Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation Revised Strategic Plan 2015-2019

Water and Sanitation

20 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Document: Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation Revised Strategic Plan 2015-2019
[All Committee Reports available under Tabled Committee Reports once published on the ATC]

The Revised Committee Strategic Plan for 2015-2019 is seen as an independent programme to overcome water and sanitation challenges. The Committee did not manage to adopt the Strategic Plan as many additional inputs were made. Discussion covered many topics including intergovernmental relations; underperforming municipalities; tariffs for water boards; water scarcity and water demand management; pollution; innovative technology; raw water pricing; illegal use of water and funding models.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the Department budget vote will take place on 11 May. Comments and recommendations by Members will be made on the 4 May if there is a need. We will tackle the tariffs by the department and water boards that are expected to come before us. Regarding the tariffs, our researcher has to come in and assist us about the tariffs, to give us some insight about future prospects.

He said the Committee had been discussing whether or not we need an independent regulator; they call it economic regulator, as water is a concern in our country. We have to go the route of standardized tariff regimes for water boards. All the water boards have their own tariff regime. Within one area, you are going to have neighbors governed by different water boards with different tariff structures. We have to draw examples from other nations. Implementation has to take place if we want to play meaningful role in society. The researcher has to come up with trends for discussion on the 4 May. What is the trend in the economies that are similar to ours, whether it is in South America or on our continent? What tariff models are other nations following? The Committee is at the very tail end of the process. In fact, we do not even have a role to play, the train is gone. It is at the stage of implementation. We need to play a meaningful role in that equation. This is what we will be dealing with on 4 May.

Mr L Basson (DA) reminded the Committee that at the last meeting, a concern was raised that the Water Research Commission was not part of the Committee’s work. WRC would love to show us what they are doing; there are a lot of new inventions they are looking at that we are not aware of. Perhaps it is time that we should revisit what is our role and how do we have influence. We also need to get the document now not later so that we can discuss and ask questions. We always get the documents late.

The Chairperson responded to Mr Basson's concern, saying the Committee deals with issues recommended by legislation. The matter being addressed is the environment we are working in from both a supply and demand point of view so we get clarity about who we are operating with. A lot of things are happening out there, the manufacturing industries, Coca Cola, SAB, they do a lot work. They do all sorts of things innovation wise. We are making use of those. On regulation, we must have a clear timetable to deal with all the matters that are listed. The process is already in motion with the new legislation. Ms Dawood can give some insights on that.

Ms Shereen Dawood, Content Advisor: Parliament, said the matter of water and sanitation and how they can be amalgamated has been put on the table. The amendments to the National Water Act and Water Services Act put that into one piece of legislation which has not been gazetted yet. What has been gazetted, are the revised norms and standard and revised water prices. A public hearing was held on that and they are in the process of consolidating the outcomes of that public hearing.

The Chairperson said the Committee expects to get the information both on the gazetted legislation and the norms and standard at its next meeting. He asked Ms Dawood if the Committee can get that in writing so that we do not rely on word of mouth. He suggested going through the Revised Committee Strategic Plan page by page. On page 1, he referred to the finding and recommendation that the Committee needs to strengthen its oversight mandate. He said it is good that the point which the Committee emphasised about the need to talk about norms and standards is in process as noted by Ms Dawood; a review of grants is also on the list and that is in motion as well. He thanked Ms Dawood for the work done on the Strategic Plan.

Mr Basson raised a concern about the new water infrastructure.

The Chairperson replied that the bullet point on the alignment of the grants or consolidation of the grants talks directly to the point he is raising.

The Committee discussed the municipal water services infrastructure grant.

Ms Dawood said that the Committee also has to monitor how the Department oversees that particular grant given to certain municipalities.

Mr Basson raised concern about the R12 billion that is being received. The Committee has to oversee the water service infrastructure grant. This grant is mainly an allocation for the 27 priority rural district municipalities.

The Chairperson said part of the Committee’s role is to do oversight in monitoring grants. He noted that the committee researcher has begun putting together a simplified glossary of terms related to water and sanitation; it is a useful tool to get a sense of understanding. He asked, looking at the content of the Committee Strategic Plan, if the work of the Committee has been defined as a workable strategic plan. Looking at the vision and mission, is it a reflection of that? The vision of the Committee is to perform its oversight robustly and so on. A strategic plan has to stand alone without much preamble, history or reporting.

Ms T Baker (DA) asks a question about the management agencies. Is the Department still establishing more catchment management agencies?

The Chairperson replied the plan of the department is not to develop any more currently. The Committee is fine with the strategic objective: Monitor progress in water and sanitation to post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  On the list, our position is 17th.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) said she liked strategic objective 1. Her question is what if this is not working, what are they going to do as a Committee?

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) replied that if you realize that your strategies are not going to work, you come back and re-strategize. If things do not work, we come back to the table.

The Chairperson said this is our committee plan, not government’s plan. The Committee is going to strategise even if it becomes impossible to succeed, there is no turning back. Plans will come up along the way, the failure of the program is on us, we have ourselves to blame if we do not achieve. The Committee has to relook at its strategies.

The Chairperson said Ms Dawood is drafting a new output and indicator on the impact of the climate change adaptation strategy. He asked her to give a sense of what climate change adaptation is.  

Ms Dawood replied that the broad climate change plan was driven by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The Department of Water and Sanitation also plays a critical role in devising the adaptation strategy. What the Committee has to monitor is the extent they have completed drafting and devising their impact of climate change strategy. Over the medium term, the department is going to come and tell us about the progress they have made in devising their strategy in line with the work of the DEA.

The Chairperson asks Committee members if this made sense.

Ms T Baker raised concerns about water scarcity and water demand.

Ms Dawood replied they incorporated elements of water demand. They will highlight all of those and give the methodology of how they are going to achieve this.

The Chairperson said in engaging climate change, for example, one looks at what has been targeted in terms of reduction in emissions. Then you work backwards and set up an annual target. The UK government has a climate change committee that engages all government departments on an annual basis. Each department has to demonstrate plans and targets, so that they can say if they are achieving. It has very clear indicators; that is what we are looking for.

Mr Makondo said the formulation of the adaptation strategy is the indicator at the moment, so what will the Committee do to ensure completion? The Committee must state what if Department does not achieve this.

Ms Baker said the key indicator is fine; they manage the completion of the strategy, but perhaps the output needs to be revisited. You are not actually managing the index of climate, you are managing the formulation of the adaptation strategy.

Mr Mnguni said what is this that you are monitoring, if the strategy is not there? If the Committee can look at the establishment of the strategy first and then we start with the key indicators.

The Chairperson said he thought they should talk immediately to the indicator.  What do we mean by a number of new partnerships and a number of working strategic partnerships? The Committee is not saying a number of ‘planned’ and of ‘existing’ partnerships, whether new or old, they are part of the existing set.

Ms Baker asked if ‘Trans-boundary water management strategy implementation’ does not sum it up.

The Chairperson thought that trans-boundaries in this instance should be talking about those that are within the ambit of South Africa.

Mr Makondo said that there are a lot of agreements DWS has entered into like that with Holland and Switzerland.

The Chairperson agreed, noting that the Minister is going to Iran this week. The interest must be more on those that are implemented rather than planned so your point is relevant about the number of trans boundary and international water management projects implemented. He also wanted to include ‘provision of official development assistance’ and this is part of the agreements and partnerships.

Ms Dawood said the strategic plan is a broad, medium term one and then each year our annual performance plan for the Committee will give more substantive input on each of these objectives.

The Chairperson moved on to Objectives on page 5 and asked if the Committee is supposed to be talking about legislation for equitable water and sanitation resources as an output?

Ms Khawula disagreed, as we speak now there are people who live without water. How does the Committee ensure a solution on this matter?  

The Chairperson replied to Ms Khawula that the current drought in our country means many people do not have water, but things have changed from 1994. 90% of our people can access water in our country. He agreed there are people who do not get water and they are mainly black people. The equitability means that ways will be found whereby people will get water. This is our programme and the Committee is going to implement it.

Mr Mnguni added that it is true some of our people do not get enough water, but we already managed this for 90% of people. The Committee must ensure we check up on the department and government that all people receive water. If that does not happen, the Committee must come back and strategize to ensure that water is accessible.

Ms Khawula further emphasized her disagreement. If she could take them to the North West now, there are people who do not have water. How can people save water if there is no water? It is drought all over the place and even the RDP house are built without toilets and running water. Before 1994 water was accessible to the people there, even though there was oppression. She personally did not remember even one day when they ran out of water in those days. This came with climate change. She did not agree with this statement, even in Port Elizabeth there are people who do not have water.  She said she likes the Committee strategy which shows that Committees have the potential of being of assistance to our people. But people in the municipality do not really care about people.  

The Chairperson said collectively the Committee has decided on its strategy. When the Committee wants to know what it is supposed to be doing, it knows that people do not have water. With this plan we will meet government half way.

Ms Khawula said her concern is with municipalities who need to be guided on their duties to make sure that they implement water provision. Even if we give them money, it is clear that it is of no use.

The Committee went through the strategic objectives, key indicators and outputs. The Chairperson noted that the most important thing is those key indicators. They shall assist us towards achieving the output.

Mr M Galo (AIC) said he is not sure about the output for objective 2.1. 2 transform water association usage.

Mr Basson requested clarity on what the statistics for water loss are.

The Chairperson replied there is a need to add that to the output that deals specifically with illegal use of water and the KPI that addresses the same issue that refers to enhancement of our compliance measures.

Ms Baker said the Committee discussed the water master plan but not at all levels - national, provincial and municipal - there is a gap there. What is the implementation strategy for improving conservation and demand management? The municipality supports conservation and water demand management. Can we not put in an indicator on the number of municipalities to implement and develop water management? This is relevant because it is one of the things we can improve. The implications can improve on negative usage of water.

Mr Basson agreed with Ms Baker. Maybe it is time now to do a master plan with municipalities.

Ms Baker requested that this be added. The Committee needs to have a balance of what is happening on the ground with national. If we can support them, the Committee can ensure the plan at local level matches  national objectives.

The Chairperson referred to page 6 where mention is made of a national master plan, and suggested incorporating the suggestion into 2.1. 7. When dealing with Human Settlements, you can improve conservation and demand. With the new RDP houses that are constructed, they have tanks; that can be part of this. This is not aggressively promoted by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). This is going to be a partnership act. DWS has to play a role, including those townships that already exist. So Human Settlements can be part of the whole plan of promoting the conservation of water just as much as it a local government issue.

Ms Khawula raised concern about the Department of Human Settlements who is disrespectful as they built houses and put in a bucket toilet instead of a flush toilet. People must receive flush toilets equally. Sometimes DWS finds itself in a situation because Human Settlements is not performing its duties about toilets and water connections when building RDP infrastructure.

Ms Baker suggested putting this in 2.1.9 about rural initiatives. DWS should create a relationship with Human Settlements and the USDG, as rain harvesting could be a cooperative issue.

The Chairperson concluded the Committee has completed conservation and water demand management strategy. The Committee shall promote integration and intergovernmental relations between COGTA, Human Settlements and DWS and the role DWS has to play in that partnership in promoting conservation.

Mr Basson spoke about the terms water and drinking water. Normal water should be of drinking water quality. He suggested using the term “supply drinking water” rather than “supply water”.

Ms Baker raised concern about1.8 and the water supply in rural areas and domestic use of water, access to farmers and poor security.

The Chairperson agreed and made reference to poor farming.

Ms Baker asked about increased infrastructure to access ground water to enable rural access to water.

The Chairperson replied this is covered under water from the ground. Looking at the other objectives, he asked what is the main aim of the integrated management of the water information system that still needs to be developed. What currently is the situation?

Mr Makondo replied that currently the database exists but they still want to improve it.  It contains information on sanitation and the population that has access to water and sanitation services. The purpose is an information management system.

The Chairperson said information management creates a knowledge base for implementing effective policies and planning strategies for both water resources and water services so it is actually a comprehensive database. What do they want to do with the database? In the Committee Report on the Department Budget Vote, there is reference to the DWS strategic objective: to generate informed decisions for water management and protecting water resources and measuring the health of the ecosystem. As they evaluate and monitor, DWS captures all the data. It is useful for future reference.

Ms Baker said if I put a review on monitoring network, the pre indicator will be percentage concession, review either not developing because it is already there.

The Chairperson said if you can look at the KPI of the Department and entities, it is still talking about developing the system. In mentioning department and its entities, the output there is monitoring the department and entities for cooperation and integration. Integration is made for water supply and water quality. The Committee refers to 27 districts. The Committee needs to get a comprehensive response from the department. The reason he is using the concept ‘comprehensive report’, is because you do not want a piecemeal response. He referred to the eradication of the bucket system that they have dealt with for donkey years. We have heard the department say very confidently by the end of March while we said by end June. He suggested the Committee ought to have time frames; there is none of those in this plan.

Mr Makondo replied that for the strategic plan, one does not put in the time frame. The annual performance plan will need a time frame.

Looking at strategic objective 3, Ms Baker suggested the need to include an indicator on monitoring the spending trends of the department.

The Chairperson said there are issues of consequences here. The Amathole District Municipality goes straight to National Treasury via DBSA and accesses a budget of R630 million. DWS says that is not our terrain, it is CoGTA. What are other similar experiences that the Committee can refer to? There is RDP housing programme we need to impact on. There are the post 2015 SDGs that have to be reported on. When the country was reporting on the MDGs, the departments did not say this is our specific area that we alone work on. Schools in rural areas, when it comes to sanitation, is a big issue, children have to go in the open field. When it comes to pulling together information, the department sings praises to itself. That collection of data is taking place and each department singles the data out and reports this as its success. That work needs to be informed by intergovernmental relations. The Committee needs to identify all those areas that are expected to be a collaboration. In terms of intergovernmental relations, we must not monitor only DWS and its entities but also other departments whose work impacts on water and sanitation.

The Chairperson raised raw water pricing. The Committee had discussed the two issues of raw water resources from your water entity and municipality. There are three levels of water pricing from dams through the water boards and the municipality to you and me.

Ms Dawood said raw water is a huge area. The department is charged with pricing for bulk raw water services, it is a huge deal on its own.

Ms Baker said that the Committee seems to bypass tariffs. Raw water board tariffs should not be included as an additional output.

The Chairperson replied that is the point he was raising.

He referred to innovations whether on water or sanitation. What do you mean when you talk about a desalination strategy. Already this is being implemented in Mossel Bay and Durban – they are currently out on an open bid process - and Nelson Mandela Municipality is in the process of engaging. There is a need for a progress report on these developments supporting desalination.

Ms Dawood said she did not think they have a formalized, institutionalised desalination strategy yet. They have pilot studies going in different areas but she did not think there is a strategy as yet in South Africa.

The Chairperson replied we must include innovation, as there is a barrage of new innovations.

Ms Dawood said when you talking about innovation technology, one includes water and sanitation. We can put in 3.1.9 progress report on integrated innovation technology, irrespective of water and sanitation.

The Committee discussed water licences of the various sectors  such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing industries, and water and sanitation regulation guidelines.

Ms Khawula referred to mining that is taking place in the territory of a traditional king and he had no idea of the activity taking place. The danger about mining is it leaves huge toxic open dams which are a danger to children.           

The Chairperson said using water without licences leads to compliance issues. The department must be asked about his so that feedback can be given. He said Ms Khawula should provide the name of the area she is querying about.  

Ms M Khawula said a chief is supposed to know everything that is going on in its territory. In the end it is his subjects that get hurt.

The Chairperson replied that is why intergovernmental operation makes things easier. COGTA must handle this matter, and the Department of Mineral Resources.

Ms Khawula said these miners are disrespecting the kings and these mines have multiplied.

The Chairperson raised concern about the progress on the mines initiative and compliance with legislation and policy guidelines.

Ms Baker also raised concern about the polluter pay principle and where that fits in.

Ms Dawood recommended that this be added to the compliance issues.

Ms Baker raises a question on the polluted principle if it has its own document.

The Chairperson spoke about the damage caused by pollution and the penalties needed against those that pollute. People literally get away with murder.

Ms Dawood replied that the National Environmental Management Act has instruments for noncompliance.

The Chairperson said that it is impossible to adopt this report today with the number of inputs that have been made. Ms Dawood and the others will have to panel beat this again. He raised funding models and the fragmented approach. There is the TCTA. There is your infrastructure agency. There is public private partnership. Some of the water entities issue bonds. He referred to entities that had collapsed. I think they want to take all these components and integrate into one and look at the best way to finance infrastructure. He had left out monitoring the establishment of the national water infrastructure agency. How does South Africa finance and fund the various project and schemes without this disjointed kind of approach?

Mr Basson spoke about ECTA that gets guarantees from national funding in the open market. He named several of their projects which involve the specialist selling the product in the open market.

The Chairperson said what he is trying to understand what the Committee wants to achieve by monitoring funding models. One is dealing with many funding models. For instance your big players like Rand Water and Umgeni Water. They do the project managing on the back of their own balance sheet, whether that is done with guarantee from National Treasury or not, so you are better off here, monitor funding models. The strategic objective is financing water and sanitation projects. The output is the monitoring of those funding models. The key performance indicator should be what?

Mr Basson said the Committee should also monitor the finances they use in innovative technology projects and that they fund the right projects. And what happens before that, when there are still checking prices.

The Chairperson said that is a very thorny issue he is raising. One talks about innovation but at the end of the day, there has to be value for money. Linked to this is the role of the consulting engineer and how these consulting engineers are reaping rewards. It is daylight robbery. As Members of Parliament, we must make sure we guide such spending.

Ms Dawood said emanating from the strategic plan, we should establish the annual performance plan.

The Chairperson concluded in a nutshell it should form part of our plan for the year. The Committee will give the strategic plan back to the drafting team for now.

Meeting adjourned.

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