it impact. What were SAWS’ mitigation and adaptation strategies to manage the identified risks of its infrastructure and the maintenance of it? How was funding being prioritised to ensure that infrastructure did not suffer. To what extent was the technology required available or accessible to SAWS? Was SAWS the only institution dealing with weather forecasting in the country? Given SAWS’ responsibility for the SADC region, were there other similar institutions in the SADC region that could contribute? How accurate were SAWS’ indicators on climate change. Given its finances, why was SAWS denied grants for 2015/16 and 2016/17? How sure was SAWS that the targeted 20 inspections were going to take place? How committed was SAWS to their talent pool in atmospheric sciences and how did they offset the potential poaching of trained personnel? Which were the three provinces targeted for climate change and adaptation response strategy? Was there a plan to ensure that all provinces were covered? What did SAWS require from government for potential risks and challenges. Did SAWS have plans to provide for air quality monitoring stations to attribute particulate matter, because there was a need for source attribution? Would the stations be upgraded to provide this data? Was SAWS aware that there had been complaints about the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) that the information was not in real time and was there any plan to change it? Were there higher education institutions SAWS was working with? How adversely affected had SAWS been by the discontinuation of a number of commercial airlines? What were the four new products and services offered? Were outreach programs held to engage rural youth to pursue this career path? What access did rural farmers have to SAWS information? What plans were there to advertise AELs (Air Quality Emission licences)?

iSimangaliso
iSimangaliso targeted conservation based tourism in the St Lucia wetland region and aimed to impact on poverty alleviation by conserving the local heritage and providing income through labour market initiatives and broadening the ownership of assets. Isimangaliso contributed 6% to the KZN, 82 SMME grants had been given and ten bursaries had been awarded this year. iSimangaliso shared its revenue with land claimants. Isimangaliso was doing environmental audits on land rehabilitation; the St Lucia hydrology; the green building standards in concessions and complete development impact studies with Mozambique for a World Heritage listing.

Members were concerned about the two week time frame for recording of poaching incidents as they felt this was too long. Could iSimangaliso comment on the target response to EIAs being 100% and what time frame were they working under? Why was there a steep decline in the outer years for direct and indirect new permanent jobs? How many bursaries were awarded in the current year? How was iSimangaliso dealing with the challenge of a lack of institutional memory?

SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
SANBI reported on its policy and legal framework; its reporting mechanisms; its contribution to the Department's outcomes and the National Development Plan; its corporate strategic plan; its strategic objectives; its performance indicators and its targets for the year 2015/16; its key achievements and challenges/risks and attendant corrective measures

Members asked why SANBI not have strategic private public partnerships? Could SANBI coordinate with almost every government department properly? Members said SANBI was not meeting their HR development targets and that this was a challenge. What incentives were there for students who attained a first degree to stay and continue their studies? Members wanted to know more about the Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs). Members asked about traditional indigenous knowledge. Was SANBI responsible for species in the ocean? Members said that SANBI had not elevated risk management as this was a key area and should not just be about compliance.
 

Meeting report

Briefing
SA Weather Service (SAWS)

Dr Linda Makuleni, CEO of SAWS, said that SAWS strove to ensure that South Africa was a weather ready nation. It provided disaster warning forecasts for airline flights and looked at the alignment of policies with the national climate change response policy. It did research work on climate change and was part of the monitoring group for greenhouse gases. It’s links to the Department’s outcomes was through Programme 4 on threats to environmental quality and air quality.

SAWS was entering into the sustainable phase of its growth after periods of establishment and consolidation. This phase would concentrate on resource mobilisation; on strategic partnering/collaboration; on the positioning of SAWS and on being involved in relevant projects.

Five key programmes encompassed its strategic focus: Climate Change and Variability; Commercialisation and Resource Mobilisation; Infrastructure and Recapitalisation; Business Optimisation and Realignment and Human Capital Development. SAWS wanted to expand the number of scientists in its field of work and wanted to develop SAWS scientific capability. These programmes were linked to chapters 3-6 and 9-10 of the National Development Plan (NDP).

Its Annual Performance Plan (APP) had four goals; the hosting of SAAQIS (SA Air Quality Information System); research and development; the development of four products in agro-hydrology and wind farming for example; severe weather guidance and the development of a website for the Southern African region.

She said SAWS wanted to maintain tight fiscal discipline while growing aviation and commercial revenue.

The Chairperson asked if the growth forecast could be described as aggressive or ambitious.

Dr Makuleni said it was ambitious. Budgeted revenue was R303m and critical success factors would be funding for infrastructure life-cycle management; for master system plan implementation; for human capital requirements; for a closer relationship with the aviation industry and the Regulator and for effective implementation of the commercialisation and resource mobilisation programmes.

Discussion
Ms T Stander (DA) asked if anything regarding the legislative environment would appear before the Committee soon and if so which areas of the legislation would it impact. With regard to the SWOT analysis, infrastructure and maintenance had been identified as threats and weaknesses. She acknowledged that SAWS was looking at its service providers and the level of service provided but asked what SAWS’ mitigation and adaptation strategies were to manage these risks. She noted that operational expenses amounted to R150m while capital expenditure was R30m and asked how funding was being prioritised to ensure that infrastructure did not suffer.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) said SAWS’ scenarios showed it would have increased responsibilities because of the development of other new products, notwithstanding that there would be diminished funds. In addition there was a question over the sustainability of SAWS’ funding model and for South Africa therefore, to be a weather ready country. As technology was frequently changing, to what extent was the technology required available or accessible to SAWS. Was SAWS the only institution dealing with weather forecasts in the country? Given SAWS’ responsibility for the SADC region, were there other similar institutions in the SADC region that could contribute or was it only SAWS?

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) asked how accurate SAWS’ indicators on climate change were. Given the finances of SAWS, why was SAWS denied grants for 2015/16 and 2016/17? How sure were they that the targeted 20 inspections were going to take place?

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) asked how committed SAWS was to their talent pool in atmospheric sciences and how did they offset the potential poaching of trained personnel. Which were the three provinces targeted for climate change and adaptation response strategy. Was there a plan to ensure that all provinces were covered? Regarding SAWS’ core business, he said it was not set up to be a commercial body so how would that fact affect their commercial activities given that the aviation industry was a cut throat business.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) asked what SAWS required from government regarding potential risk and challenges.

The Chairperson asked how the programmes of SAWS linked with their strategic goals. He questioned whether SAWS was in fact lowering their sights because he said Goal 2 in 2013/14 had had a target of 86% yet in the current plan the target was only 75%.

Regarding the regulatory framework, Dr Makuleni replied that SAWS did have a dual mandate to work for the public good and for commercial purposes. Its partners however wanted a different business model so processes such as equity partnerships took longer to process. SAWS was looking at ways to fast track the processes.

On the SWOT analysis, she said SAWS had extensive infrastructure such as radars and the challenge lay with its service providers provision of diesel to provide power in the event of load shedding.

Regarding equipment maintenance, whenever the budget was reviewed, a budget for equipment maintenance is included.

On priorities with regard to funding, SAWS received funds from a grant and from commercialisation. SAWS could not do the work without human capital and had set a target of 59% of funds to be secured for human capital and 41% on operations and equipment.

On the maintenance plan, SAWS had identified maintenance equipment that should not be down for a long period. Commercial funding was assisting, currently the distribution of the funding was 50%/50% between government and commercial funding.

Yes, SAWS had responsibilities but it was also exposed to opportunities. When looking at how the end user wanted the information, it was not just the data but also the applications.

Regarding the funding model, it was close to a 50/50 split.

On technology, she said South Africa was one of the few countries in Africa with better technology. At the global level there was a need for more information from other countries and SAWS had programmes to look for funds to do the work of, for example the SADC severe weather forecasts, with five other countries and with the associated technology, thus SAWS had been given funds for a high performance computer systems.

On SAWS having a monopoly on weather information, she said that the information was given to the end user but that according to a global resolution all weather services fed their information into a global information system. So eTV, for example, could get its weather information supplied by a company drawing from this global information. SAWS however was the sole source for local weather.

SAWS did have a regional role according to the legislation and the Meteorological Association was formed and South Africa was elected to head the region.

On the government grant, when SAWS generated income it was used for capital expenditure firstly or otherwise for maintenance. There were twenty inspections per year and this was a requirement of the international civil aviation body.

She said SAWS did have a retention strategy for its staff and also looked at having dual career paths, namely science and management, for its staff.

On the commercial aspects of SAWS, she said that SAWS tried to move commercialisation contribution to 50/50 for aviation and had reached that plateau and their target of R80m was dependant on the number of flights. The growth area now was in the non-regulatory area but this would need some investment.

With regards to Programme 4, SAWS’ role was to provide baseline information.

On risk management support, SAWS had identified a number of risks. One area was that of resources to ensure a sustainable institution and another area was infrastructure. SAWS was looking at other partners to work with, for example, it was working with the Department of Science and Technology on research and development.

On the programmes being linked to the objectives, climate change and variability was linked to Goal 1 and commercialisation with Programme 3.

On stakeholder relations and the setting of a target lower than previous years, she said SAWS had a challenge regarding the maintenance funding for key infrastructure such as that for radar and lightning. SAWS was only providing the information required at around 50-55%. Funding was relooked at and some funds were moved to ensure the maintenance of the infrastructure would provide information availability at a higher level. SAWS had tried to be realistic when it set the targets lower.

The Chairperson asked whether SAWS planned for a deficit for 2015/16.

Prof Lindisizwe Magi, SAWS Board Chairperson, appealed that that the public good be maximised rather than the commercialisation. In the past few years the funding acquired by SAWS through commercialisation had put SAWS at a disadvantage as public funding  money had been taken away by Treasury.

Dr Makuleni said they would be conducting the survey again and would relook at the targets. SAWS had been concerned that it would fall short of achieving 80/90% because at the time some key clients were not getting the radar information they required. The targets would be reviewed.

Mr Nkeli Ndabambi, SAWS General Manager for Operations, said SAWS only had a legislated monopoly over severe weather warning forecasts.

On the accuracy of long term climate predictions, SAWS was still new in this field and any lead times introduced were subject to verification.

On the climate adaptation strategy, the three provinces were just a start, it was not limited to them and the aim was to show what information could be provided by SAWS.

Mr Makhubele said SAWS should maintain their 86% target and not revise this downwards to 75%. He said ten strategic risks had been identified by SAWS and some needed investigation as a few needed budgets and some of the risks were there even in the previous years as well.

Ms Stander asked if the recapitalisation programme was adequate to keep the observation network maintained and did SAWS have enough money to do it. Did they have plans to provide for air quality monitoring stations to attribute particulate matter, for example because there was a need for source attribution? Will the stations be upgraded to provide this data? There had been complaints regarding SAAQIS that the information was not in real time. Was SAWS aware of this and was there any plan to change it?

On improving education and training, Mr Mabilo asked if there were any higher education institutions SAWS was working with? On the growth in funding arising from aviation, he asked how adversely SAWS had been affected by the discontinuation of a number of commercial airlines. Was SAWS soft with regard to international expertise and the number of aviation calamities over the past few years?

Mr Bonhomme wanted enlightenment on the four new products and services offered.

Dr Makuleni replied that in the past the provision of minimum and maximum temperatures had been enough, but now SAWS was developing specific information like a temperature/humidity index for dairy farmers.

She said the demise of airline carriers had resulted in an under recovery of money because monies were accrued per flight not the number of people on the flight.

SAWS did have risk mitigation strategies in place on how to deal with some of the challenges.

On retention and skill development plans, SAWS was working with a number of universities in Port Elizabeth, KwaZulu Natal, Wits and Fort Hare. SAWS targeted rural universities through bursaries.

Mr Ndabambi said available funds had been reprioritised to maintain radar network and data availability and SAWS would be getting funds from the Department, R20m in 2015/16 and R35m in 2017/18.

On air quality studies, he said SAWS would be acquiring forecasting and modelling skills in 2015/16.

On SAAQIS complaints, he said there had been a misunderstanding with a Western Cape municipality with regard to the format of the data, but that the Department had clarified the issues at a lekgotla.

Mr K Morapela (EFF) asked if outreach programmes were held to engage rural areas to pursue this career path.

Mr Makhubele asked what access rural farmers had to SAWS information.

Ms Stander said, regarding SAAQIS, that accurate and complete and relevant information should be available to all stake holders and the public but no current data was available on the website. What plans were there to address this and what plans were there to advertise AELs (Air Quality Emission licences)?

The Chairperson said the commercialisation part was not part of the core mandate of SAWS. If SAWS was not structured appropriately SAWS might confuse their two roles. Would it not be appropriate to have a structure that targeted the commercial side? Was there any technology that could attribute a link between the air in a place and a person’s sinus problems, for example. What was the impact of the gases and air pollution to the public health of citizens? Were there direct links between causal factors and the Companies Act such that companies could be held liable similar to the asbestos class action suits that were done in the past.

Dr Makuleni said it needed an integrated approach comprising academics and the Department of Health.

On the public good and commercialisation, she said this was an area that was debated at the strategic planning sessions. Some studies of the institution had been done and 75% of the work was for the public good.

On the youth and rural areas, SAWS had programmes for rural areas and provincial offices containing liaison officers kept contact with schools. It was also involved for example with the Grahamstown Science festival. SAWS had recently been to 20 schools in QwaQwa on climate change and in Venda where they taught them to harvest water. SAWS had identified agriculture as a key stakeholder and had interactions with agricultural organisations as to how farmers could access information. There was also the NEPAD project where NEPAD provided funding for the training of farmers.

Mr Ndabambi said SAAQIS needed to be upgraded to promote enforcement of standards. Currently the data was only being uploaded one month later.

On the matter of SAWS apportionment, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, noted that SAAQIS was a database for all monitoring stations. SAWS was not a monitoring station, it was a quality assurer and analysis was then undertaken of the data.

The Air Emission licenses were not in the database. These documents were kept by the Department and municipalities.

On the SAWS apportionment, SAWS wanted to work with key academic institutions to build on the current study being undertaken. Class action was a separate matter which could be done but needed a decision from higher up.

On the mandate of SAWS, it was responsible for both mandates and this had been kept at 50/50. New investments had been made in radar and high performance computers. SAWS demands were still higher than what the Department could afford and therefore the commercial part had to contribute significantly.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Ms Terri Caspis, Acting CEO of iSimangaliso, said iSimangaliso targeted conservation based tourism in the St Lucia wetland region and wanted to impact on poverty alleviation by conserving the local heritage. It sought to optimise the empowerment of the St Lucia wetlands and provide income through labour market initiatives and broadening the ownership of assets.

iSimangaliso contributed 6% to the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) GDP and 0.6% to the South African GDP and 82 SMME grants had been given. iSimangaliso sought to improve education and training and its Higher Access to Education Programme was a bursary scheme which would award 10 bursaries this year and 30 in 2016. iSimangaliso was launching an HIV/AIDS project with funding from USAID on how to deal with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. It was also sharing its revenue with land claimants.

It sought effective environmental sustainability and resilience and had targeted six objectives for the year covering land and oceans under protection; energy-efficiency; zero emission building standards; climate change; investment in rural livelihoods and the regulatory framework for land to ensure conservation and restoration of protected areas. It was doing environmental audits on land rehabilitation; on the St Lucia hydrology; on green building standards in concessions and complete development impact studies with Mozambique for a World Heritage listing.

It wanted the iSimangaliso programme to be properly funded and managed and to optimise the parks in a commercially and environmentally sustainable manner which would foster job-creation and the empowerment of historically-disadvantaged communities.

Discussion
On the NDP and its objectives of sustainability and resilience, Ms Stander said she was concerned about the two week time frame for poaching incidents. Could iSimangaliso comment on the target response to EIAs being 100% and what time frame were they working under?

Mr Mabilo asked why the status quo was being maintained in the outer years of the MTEF and why was iSimangaliso not pushing the boundaries. Why was there was a steep decline in the outer years for direct and indirect new permanent jobs? He noted one positive was the revenue sharing with land claimants.

Mr Makhubele asked what was happening about training bursaries and wanted to know how many were awarded in the current year. How was iSimangaliso dealing with the challenge of a lack of institutional memory? While iSimangaliso, as an objective, wanted to optimise the park's revenue generation in a 'commercially and environmentally sustainable' manner, he asked if the wording should not be environmentally and commercially sustainable manner because the environmental aspect had to be more and should be placed first.

The Chairperson asked if the physical presentation could not be better packaged.

On the period of two weeks 48 hours, Ms Caspis, replied that it was determined on the basis of coverage and this was an acceptable tolerance level. iSimangaliso did however track poaching incidents and took proactive measures like sting operations.

On the time frame of the EIA, she said iSimangaliso responded within the legislated time period.

On the pushing of boundaries during the outer years, she said the outer years did not have confirmed funding and was thus revised on an annual basis.

There was a lead time for permanent jobs, this was a lead time for facilities coming on stream.

The bursary target for the year was ten new students for 2015 and 30 for 2016.

The institutional memory was an issue with partner agencies. iSimangaliso has had a good retention rate but it was also a matter of proper documentation and mentoring and continually bringing partner agencies up to speed.

On the phrasing of an objective as being commercially or environmentally sustainable, it was about putting out opportunities that were viable for the private sector yet had strong environmental parameters. As such, the environment was in no way being compromised for moneymaking.

On the packaging of the presentation, she said it was driven by a cheap CEO.

Mr Makhubele wanted the bursary issue to be clarified further.

Ms Stander said she recognised that the average figure was used but that the targets should always be what was acceptable regarding protection from poaching. The target should always be realistic and ambitious and she could not accept it being two weeks and 48 hours as this was too long.

Mr Mavuso Msimang, Board Chairperson of iSimangaliso, said the park was jointly managed so some responsibilities were outside of their control.

Ms Caspis said that in the previous year there had been 47 bursaries, 37 existing and ten new bursaries. This coming year there would be an additional 30 bursaries.

The Chairperson said that the presentation needed more content so that Committee members could have detailed information to allow it to compare whether it was in line with its core values.

SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO of SANBI, said its Board had recently been re-appointed. She said South Arica was in the top five bio- diverse countries in the world but the country had not benefited and SANBI wanted to ensure that the country was enriched by this biodiversity and used it. SANBI wanted to be the leading biodiversity institute and be the first port of call not only in terms of science but also for its citizens. Kirstenbosch had recently been voted the number one botanical garden in the world. SANBI now had ten national botanical gardens, with Kwelera in the Eastern Cape launched in 2013/14 and documents had been submitted to the Department for the proposed proclamation of one in Thohoyandou in Limpopo. SANBI managed and sought to unlock the benefits of its botanical gardens as windows into South Africa’s biodiversity. The gardens had seen a 2% increase in visitors and a 4% increase in own income.

She said the Department supported SANBI with its array of international commitments. SANBI delivered its mandate through six programmes which covered what SANBI did and what SANBI tried to influence.

The challenges and risks for SANBI in the provision of evidence-based information for the SIPs (Strategic Infrastructure Projects) was being addressed through their information management and research capabilities and new skills were being mobilised where required. The SIP19 coordination would require additional financial and human resources so funding support was needed. The implementation of new invasive species regulations would also have financial and human resource implications but funding support from the Department had been given. The establishment of two new botanical gardens required careful planning and human and financial resource allocation. This was being addressed through planning, recruitment and budgeting.

Discussion
Mr Makhubele asked why the formats of the three presentations did not follow the same format. Why did SANBI not have strategic private public partnerships? SANBI had noted their partnerships with almost every government department and was thus having to coordinate with everybody. Could this be done properly? He said SANBI was not meeting their HR development targets and that this was a challenge. Students who attained a first degree were under pressure to go to work to provide for siblings at home, what incentives were there for them to stay and continue their studies?

Ms Stander wanted to know more about the SIPS. She was of the view that the national treasure of the country should be quantified.

Ms Kekana asked about traditional indigenous knowledge.

The Chairperson asked if SANBI was responsible for the species in the ocean.

Dr Abrahamse replied that the presentation followed the format given by the DEA.

She said there was no PPPs with regard to infrastructure, however SANBI could not do its job without strategic partners. SANBI had a partnership with the Lewis Foundation to fund GreenMatter which dealt with human capital development.

Mr Moeketsi Khoahli, Chief Financial and Corporate Officer, said SANBI received grant funding from Public Works for the Expanded Public Works Program projects but these did not meet the criteria for PPP. No project as yet fit the criteria for PPP.

On governmental relations, Dr Abrahamse said that SANBI ran two forums per annum and invited all planners in the biodiversity field to provide them with information so that South Africa could develop a biodiversity standard and all planners could work towards the same standard.

On the HR development challenge, it needed to be tackled at different levels because the problem of weak maths and science at school level had a knock-on effect at university level. This pipeline problem was because of South Africa’s legacy. Importantly SANBI did not want to be in competition with other bodies such as SANParks for the services of professionals. Her experience had been that young students who were touched by the biodiversity bug would stay on because it was an important and exciting sector.

On the SIPs, she said the projects related to ecological structures. SIPs 1-18 included electricity and transport where SANBI provided the evidence for decisions to be taken.

On the balance between indigenous knowledge, SANBI had engaged with traditional healers. Every botanical garden had an area for medicinal plants and traditional healers would not destroy the plants they traded with so it was used sustainably. SANBI was supporting access to and the benefits from these plants.

SANBI was responsible for the marine species that fell within the economic exclusion zone off the coast and had been gathering information off the coastline for the past five to six years. When Operation Phakisa was started, SANBI had provided a lot of information and data on species and their threat status and had contributed to the Department of Fisheries, for example, when species were under threat.

Mr Alf Wills, DEA Deputy Director General: Environmental Advisory Services, said SIPs were forwarded to the PICC (Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission) for approval. All had been approved except the 19th which was under consideration and the Department was confident that it would be adopted.

On national treasure being adopted as part of the country’s balance sheet, he said it was a question for Treasury to answer and that this methodology was still in its infancy. The Department was looking at a form of reporting like the national accounting report used in the tourism sector where tourism was valued through the GDP, but it was unlikely to be put on the balance sheet currently. None of the King III guidelines included natural capital.

On guidance to entities, Ms Ngcaba said the Department received the guidelines from Treasury. The Minister had written to entities regarding areas where the entities could not differ from government requirements.

On the PPP, she said there were clear thresholds that Treasury worked from. If the PPP did not pass the Treasury guideline test then the PPP would not proceed.

Ms Ngcaba said the Department was part of a range of contributors to the studies. Marine protected areas were run by SANParks but the information was provided by SANBI. She said SANBI’s goals and strategic objectives were linked to the Department’s outcomes for the sector and she was satisfied that they were in alignment.

Mr Makhubele said that SANBI did not elevate risk management and this was a key area and should not just be about compliance. He noted the composition of the top management and asked if men were shying away from biodiversity matters?

Dr Abrahamse said the top three posts were filled by women but men comprised more than 50% at senior management level. She took note of the comments on risk.

Ms Ngcaba said risk management was put at the back of the report but that a thorough analysis was done of every strategic objective through a Department official dedicated for this task so that risks could be proactively managed. The analysis was based on a worst case scenario so even if, for example, there was a two week electricity blackout, the Department was prepared.

Dr Abrahamse invited the Committee to visit Kirstenbosch, which invitation the Chairperson accepted.

The meeting was adjourned.  
 

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