Marine Spatial Planning Bill: adoption; Department, SAWS, SANBI Quarter 1& 2 performance

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

22 November 2017
Chairperson: Mr S Makhubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and two of its entities – the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – on their performance during the first two quarters of the current financial year.

The South African Weather Service reported that it had achieved 92% of its targets. The main target not achieved was the percentage of radar data available, which was attributed to major concerns relating to interrupted power supply, communications and spares related issues.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute categorised five of its 39 targets as “works in progress.” These included its efforts to meet its male-female employee equity ratios, the number of new national botanical gardens established and operational, the compilation of descriptive and classification information on plant and animal species, and the number of platforms facilitated for civil society engagement.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said it had achieved 113 of its 132 annual targets. It highlighted that with regard to its target for efficient and effective information technology services, one of the four funded master system plan (MSP) initiatives had been achieved, two were works in progress, and one was off target. This was due to the cancellation of the tender, as no suitable service provider had been found during the tender evaluation process, and delays were encountered from the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) on the implementation of the coordinated integrated permitting system (CIPS). An alternative service provider would be sought to complete the CIPS project.

The Committee went through the formal adoption process of the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Bill, ensuring that the amendments previously agreed upon had been incorporated. It would meet next week to approve the final version of the Bill. 

Meeting report

South African Weather Service (SAWS): Quarterly Performance Report

Mr Jerry Lengoasa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SAWS, took the Committee through the SAWS performance for the first two quarters of 2017-18, reporting on the strategic goals and objectives. The overall performance target had been 92% achieved, 4% partially achieved, and only 4% not achieved.

In Strategic Goal 1 (Provision of products and services), all targets had been achieved, with the exception of the percentage completion of the impact study on the provision of community weather-smart products and services, which had been partially achieved in the first quarter.

In Strategic Goal 2 (Capability and capacity development), the percentage availability of the radar data target was not achieved in either quarter. This was attributed to major concerns relating to an interrupted power supply, communication and spares-related issues. However, these areas were being given specific attention in this quarter. Completion of the implementation phase of the National Education Plan target was not achieved in the first quarter, but in the second quarter, resource mobilisation plans were developed and applications for funding submitted. All targets in the other three strategic goals were achieved.

Mr Lulama Gumenge, Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO): SAWS, said that total revenue had fallen below budget by R535 000 (-0.29%). Aviation revenue had been below budget by R234 000 (0.37%), while non-regulated commercial revenue had been R618 000 (5.73%) above budget. On the expenditure side, compensation of employees amounted to R106.6 million, which was below the budgeted R116.1 million, and was caused by vacancies at the senior management level. Employees were also encouraged to attended international conferences which were fully or partially sponsored, since this acted as a cost containment measure.

Discussion

Ms J Edwards (DA) asked when SAWS estimated to achieve its projected target with regard to the percentage availability of radar data, since it had not been achieved in either of the two quarters.

Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) asked for the reasons behind the vacancies caused by resignations.

The Chairperson asked whether SAWS would be able to achieve the projected target with regard to the percentage availability of radar data within this financial year.

SAWS’s response

Mr Lengoasa referred to the availability of radar data, and said the network was made up of about 12 radar facilities scattered around the country, and from time to time some of them broke down. Most of them were now back on track. In cases of interrupted power supply, there had been efforts to procure backups, but these procurement processes took time. Communication remained a challenge, since it also depended on the network availability. However, SAWS was exploring long term solutions such as satellite data transmission that did not rely on land data transmission.

Regarding the vacancies, there had been only two resignations since he had assumed office. Both of these had been for personal reasons -- the senior manager for international relations had found a job with the World Meteorological Organization in the Nairobi office, and the other was a senior manager in research who had also found greener pastures elsewhere. The rest of the vacancies were as a result of the backlog of resignations from the previous financial year. Most of these positions had been filled to fit in the new organisational structure that had been approved by the Board. It was projected that although not all vacancies would be filled by the end of the financial year, most of the critical posts would be filled.

Regarding international travel, most of the technical and scientific staff traveled to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) related meetings, and were thereby getting a return on the investment from the capacity development portfolio, which supported some members to attend.

 

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI): Quarterly Performance Report

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, CEO: SANBI, said that of the Institute’s 39 total targets, five were “work-in-progress.” These included one relating to the employment equity plan, which targeted to have 44% of the female staff on a permanent and contract employment basis, and 49% of female staff in top and senior management positions. However, it had encountered the challenge of a high number of male staff on a permanent and contract basis, and also in targeted senior positions.

The number of new national botanical gardens established and operational was also identified as a work in progress. There had been some delays in planning on what targets should be achieved in 2018/19 and 2017/18. However, corrective measures were in place and SANBI was in the process of appointing a landscape designer for Thohoyandou Botanical Garden.

The number of plant and animal species for which descriptive and classification information had been compiled was still a work in progress. Cumulatively, 25% of the total animal and plant species pages had been compiled, but this progress had been affected by capacity challenges due to vacancies in three posts. A recruitment process was under way to fill the vacancies.

The number of platforms facilitated for civil society engagement was also a work in progress, since the second quarter target was behind schedule. Currently, data could not be extracted from the iSPOT platform, nor did SANBI have access to any data later than 23 June 2017. This was due to a major software rewrite failure that had occurred in June which had rendered the site unusable. As a corrective measure, SANBI was considering terminating its contract with the Open University and investigating other alternative platforms to be implemented as part of the National Biodiversity Information system.

Ms Lorato Sithole, CFO: SANBI said a surplus had been recorded at the end of the quarter, as revenue was ahead of budget by 6% in the second quarter, and by 44% year-on-year. Government grants were ahead of budget as a result of the capital grant transfer which had been received for the full financial year. Rent received and admission fee income were ahead of budget as a result of the increase in visitor numbers to the gardens, due to the change in the season. Investment income was also ahead of budget as a result of investment and bank account balances being higher that budgeted for. Other income made up of sundry income, such as plant sales and unidentified deposits, formed a steady flow of cash to the entity.

Overall, the cash reserves were sufficient to meet SANBI’s short term needs as well as obligations arising from project funds received. The Institute was solvent, with total assets exceeding total liabilities by an adequate margin. Current assets and liabilities had increased by R 21.38 million and R12.99 million respectively.

The post of Deputy Director was in the process of being filled, as interviews had already been conducted. Performance report indicators had also been reviewed and corrective measures had been put in place to enhance accuracy.

Discussions

Dr Luyenge asked for clarity regarding the amount of the reported recurring surplus, and whether it was positive or negative.

The Chairperson said that despite the positive performance of SANBI, the Committee still had to interrogate the remaining unsatisfied targets. On the employee equity plan, he asked whether the current vacancies could target women in order to balance the gender ratio. He also asked for clarification regarding the timings referred to in relation to the projects and donations income highlighted in the financial performance.

SANBI’s response

Dr Rampedi referred to the vacancies issue, and said there had been consideration of the staff currently appointed in relation to the transformation agenda in order to ensure that recruitment and selection adhered to the entity’s employment equity plan.

Ms Sithole said that the surplus had emanated from the government grant. The money budgeted for had been projected to be received throughout the year, but it had been received in the second quarter.

Regarding the timing of projects and donations income, there had been some delays in the projects realising their incomes, but it was expected that they would realise their projected incomes by the end of the financial year.

 

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA): Quarterly Performance Report

Mr Jacob Kutu, Director: DEA said that the Department’s performance plan had a total of 132 annual targets, with 113 being achieved, 18 partially achieved, and one significantly delayed.

With regard to the strategic objective related to an adequate and appropriately skilled, transformed and diverse workforce, there had been slow progress in the creation of female representation in senior management positions due to the low turnover, so the projected annual target of 50% had not been met.

With regard to efficiency and effective information technology services, one of the four funded master system plan (MSP) initiatives had been achieved, two were works in progress, and one was off target. This was due to the cancellation of the tender, as no suitable service provider had been found during the tender evaluation process, and delays were encountered from the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) on the implementation of the coordinated integrated permitting system (CIPS). An alternative service provider would be sought to complete the CIPS project.

In Programme 2 (Legal, Authorizations, Compliance and Enforcement (LACE)), nine of the 12 projected targets were achieved, while three remained work in progress. These were:

  • The percentage of administrative enforcement actions resulting in compliance;
  • The number of criminal cases finalised and dockets handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); and
  • The number of interventions for streamlining environmental authorisations/ management developed.

In Programme 3 (Oceans and coasts), 95% (18) of the projected targets were achieved. The development and implementation of an evaluation programme for oceans and coasts monitoring was still a work in progress.

In Programme 4 (Climate change and air quality management) 86% (13) of the projected targets were achieved. The works in progress or off target were the development and implementation of a national climate change adaption strategy, and the framework for reporting on green house gas emissions by industry.

In Programme 5 (Biodiversity and conservation), 90% (19) of the targets were achieved. Works in progress included the number of biodiversity economy initiatives implemented, and the number of legislative tools to ensure conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity being developed and implemented.

In Programme 6 (Environmental programmes), 83% (15) of the projected targets were achieved. Works in progress included the number of full time equivalents (FTEs) created, the number of accredited training person days created, and the number of initial hectares of invasive alien plants treated.

In Programme 7 (Chemicals and waste management), 54% (13) of the projected targets were achieved. Works in progress included:

  • The number of chemicals and waste management instruments developed and implemented.
  • The number of industry waste management plans (IndWMPs) reviewed per annum.
  • The number of waste management facilities audited.
  • The state of the waste report developed.

Discussion

Mr R Purdon (DA) asked whether the final draft of the National Adaptation Strategy, which had been scheduled to be completed in the last week of October, had been completed or not. In the chemicals and waste management programme, he asked about the scope of the work of the service provider in the project. Regarding foreign aid assistance, he asked who approached the foreigners for financial support, and how it was motivated. The funds raised should be used and not returned, otherwise donors would not be willing to donate money in the future.

Ms Edwards said that the DEA had performed generally well, but she was concerned with the low performance in the chemical and waste management programme. She asked when the service provider would commence the work, or if they had already begun. Why had the DEA spent only 10% of the budget in this programme, since it should be half way through the budget by this time.

The Chairperson sought clarification with regard to the number of criminal cases being investigated. With regard to the corrective measures to fill vacancies in the Department, he asked about the status of the recruitment process and whether the vacancies would have been filled by the end of the financial year.

Mr Ishaam Abader, DDG: DEA, said that the DEA only projects and estimates the number of criminal cases to be handled in the financial year, as it was not possible to determine exactly how many crimes would be committed. Regarding the vacancies, the recruitment process was under way. However, there was a drive to reduce the number of posts in the Department as a cost containment measure.

Ms Esther Makau, CFO: DEA said that donor funds were spent in consultation with the donors and were not usually paid back to them.

Mr Mark Gordon, DDG: DEA responded to the question on the National Adaptation strategy, and said that it had not been published, but the DEA had the final formulation which was being edited and was expected to be published soon. The post of a director had been filled, but the other vacant director’s post was a technical one which would require someone with specialised expertise. The DEA would head hunt for that particular post, and it was expected that by the end of the financial year, the post would be filled.

The role of the chemical waste management service provider was to undertake an inventory check across all municipalities, verifying the locations of poisonous chemicals and establishing a criterion for the selection and determination of the contamination, and the collection of data that would be relevant to determining the methodology for collection. It would also be conducting workshops in various municipalities and compiling reports for the DEA.

Mr Purdon asked whether there was a dedicated officer responsible for sourcing donor funds, and whether the National Adaptation Strategy had been published or not.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, DG: DEA, said that the Department’s international relations section was usually responsible for the negotiation and sourcing of donor funds. There was also the Climate Change Convention that provided financing mechanisms such as the Green Plant Fund, among others.

Mr Gordon said the National Adaptation Strategy was yet to be published, but it was in its final formulation and would be published soon.

Marine Spatial Planning Bill [B9-2017]: Formal Adoption and Committee Report

The Chairperson said that after the Committee went through the approval process at this meeting, it would still meet next week in order to approve the final version of the Bill that would have been printed. He asked the DEA whether it had had any feedback with regard to the suggestions from yesterday’s Committee meeting. 

Ms Radia Razack, Director: Law Reform and Appeals, Cape Town Office, DEA, said that the DEA had the draft version with the incorporation of texts from the state law advisors, in accordance with the instructions given at the previous meeting.

The changes made related to clause 9, where the phrase ‘reasonable time’ had been added. In clause 10, relating to the DGs’ Committee, the DG of the DEA was the chair and convener of the Committee and in his/her absence, the DG of the Department of Performance Management and Evaluation (DPME) would act as the chairperson of the Committee. The quorum of the DGs’ Committee had been changed from six to five members, where the majority of the members in the meeting would constitute a vote. In the event of an equality of votes, the chairperson would have the deciding vote. The same changes were reflected in the Ministerial Committee. Also, a precautionary approach would be the overriding principle in the case of dispute resolutions.

Discussion

The Chairperson said that most of the issues raised appeared to have been covered, and the Committee could move forward with the Bill. He asked the Members to indicate whether they were satisfied with the Bill.

Ms Edwards said that the DA would like to reserve their rights, since they would like to take the Bill to their caucus.

The meeting was adjourned.

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