National Disaster Management Centre Annual Report 2016/17

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

15 November 2017
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Annual Reports 2016/17
The DA expressed anger at the Minister’s absence and said that the date of the meeting had been changed twice to accommodate the Minister. The Chairperson said that the Minister needed to be present at a Cabinet meeting as he needed to brief the Cabinet, but that he would attend the Committee meeting on 28 November.

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) said the content of the Annual Report was important because it highlighted how the country was gearing itself to manage the effect of the changing climate as it impacted on development. It also showed how the NDMC balanced reactive and proactive measures to deal with disasters.  The report reflected on the implementation of the Fire Services Act, which was also within the NDMC’s ambit. The Annual Report contained chapters on the activities of the NDMC, Monitoring and Evaluation Results, Disasters, Disaster Management Implementation, Disaster Management Plans, and National Coordination. The monitoring of projects that responded to disasters was a key element and was one of the areas that was given priority so that the implementation of response and recovery did not create further risk. The disaster plans that the NDMC coordinated, demonstrated how integrated one had to be to support risk reduction. The NDMC tried to provide leadership on disaster plans that had to be in place to reduce risk in their areas.   

Members said that a year ago there had been talk of amending the Fire Services Act. What was the status of the Act and the status of municipalities whose fire services were not operational? What was being done to standardise fire services equipment? Members said that in risk areas, such as Knysna, it was important to pre-position resources. To what extent was that being done? Members said two provinces had not submitted their reports and of the remaining provinces, only three were functional. What was the functionality of the Provincial Disaster Management Centres (PDMC) and the Municipal Disaster Management Centres (MDMC)? Members said that in America, hurricanes had been responded to within hours, but in South Africa extensive verification had to be done before action was taken. Shouldn’t action be taken immediately a disaster was declared and thereafter verifications could be done? Members said that three years ago Parliament had been called to declare the drought a national disaster. Why was it not declared? Why was the response lukewarm and why did the NDMC give back grant funds while municipalities had no water? Members said Cape Town was three months from total collapse, yet verifications were still being done. On the re-prioritisation of the provincial recovery grant, Members said that it appeared that because DWS and DAFF had found money, but the NDMC had not contributed money and returned it, while municipalities were looking for desalination plants and boreholes.

Members asked if the desalination plant at Richards Bay was really funded to the tune of R290.7m. Members could not understand why the NDMC did not utilise the money that was granted to them. Members asked if the NDMC would promote standardisation, as Buffalo City had bought fire engines from Turkey but now struggled to service them. Perhaps legislation needed to be amended so that where a disaster was declared certain aspects of the MFMA and the PFMA could be bypassed and the expenditure not be regarded as irregular, unauthorised or fruitless and wasteful. Members said the provinces were not functioning well. It was known that a drought was coming. Members asked which provinces were functioning well currently. 

Meeting report

The Committee noted that Minister Des Van Rooyen had tendered his apologies for being absent from the meeting as he had to brief the Cabinet.

Mr K Mileham (DA) expressed his anger at the Minister’s absence and said that the date of the meeting had been changed twice to accommodate the Minister.

The Chairperson said that the Minister needed to be present at a Cabinet meeting as he needed to brief the Cabinet, but that he would attend the Committee meeting on 28 November.

Mr Mileham pointed out that that meeting was to discuss a different issue.

The Chairperson said that the agenda for that meeting would be shifted to a different date.

Briefing by National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC)

Mr Mmaphaka Tau, COGTA DDG and Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, said the content of the report was important because it highlighted how the country was gearing itself to manage the effect of the changing climate as it impacted on development. It also showed how the NDMC balanced reactive and proactive measures to deal with disasters.  The report reflected on the implementation of the Fire Services Act, which was also within the NDMC’s ambit.

Ms Ane Bruwer, Chief Director: Legislation and Policy & Compliance Management, COGTA, outlined the content of the Annual Report. The report contained chapters on the activities of the NDMC, Monitoring and Evaluation Results, Disasters, Disaster Management Implementation, Disaster Management Plans, and National Coordination.

Mr Mileham said it was difficult to follow the presentation because he did not have a copy of the Annual Report. He said section 24 required that an Annual Report be tabled.

A parliamentary official said that the report had been tabled in October, appeared on the ATC and that he would immediately source some copies.

Ms Moddy Radikonyana, Chief Director: Risk Reduction, Response coordination, NDMC, reported on

Chapter 4 of the Annual Report dealing with Disasters.  The type of disaster and type of support provided was detailed in this chapter. The implementation of intervention measures was done in two phases. Phase 1 was the reprioritisation of resources by the organs of state through the existing programmes while Phase 2 was on financial contributions from Disaster Grants within the Department. This occurred after the agriculture and water sectors indicated that their resources were depleted and submitted funding requests since the conditions had not improved.  In September 2016, National Treasury approved R212 million for the provision of livestock feed within the agriculture sector and R341 million for the water sector for a mobile desalination plant in KwaZulu Natal and water tankering in affected provinces. She detailed how the money was spent. She then spoke to disaster grants. The grant allocations for 2016/17 were R269m for the Municipal Disaster Grant, R111m for the Provincial Disaster Grant and R140m for the Municipal Disaster Recovery Grant.  She gave a detailed breakdown of how the money was spent. No expenditure was incurred from the Provincial Disaster Grant due to the reprioritisation process by organs of state, mainly during the drought. She then spoke to Chapter 5 on Disaster Management Implementation, which reflected on some legislative compliance issues and challenges faced by organs of state across the spheres of government in implementing the disaster management legislation. Amongst the issues were that of receiving Annual Reports from PDMC’s, MDMC’s, national organs of state and other entities, and provincial organs of state; the functionality of the Disaster Management Advisory Forums; the disaster risk reduction, capacity building and intervention by stakeholders; and capacity building initiatives.

Mr Tau said the monitoring of projects that responded to disasters was a key element and was one of the areas that was given priority so that the implementation of response and recovery did not create further risk. The disaster plans that the NDMC coordinated, demonstrated how integrated one had to be to support risk reduction. The NDMC tried to provide leadership on disaster plans that had to be in place to reduce risk in their areas.   

Discussion

Mr Mileham said that a year ago there had been talk of amending the Fire Services Act. What was the status of the Act and the status of municipalities whose fire services were not operational? What was being done to standardise fire services equipment? In risk areas, such as Knysna, it was important to pre-position resources. To what extent was that being done? Two provinces had not submitted their reports and of the rest, only three were functional. What was the functionality of the Provincial Disaster Management Centres (PDMC) and the Municipal Disaster Management Centres (MDMC)? In America, hurricanes had been responded to within hours, but he felt that in South Africa extensive verification had to be done before action was taken. Shouldn’t action be taken immediately when a disaster was declared and thereafter verifications could be done? Three years ago Parliament had been called to declare the drought a national disaster. Why was it not declared? Why was the response lukewarm and why did the NDMC give back grant funds while municipalities had no water? Cape Town was three months from total collapse, yet verifications were still being done. On the re-prioritisation of the provincial recovery grant, he said that it appeared that because DWS and DAFF had found money, but the NDMC had not contributed money and returned it, while municipalities were looking for desalination plants and boreholes.

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) asked whether, apart from the desalination plant at Richards Bay, there were any other desalination plants in the province that the Committee was not aware of? He further asked if the desalination plant at Richards Bay was really funded to the tune of R290.7m. He agreed that when there was a disaster, action should be taken, and vetting could occur afterwards.

Mr Tau said the NDMC’s role was a coordinating role with the emphasis on prevention and mitigation. Disaster plans had to be in place and managed by the various sectors. The NDMC operated at the national, provincial and municipal levels.

On the amendment of the Fire Services Act, he said it was still on track. The NDMC was consolidating comments it had received on the White Paper on fire services. The new act was informed by the principles in the White Paper. The NDMC could provide a briefing to the Committee on progress made.

On the dysfunctional fire services in municipalities, he said it was an area of concurrent competence between the province and municipalities and was a services issue that needed to be budgeted for by municipalities.  The NDMC worked closely with the provinces and municipalities to improve the status of fire services. Funding limitations meant they could not inject funds, but they encouraged the provision of funding for fire services. They were undertaking to asses the capacity of municipalities to undertake fire safety and prevention programs. They had assessed 27 municipalities and gave feedback or implemented training programs.

On the prepositioning of fire services, he said the NDMC had a collaboration with Santam called ‘business adopt a municipality’. 

About Provincial Disaster Management Centres, he said they varied because provincial centres were still within provincial arrangements and the NDMC advocated the funding of centres so that they could be fully resourced and operational.

The capacity of disaster management centres to respond quickly was bound by the fact that it operated within the PFMA. If there was a disaster occurrence, then the NDMC had to check whether reprioritisation was done and whether the affected sectors had done their work. The NDMC also had to check whether damages were due to a disaster or were due to operations and maintenance or a lack thereof. Service delivery backlogs had to be dealt with under ongoing service delivery programs.

On the return of funds, he said that when a sector reprioritised funds, then the emergency grant could not be used. The emergency grant was for specific use, it could not be diverted for a particular situation which would cause one to transgress the PFMA.

He confirmed the R290.7m was for a desalination plant in Richards Bay.

On the speed of response, he said that what helped the NDMC was that the relevant municipality or province and affected sectors would constitute a joint operations committee to ensure the activation of their contingency plans. The NDMC was not a first line responder. 

On provinces not submitting reports, Ms Bruwer said that in some cases, the Provincial NDMC offices  had not received the signed off plan from the province. Sometimes there was just no compliance and the NDMC reported the non-compliance in the Annual Report and hoped that this would put pressure on them to comply.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) said he could not understand why the NDMC did not utilise the money that was granted to them.

Mr Mileham asked if the NDMC would promote standardisation, as Buffalo City had bought fire engines from Turkey but now struggled to service them. Perhaps legislation needed to be amended so that where a disaster was declared certain aspects of the MFMA and the PFMA could be bypassed and the expenditure not be regarded as irregular, unauthorised or fruitless and wasteful.

The Chairperson said the provinces were not functioning well. It was known that a drought was coming. He asked which provinces were functioning well currently, because what was the use of having many structures and they did not work.

On the readiness of the country to deal with disasters, Mr Tau said it was important that SA had appropriate reactive and proactive systems to manage disasters and SA had a world-renowned piece of legislation to deal with disasters. There were various institutions to coordinate disaster reduction. What needed to increase was that the sectors that had responsibility for various risks should have the necessary capacity, resources and operational systems to respond to incidents. The intergovernmental committee on disaster management forum was key to provide leadership on this issue. The National Disaster Management Advisory Forum and task teams like the National Joint Intelligence Committee ensured that plans were continually sharpened. South Africa also supported countries such as Madagascar and Mozambique.

Mr Lloyd Phethlu, Manager: Fire Services, said the adoption of SANS (SA National Standards) standards in the White Paper on fire services was a key policy proposal. The NDMC had encouraged municipalities to implement the community protection against fire programs well as SANS 1157 on the standardisation of signs for dangerous goods.

Mr Phethlu was surprised to hear about the purchase of a fire engine from Turkey. There were people in the fire services that were not qualified, because prior to the purchase of a fire engine there had to be specifications according to the risk in the municipality, so he did not know how a fire engine from Turkey was purchased and whether it even suited the terrain in SA. Another item for standardisation was the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) clothing for fire fighters which were all imported from the USA. The NDMC was working on national standards for the PPE of firefighters.

Mr Jurgens Dyssel, Executive: Policy, Legislation Development and Implementation Systems, said it was not only the standardisation of equipment that mattered. One should not forget to bring in the standards for manufacturing. Local industry should adapt to provide the equipment. It was not just about the purchase of a vehicle but also about the maintenance cost involved and there was space for manufacturers to develop products and for economic factors to kick in as South Africa had world class manufacturers who exported fire engines into Africa and the world. Hence preplanning and exercises were critical so that interoperability of equipment was assured.

On the reasons for non-spending, Ms Radikonyana said that Provincial Disaster Management Centre funds were not transferred directly, but to sector departments. The grants were conditional. When a disaster happened, each provincial sector had to activate the grant, but this was not happening. An emergency was when one looked at the satisfaction of immediate needs of within three-month period. Non-expenditure was reported to the Treasury. For longer term disaster relief projects, that is from six months to two years, for road, bridge or dam rehabilitation for example, verification was necessary.

On the functionality of Provincial Disaster Management Centres, Ms Bruwer said the NDMC had prepared a 12-point checklist, based on how they had implemented legislation, to measure the functionality of PDMCs. This did not necessarily mean that they would respond well during a disaster. It merely ticked boxes such as whether there was a Head of Centre, whether there was a disaster plan, whether the PDMC raised public awareness in the community. The NDMC held workshops and supported capacity building and awareness initiatives and developed guidelines. What was also important was the institutional mechanisms that were put in place in the various spheres of government to ensure coordination. Many provinces though, had capacity challenges and in some provinces, there was no head of the Disaster Management Centres, because there was no financial means to do so. 

Mr Mileham acknowledged that there were financial criteria attached to a grant and it would take time to procure, but the point was that it was an emergency and the awarding of funds needed to be fast tracked. There needed to be an amendment to the legislation so that when a disaster was declared, the grants could be fast tracked, and verification could take place afterwards.

The meeting was adjourned.   
 

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