Workshop on Five Year Strategic Plan of the Portfolio Committee: day 2

Water and Sanitation

03 February 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Documents considered: Draft Five Year Strategic Plan for the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation (not for public distribution)

The Committee held a workshop,with two facilitators, to refine the Committee's Five Year Strategic Plan, and with input also from the Content Advisor and Parliamentary Researchers, whilst comments were also permitted from a UCT Research Fellow who indicated that certain topics were being discussed internationally shortly and could well be incorporated into the document. The vision and mission were discussed and it was emphasised that dignity was a key notion in provision of water and sanitation. It was also noted that the various programmes such as War on Leaks could contribute to the National Development Plan's outcome of creating 11 million jobs by 2030. The Committee was asked to focus on any possible overlaps and duplications within the objectives and the meeting proceeded to examine each of these objectives to highlight what might help to achieve them and what was seen as a hindrance.

When going through each of the strategic objectives some key points were made. It was agreed that the document would be further refined taking into account that input. The availability of new technology was cited several times and Members were disappointed that the Department of Water and Sanitation (the DWS) did not appear to be too keen to embrace it, and it was suggested that it would be useful to call in the experts and motivators of this technology to see how it could help not only DWS but other departments also. Members also expressed their concern that various departments and spheres of government were still working in silos, so that, for instance, new developments in drought-resistant crops were not being fed into the work of the DWS, and with provincial oversight not necessarily being fed back to the national portfolio committees. Part of the problem was perhaps that the measuring tools and expectations were not entirely clear, and whilst the Department said that it was addressing problems, there had been instances where it had been unable to provide even the most fundamental information such as the cost of water treatment. It seemed that the Committee's document also needed to be more specific on what was expected. Timeframes would be built in to assist with measuring progress.

Other issues identified were the need to consider water losses linked to lack of compliance, the need to have the Water Plan used as a systematic way to assess infrastructure and reserves, and how to achieve consistency in adequate sanitation. It was suggested that irrigation ports needed to be identified and more sustainability in water provision addressed through the Water User Associations. It was suggested that uniform norms and standards must apply throughout from big business to individuals. It was noted, with input from a Research Fellow at UCT who had been a former UK Parliamentarian, that it would be useful to try to incorporate the worldwide indicators for water and sanitation due to be finalised in the next three weeks, into the Committee's document. Other points were the desirability of working with other entities such as the SA Weather Service and collaboration was about directing government entities to work together to try to achieve more. Members brainstormed some possible issues. Another challenge lay in the fact that the Committee had not been able to do important oversight and the importance of doing work on the ground to establish the true facts was emphasised. Management of the budget was seen as a challenge, as was the use of video-conferencing. A Water Indaba might be useful. The Committee could also think of calling the Department in for a presentation on all outstanding issues and questions.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by facilitator

Ms Fiona Southwood, Organisational Development Consultant, welcomed everyone and explained that this workshop session was intended to discuss and make progress on the Five Year Strategic Plan of the Portfolio Committee. She thanked the Content Adviser, Shereen Dawood for the document produced which reflected the work done during a similar meeting in Johannesburg the previous year.

She asked Members to confirm that the vision and mission statement was correctly captured.

The Chairperson was happy with the content. He reminded the Members that the term “decent sanitation” is derived from a single notion that water is life, and sanitation is dignity.

Ms Southwood suggested that the Vision Statement was too long and that some parts could be added to the objectives, leaving the most important. She said that the vision statement set out what the Committee would achieve, whilst the Mission statement described how it would bring that about.

Antoine Papayya, Co-Facilitator, Empower in Consulting, agreed and thought that the mission and vision were conflated.

Members agreed to add in the word “dignified” into the references to sanitation.

Ms Southwood read out the strategic objectives, asking Members to comment where they agreed or disagreed. She suggested that potential enablers and the barriers or blockages for these objectives should be identified, so that their impact can be discussed. She read out the first objective – the achievement of the National Plan for Water and Sanitation. She noted that the National Development Plan (NDP) recommended the need to improve infrastructure by identifying a key water scheme providing water for urban and government centres. This water programme should contribute to creating 11 million jobs by 2030 and provide services to rural communities. She asked about the commitment to that.

The Chairperson asked what was meant by “new key water schemes” and how that related to new technology (for example new Packaged Plants and creating water out of vapour). He agreed that programmes such as War on Leaks, which was to create 15 000 jobs, would contribute greatly towards the 11 million jobs expected. He mentioned certain solutions as playing a role in setting the scene for the work of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS or the Department).

Mr Papayya asked whether the Department's intention was clear in the strategic objectives and the outlook, or if this was more general. He asked if the measuring tools and expectations were clear.

Ms Joy Dladla, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Department of Water and Sanitation, answered by admitting that there were some water treatment plans that were no longer functioning. There were plans to improve capacity and said that the Department planned to address problems such as dam walls needing to be raised and backlogs.

Ms Shereen Dawood, Content Advisor for the Committee, raised the point of interlinkages between local, provincial and national departments in the portfolio and in other portfolios.

Ms Southwood felt that the discussions so far suggested that the document needed to be more specific. The term “water intervention” or “water technologies” would be preferable to “water schemes”. The facilitators and Committee should continue to work to refine the document. Some of the objectives that she would move on to could probably be linked or combined and she asked Members to be aware of any possible overlaps.

Ms Southwood confirmed with Members that the second objective was acceptable.

Ms Dawood asked if timeframes were needed.

Ms Southwood suggested that timeframes be worked in below the key indicators in the document, in order to assist in measuring.

The Chairperson noted that water losses were linked to compliance and illegal use of water. He particularly raised the point of mines using water without a license, or farmers stealing water. He asked whether that was included in the mention of water loss.

Mr Thomani Manungufala, Parliamentary Researcher, asked if that was not covered in Objective 3.

Ms Southwood noted that possible overlap and said the point could be included in both and this would be considered further. She reminded the Members please to be alive to any matters that would progress the vision and mission of the Department and those that might hinder this.

The Chairperson said the Department needed to look at the Water Plan, as it would be a systematic way for it to assess the infrastructure or reserves. It would include numbers of dams, rivers and rainfall, and a comparison between the parts.

Mr Papayya asked if this was a Water Plan or a Water Management Plan.

The Chairperson clarified that this was a Water Plan, ideally able to indicate how much water South Africa will have in the next 20 years, in each area, and how that amount can grow. That would include plans for more dams and more boreholes.

Members agreed where in the final document this should be captured.

The Chairperson noted that the main focus in the rest of the document was on adequate sanitation, and how to achieve consistency.

Ms Southwood confirmed that this would be worked into the document. She then moved on to objective 4.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) asked for clarification on point 4.7.1.

The Chairperson commented that the irrigation ports needed to be identified. He suggested that Ms Dladla could assist with that, and that the new terminology of Water Users Associations should be used. This process had been in the pipeline for some time and was linked to key indicators in enhanced sustainability of water provision, through regulatory and management agencies. He reminded the Committee that the amalgamation of some water utilities, such as Bushbuckridge, had reduced the number from 15 to 9.

Mr Makondo confirmed that this had answered his question.

Ms Dawood urged that norms, standards and guidelines - such as compliance specifics on safety standard for dams, for example, should extend to all water users , be they businesses, big companies, households and the agricultural sector. This would make it possible to incorporate issues around pollution and acid mine drainage (AMD).

The Chairperson asked how to deal with the open-ended nature of some key indicators.

Ms Southwood said they should be linked more closely with the deliverables set out in this document, to try to align the different strategies. This document would still need to be refined further.

The Committee agreed that objectives 4 and 5 could be merged. 

Mr Tony Colman, former British MP, Research Fellow at UCT, asked whether informed specialists were permitted to comment. He outlined his background and fields of expertise. He noted that worldwide indicators for water and sanitation issues would be finalised in three weeks at the meeting of the UN’s Statistical Commission. He asked whether the merger of the objectives in this document should not wait until them, in order that it be in line with worldwide standards.

The Chairperson was appreciative of this input and said that the Committee would follow up on this.  

Ms Southwood concluded that the final draft would attempt to combine Objectives 4 and 5. She moved on to read out Objective 6.

Ms Dawood pointed out a part of the objective that was replicated from Objective 2, and Ms Southwood confirmed that the drafters would re-work that.

The Chairperson asked if there should not be allied work done with other entities such as the SA Weather Service, and agricultural divisions working on protecting rainfall. Working in silos could distort what the departments sought to create, and all should be working towards a holistic picture

Mr Papayya agreed and said that even the Department of Health could be a strategic partner.

Ms Dladla, when asked to comment, responded that it would be up to the Committee to decide who to invite, and to identify role players.

Ms Southwood asked if the Committee would consider collaboration to be a strategic objective.

The Chairperson said the issue of collaboration was about directing government to work together, to form a solid idea of what was expected. If such working relationships had already been in existence the country might have been better prepared for the serious drought and its effect on crops. He reiterated that by working together it would be possible to achieve more.

Ms Southwood asked Members to discuss how working in silos could prevent a move forward.

The Chairperson suggested that the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and of Science and Technology could both work on development of drought resistant crops, which would in turn contribute to the work of the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Mr L Basson (DA) remarked on the challenges in integrating the spheres of government, and said that one particular problem was how to avoid delays when intervention was needed. Lack of integration resulted in politicking and delays in service delivery. He noted that oversight, especially outside oversight, was seen sometimes as hampering the Department, although it could be seen as gatekeeping. The Portfolio Committee had been trying to visit Lesotho for some time, and the fact that it had not yet managed to do so meant that projects scheduled for 2017 were being postponed to 2024. This had a huge impact on the Committee and the future of water in South Africa.

Ms Dawood mentioned the duplication of work by different Committees. She suggested the use of an Ad Hoc Committee, for example an ad hoc committee on droughts. Provincial parliaments did quite a lot of oversight themselves but she saw little of that work being used by the portfolio committees in the national Parliament.

Ms Southwood asked what else would better enable the Committee's work.

Mr Basson acknowledged that the researchers within the Committee were doing excellent work in briefing the Members and keeping them informed before going on oversight or having meetings with the Department for oversight. He congratulated them for their work over the last 18 months.

Ms Southwood urged that the Committee should not rely only on written documents, but also do a reality check to ensure that the Members would be able to do and deliver what they needed, using this document to help them.

Mr Papayya asked if the Committee saw any challenges in strengthening the oversight mandate, as set out in the portions of the document relating to amending legislation and reviewing policy documents.

Mr Basson answered that he certainly saw challenges there. The Members had requested the draft of a new Water and Sanitation Act last year and still had not received it even though the Minister was in the meeting where it was requested. Input from this Committee into that document would happen very late, rather than the Committee being part and parcel of the process since day one.

Ms Dawood made mention of video conferences and using technology more effectively when going on oversight overseas or nationally. She noted that there was only one video conference facility in Parliament, which was a challenge in itself.

The Chairperson said management of the budget was another challenge. Last year, the Committee had been told, half way through an oversight visit, that there was no budget, and he said that there were several instances when the Committee had to fight for sufficient funding. Transparency was a big part of the problem, and he cited the example of a US Committee of Parliament being able to take the decision to go to Afghanistan to meet with soldiers, during the war in Iraq.

Mr Papayya asked whether the Committee would, when finding winning solutions, take these recommendations forward to others and follow up on their implementation.

Mr Basson agreed with the challenges around getting information, and mentioned that the Magalies Water Board could not tell the Committee the cost of cleaning water recently. The biggest challenge was moving away from brick and mortar plant that cost R280 million, to package plants that cost only R3 million. A treatment plant in Malmesbury used reverse osmosis to clean water, which was then sold to farmers. This plant cost R130 million but it would be recovered over seven years. He suggested that treated water should be sold to mines and farmers instead of being pumped back into the rivers but it seemed to be very difficult to get the Department's buy-in to this idea, or to new technology, despite the R47 million shortfall. When asked by Mr Papayya to elucidate, he added that the Committee had asked the DWS to bring in the companies who had this new technology available, such as the latest toilet technology that could help with the bucket eradication programme, so that Parliament could help to negotiate for implementation.

Ms Southwood noted that the Committee had clearly identified issues, from foundation level administration processes to aspects around collaboration and also the role of the Committee in working with the Department.  She asked what could be done differently to help with the process.

Mr Basson said there was no other way for the Committee to enforce what it was requesting. He stressed again that new technology, like reverse osmosis, should be investigated and that the Department should not simply continue to use old brick and mortar technology. He reiterated that the Committee was struggling to get answers such as the cost of cleaning water, from the Department.

Mr Papayya asked how the Committee is holding the executives to account.

The Chairperson said that both the Department and the Committee should see what is available on the market so that it would be possible to stretch the available budget. The use of middle men should be minimised.

Ms Dawood suggested that the Committee should call for a presentation on outstanding issues. Often discussion on a particular topic might collapse because of issues within constituencies, and the Department could be brought back to discuss outstanding issues within a week.

Mr Papayya then suggested that it might be useful to have a Water Indaba.

The Chairperson aid he was keen of talking on the drought situation, which was likely to persist for some time. Arab states had to contend with both drought and extreme heat, but they were able to survive better than South Africa.

Ms Southwood felt that the topics had been exhausted. Arrangements were made for a smaller group to continue the refinement of the document that afternoon.

The meeting was adjourned.




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