Department Strategic Plan: briefing

Water and Sanitation

09 April 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


9 April 2003

Mr J F van Wyk (ANC)

Relevant documents:

Review of Budget 2003/2004
Department Powerpoint Presentation
Multi-Year Strategic Plan 2003/4-2005/6

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presented its medium term strategic plan, which was informed by the government's medium term strategic objectives. The Committee discussed the transfer of water schemes to municipalities, the transfer of irrigation schemes, the transfer of forests, and the minimisation of the sanitation backlog. The Committee was concerned about the ability of municipalities to operate their own water schemes. They were also concerned that that water and irrigation schemes were benefiting established farmers rather than emerging farmers.

Mr M Muller, Director General, informed the Committee that Mr Mabala, Chief Financial Officer, would review the revised 2003/2004 budget figures, which were mistakenly reported to the Committee the previous week.

Mr Mabala reintroduced the document "Review of Budget 2003/2004" and explained that there were instances of double counting in the previous document. In Table 3, the Department had added an extra column to the total expenditure.

The Committee was pleased with the corrections.

The Director General notified the Committee that Ms M Modipa, Deputy Director General, Corporate Services would present DWAF's multiyear strategic plan to the Committee. He noted DWAF's strategic plan was important because with the plan in place, the Department had a document to guide the budgeting. In the past, the budgeting had guided the Department's plan.

Ms Modipa agreed with the Director General's assessment of the importance of DWAF's strategic plan. DWAF's plan was informed by the medium term strategic objectives of the government. The presentation focused on the strategic objectives and the key focus areas of DWAF's strategic plan for forestry, water resources management, and water services.
Please refer to attached presentation.

Mr D S Maimane (ANC) wanted more detail about the transfer of irrigation schemes. How did the transfer of the schemes affect the historically disadvantaged?

The Director General answered that government irrigation schemes most often provide irrigation to white, established, commercial farmers. Those farmers needed to manage and fund their own schemes. This would free up resources to help emerging farmers. DWAF would subsidise the schemes that went to black emerging farmers.

Mr P H K Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked what mechanisms DWAF had in place to meet key focus area 5: "Ensure that communities and disadvantaged groups are empowered to make use of tree and forest resources to support sustainable livelihoods."

The Director General answered that DWAF would support firewood strategies so people could get energy for heating and cooking. He noted that 80% of the rural poor obtain their energy from firewood. Free basic electricity might not be available for ten years, thus it was important to support this presently.

Ms M L Nkompe-Ngwenya (ANC) asked about the departments "Key Challenges". DWAF set the target 2010 for minimising the sanitation backlog. How much funding had been allocated towards meeting this goal? Who would physically oversee to the capacitating of municipalities? What would happen to the water boards?

The Director General answered that R350 million per year was designated to address the sanitation backlog. The amount has been raised from R100 million a few years ago. The most pressing problem is the inability to expand capacity rapidly. DWAF is working with the Treasury, DPLG, and SALGA to address this problem. With regard to the capacity of municipalities, the Director General pointed out that pages 23 and 24 of DWAF's Multi-Year Strategic Plan outlined activities to support the municipalities. With respect to the water boards, the Director General stated that most would remain and will be used by municipalities that need assistance.

Mr Mabuza (ANC) stated that figures in the "Budget Summary" did not correlate with those in the Review of Budget.

Mr Mabala answered that the figures listed in the "Budget Summary" conflicted with those in the Review of Budget because those in the Review of Budget did not include the augmentation of the water trading account.

Ms R A Ndzanga (ANC) asked about the transfer of water schemes in rural areas. Would the funds be transferred upon transference of the schemes.

The Director General stated that DWAF was entering into a separate agreement with each municipality and part of the agreement would stipulate the amount of funding. Some of these agreements had involved negotiating with the municipalities, but an equitable amount should be reached.

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya noted the decrease in forestry funding. How did the Department expected to reach the goal of promoting sustainable development based on forests with less funding? Why was the allocation of funds different for different provinces?

The Director General answered that DWAF could not properly operate the forests. As for the allocation of funds, the Director General stated that DWAF allocated different amounts of funds to provinces based on needs in certain areas. For instance, the Eastern Cape had the highest funding for forests because they had the most forests. Kwazulu-Natal had a low figure for water services because local governments controlled many water schemes there.

Mr Van Wyk (ANC) asked about reducing the sanitation backlog. DWAF's figures and targets were put in terms of households. He asked for clarity concerning the figures in terms of toilets and sanitation. Clarity was needed on the figures for the provision of free basic water. Those figures were currently in terms of percentages of municipalities that offered free basic water. This could be problematic because if a municipality stated that it had free basic water services, that did not necessarily translate into all of the residents receiving free basic water.

The Director General answered that for sanitation targets, DWAF assumed six people per household. Therefore, the target of 300 000 households translated into 1,8 million people. In terms of free basic water, DWAF also published a report on how many people received the service, not simply percentages of municipalities. In some places, if people choose to live on the top of a hill, they would not be able to obtain the free basic water that others in the municipality would have access to.

Ms Ndzanga asked how emerging farmers would benefit from the transfer of irrigation schemes.

The Chairperson asserted that the Committee should revisit the issue of irrigation schemes when the Committee dealt with the Division of Revenue Act (DORA).

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya questioned the Director General's assertion that people 'choose' to live in the mountains. Many people were forcibly placed in the mountains. They had settled there and the government could not force them to leave now. In most cases, these people did not 'choose' to live in the mountains. The speeding up of infrastructure building was important in realising the goal of free basic water. Free water was benefiting the "haves" because they had the infrastructure in place to obtain the free water.

Prof H Ngubane (IFP) noted that big companies managed the big forests. What had happened with indigenous forest management. How had wood as energy spread to rural areas?

The Director General answered that wood was used as energy in most rural areas. He contended that deforestation with the aim of creating energy was acceptable, but insisted that it was unacceptable for people to cut down trees and sell the wood to a saw mill.

Mr Maimane commended the Department for utilising the medium term strategic objectives of government to inform DWAF's strategic objectives. He commented on the problems of capacity of municipalities and asked about the restructuring of forests.

Rev A D Goosen (ANC) stated that many municipalities were in no condition to operate their own water schemes. Municipalities did not have funds for capital investment. Would funding follow when schemes were handed down?

The Director General answered that the funds would be transferred upon the transfer of function.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) commented that he had visited many communities where people were using muddy-coloured water from streams. When asked if they had been informed of methods of sanitation such as boiling the water, they replied no. The authorities, upon questioning, had many excuses. In another area, the local government had identified a potential for a cholera outbreak and requested funds from DWAF. DWAF did not act quickly enough and nine people died and 100 were hospitalised. Red tape and paper work was the biggest problem.

Ms T E Leshika (ANC) noted that she visited a place where the people had not received water for two weeks. Part of the problem was a pipe that broke in 2000. The officials did not seem to care.

Mr Van Wyk stated that it was important to note that success on the ground level went beyond the delivery of products. The projects must be completed correctly and operated and maintained properly. The Committee should be given details regarding the transfer of schemes.

The Director General discussed monitoring systems. There were problems with both local schemes and with national schemes that were operated by the Department. DWAF was confident in its decision to transfer the schemes to municipalities because that was the proper forum to ensure accountability. The Department could not run the schemes from Pretoria and could not be accountable to the people from there. Local government could be accountable to the people for the water schemes. Problems would not end once services had been transferred to local governments. DWAF would need to play an oversight role.

Local governments were allocated budgets and that if a local government insists it could not fund the replacing of a pipe, someone must ask them why they did not have the money. The budget for every municipality was listed in DORA.

The Director General explained that the contractor was paid upon completion of a project. That should ensure that projects and schemes were completed properly. Every Department, including the DPLG, SALGA, and Treasury should have a joint meeting to discuss the oversight of the maintenance of schemes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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