Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority & SANBI 2018/19 Annual Performance Plans

Environmental Affairs

28 March 2018
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs received presentations from the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on their annual performance plans (APPs) for 2018/19.

Isimangaliso’s key targets included increasing the number of environmental monitors from 28 to 120, conducting six new environmental audits, increasing the treatment of invasive alien plants from 27 795 hectares to 45 000 hectares, and having 100 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) participating in skills development programmes. On the financial side, it aimed to increase revenue collection for the Park from commercial sources from R17.4 million to R20.7 million. Other goals were to approve 50 new independent research proposals that related to environmental management, and to achieve an unqualified external audit opinion.

Members wanted to know why the number of monitors was being increased, and were concerned as to whether the Park would have the resources to implement its proposed revised organisational structure. They also questioned the relationship that existed between the Park and the local communities. They were told that monitors played a fundamental role as the ‘ears on the ground’ for the Park, and their authority would be checked by having to report to the environmental managers. Stakeholder relations had improved tremendously of late, and the attitude of local population towards the Park had changed.

SANBI presented its targets for the year, based on the strategic objectives within the seven programmes of the Institute. These targets included 1% of the budget being allocated to staff development, increasing the gate takings by 3% and the number of visitors by 5%, having 100 black biodiversity professionals participate in internships and postgraduate studentships at the Institute, and publishing five studbooks under the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA).

Members’ questions were centred on the low budget allocation to staff training and the challenges emanating from the transfer of the National Zoological Garden (NZG) to the Institute. SANBI said the reduced amount for staff training was due to budget cuts, though the actual figure may go up given the additional allocation coming from the NZG. There were many challenges, but management was dealing with them.

Meeting report

Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (WPA) Annual Performance Plan 2018/19

Mr Buyani Zwane, Chairperson: Isimangaliso WPA, gave a background of the park, its mandate, vision and mission and invited the interim CEO (ICEO) to present the strategic plan.

Professor Anis Karodia, ICEO: Isimangaliso WPA, presented the strategic objectives and targets under Isimangaliso’s 5 programmes.

Programme 1 (Park Operations):

Under the strategic objective of effective conservation of World Heritage Values; the park would have a target of six management meetings attended with the day-to-day conservation manager; target six new environmental audits; increase the number of environmental monitors deployed in Isimangaliso from 28 to 120; increase the treatment of invasive alien plants from 27 795 hectares to 45 000 hectares; and increase the number of hectares burnt in controlled burning programmes from 1 035 to 2 500.

Under the strategic objective of effective partnerships and stakeholder relations; there would be 60 annual stakeholder engagements , including park forums, and a five-year strategy plan approved as communication strategy. The park would also have two community-based communication events

Programme 2 (Transformation):

Under the strategic objective of optimising socio-economic benefits to local communities; the park would have 550 full-time equivalent jobs, up from a baseline of 517; increase the number of training days from 4 785 to 4 800; have 100 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) participating in skills development programmes; increase the number of bursaries awarded to 37, and support Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) by increasing the spending on majority black-owned suppliers to 60% as a percentage of qualifying expenditure

Programme 3: (Commercialisation):

Under the strategic objective of improving the financial sustainability of the Park, increase revenue collection to the Park from commercial sources from R17.4 million to R20.7 million, and increase from 196 932 to 250 000 paid visitor entries; and implement 80% of the commercial development plan

Under the strategic objective of enhanced promotion and marketing of the Park, conduct four annual marketing events, and complete the annual marketing and public relations (PR) programme.

Programme 4: (Finance and Administration):

Under the strategic objective of effective knowledge management systems, target to approve 50 new independent research proposals that relate to management.

Under the strategic objective of equitable access for schools for environmental education and awareness, increase the number of learners visiting the Park from 4 500 to 5 000.

To maintain good governance and a sound control environment, the target was to have an unqualified external audit opinion

Prof Karodia described the key strategic risks facing the Park as a dynamic VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) operating environment, poor service delivery from contracted business partners, a shortage of key critical skills and funding, andvulnerability to fluctuations in the domestic and international tourism market, as well as financial markets

Some of the planned mitigations to the strategic risks were establishing partnerships with other implementing agencies rolling out programmes that were compatible with the Park’s objectives, extensive skills development and internships to grow the talent pool in the area, implementation of a community conservation levy fund, the proceeds of which would be applied to development programmes, market diversification, and sourcing donor funding for a community-owned tourism plant.

Discussion

Mr R Purdon (DA) asked why the monitors were being increased from 28 to 120, and what power they had. Why was the number of SMMEs being reduced to 100 from the 371, as shown in the baseline? He also wanted to know how the Park regulated non-paying members. Regarding schools, were there any other follow-up programmes with the Department of Education so that children made use of what they had learnt? He was impressed by the percentage expenditure on salaries being only 15%.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) wanted to know how the Park categorized stakeholders and engaged with them.  The team should clarify what they meant by “effective conservation” and who formed part of the Park stakeholder forums

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked if the Park would have sufficient resources for the contemplated organogram. What was the action plan to achieve a retention rate of 90% for skilled staff -- up from 80%?

Mr T Hadebe (DA) said that the entity was very ambitious with its aim to increase the number of visitors from 196 932 to 250 000. Was there a strategy to achieve this?

Isimangaliso WPA response

Prof Karodia responded that the work of monitors was to monitor the Park and to act as ears on the ground. They thus played a fundamental role, but their powers would be limited since the environmental managers would monitor the monitors. This was a step in the right direction

It was very difficult to regulate entry for local people, since they had been historically disadvantaged. The Park thus allowed free entry for local people, which also enhanced stakeholder relations. The park was not looking to raise funds from this source.

The Park had been instrumental in helping the community, especially through the schools. He personally had raised money for building toilets, and soccer and netball pitches for the schools. Two libraries were also being donated. The Park was therefore doing more to empower the local population than it was mandated to.

Stakeholder relations had improved tremendously and the attitude of local population about the Park had changed. Park forums were usually advertised, and the Park tried to get members from all communities to participate.

Mr Zwane added that as part of its work in stakeholder engagements, the Park had engaged with the Stellenbosch and Pretoria universities on improving communication and ways of reaching out to the communities. Many of the schools that received bursaries from the institution had bursars that came from the area, which improved relations with the community and also enhanced conservation interest.

Ms Abeeda Kadir, Chief Financial Officer: Isimangaliso WPA, responding to the question on SMMEs, and said that the big issue was funding. Previously, funding had come from the World Bank but not anymore, hence the high baseline of 371. Last year, this initiative had been financed from the community levy fund only. However, due to free education, more funds could now be moved to SMMEs, to improve the number supported to 100.

Mr Zwane added that the Department would have further engagements with National Treasury on the organogram.  

The Committee Chairperson encouraged the Park to continue engaging with the stakeholders so as to make the role of Isimangaliso clear. The expectations of the local people were high due to poverty, which explained the complaints despite all that the Park was doing to help empower them.

SANBI Annual Performance Plan 2018/19

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, CEO: South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), said the contribution of the Institute was aligned to the national priorities and also was instrumental in supporting the mother department, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), as well as other departments.

The organisational structure of SANBI had changed due to the transfer of the National Zoological Garden (NZG) to the institute. The organidation of the NZG would be nested within the existing organisational structure, with an additional post of managing director (MD) being added below the SANBI CEO in the structure.

The Institute now had seven programmes, with the one  to manage and unlock the biodiversity conservation contributions and benefits of the NZG having been added after its transfer recently.

Based on the strategic objectives, the targets for the year 2018/19 include:

Programme 1 (Render effective and efficient corporate services)

  • 1% of budget allocated and spent on staff development, 45% of female staff on permanent and contract employment, and 50% in top and senior management. 87% of black staff on permanent and contract employment and 3% of people with disabilities on permanent and contract employment;
  • Achieve an unqualified audit, comply with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and improve sustainability by increasing gate takings by 3%;
  • For effective corporate service, have 90% of information communications technology (ICT) networks and businesses available, and 100% compliance with quarterly performance reporting.

Programme 2 (manage and unlock benefits of the network of national botanical gardens as windows into South Africa’s biodiversity)

  • Manage a network of national botanical gardens in order to realise benefits to SANBI, civil society and other relevant stakeholders;
  • Target 20 additional plant species, and prioritize the improvement and upgrading of buildings in the gardens, and add more gardens, for example, at Thohoyandou Botanical Garden and Kwelera National Botanical Garden;
  • Nature-based tourism and recreational activities -- target to increase number of visitors by 5% (there were more than 2m visitors the previous year).

Programme 3 (build foundational biodiversity science)

  • Compile information on 4 200 species, update four ecosystem classifications and add 56 000 biodiversity records to the database.

Programme 4 (assess, monitor and report on the state of biodiversity and increase knowledge for decision making including on climate change)

  • On creating new biodiversity knowledge for decision-making, target for 85 additional publications, develop 45 new plans and 65 new risk analyses on invasive species, and ensure two networks on cooperative research were operating;
  • On scientific evidence on the status of biodiversity, target to complete one national biodiversity assessment.

Programme 5 (provide biodiversity policy advice and access to biodiversity information and support for climate change adaptation)

  • On tools to support management and conservation of biodiversity, develop two environmental decision support tools, develop and mainstream three knowledge resources to support biodiversity informatics and biodiversity, and convene five learning or coordination events and four training sessions.
  • On access to biodiversity data, target an increase in publishing of 54 000 records and a 100% response to relevant written requests from the DEA and other organs of state within stipulated timeframes;
  • On policy support on climate change adaptation, convene one coordination mechanism in collaboration with the DEA.

Programme 6 (provide human capital development, education and awareness in response to SANBI’s mandate):

  • SANBI was planning to continue supporting tertiary education and targeted 100 black biodiversity professionals to participate in internships and postgraduate studentships, visiting and exhibiting SANBI’s work in 15 universities, targeting 54 000 beneficiaries for the “kids in gardens” programme, and celebrating nine environmental theme days.

Programme 7 (manage and unlock the biodiversity conservation contributions and benefits of the national zoological garden of South Africa);

This was a new programme that highlighteds the responsibilities of the NZG, and had three strategic objectives:

  • Building a centre of research/training excellence, with a target to publish 35 research papers;
  • Creating a dynamic platform for engaging the public on the Science of Life, with a  target to reach 432 000 visitors and 160 000 learners through the Zoo;
  • Developing a zoological garden with a conservation focus, with a target to publish five studbooks under the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA)

Ms Lerato Sithole, CFO: SANBI, said the overall budgeted income was R750 million, of which about 50% was from the National Treasury (NT) through the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF), and the rest was internally generated through restaurant sales and gate collections. The total expenditure equalled total income, so there was a zero surplus. The budget for the NZG was included in the total income. About 52% went to employee costs, 25% to operational costs, 13% to projects and 10% to infrastructure.

Dr Rampedi then presented the institute’s strategic risks, the key being a lack of capital and adequate funding for science engagement, a sub-optimal resourcing framework and a lack of funding to properly maintain infrastructure, which required immediate attention since the NZG was sensitive due to live snails.

To mitigate these risks, there had been a lot of effort to secure additional funding, and the Institute was pursuing measures like accreditation by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which would open a window of opportunity.

Discussion

Mr Hadebe asked what the implications would be of reducing the allocation to the staff training budget to 1% while there was a new department coming in, whose employees might need training.

Ms H Nyambi sought clarification on the number of publications to be made under programme 4, as the total had been 117 in the previous year, and was now 85 more.

Mr S Makhubele asked if everything was smooth with the inclusion of the NZG. What had been the challenges with accommodating the incoming personnel? It seemed the institute had over-achieved the disability target by having 3% of employees with disability -- what was the current number? With regard to the new Thohoyandou Botanical Garden, were there issues outside the mandate of SANBI -- for example, the naming of the garden? Why had the target for knowledge resources been reduced from seven to three? Was current SANBI management comfortable with inheriting baseline targets from previous administrations?

Mr Purdon asked the Institute to give an indication of what the NZG had been earning before being transferred to SANBI.

SANBI’s response

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi said SANBI’s commitment to skills development in the past had been 2% of the total allocation to the organization but due to funding challenges this had now beenrevised to 1%, even for the previous year. The transfer of the NZG was almost complete, and the only remaining challenge was the allocation of funds for clearing the backlog in zoo management. There were also issues relating to labour department, since it was a transfer. On Thohoyandou Botanical Garden, the phase had been hampered by the land claims, but infrastructural work and the appointment of staff was going on. On the employment of people with disability, the figure had been 3% in the past, but would have to be revised with the incoming of staff of the NZG. On what activities were planned around marketing, there were many diverse activities aimed at showing the presence of SANBI, through participating in exhibitions and shows as well as maintaining a presence in social media.

Ms Carmel Mbizvo, Head: Biodiversity and Policy Advice, SANBI, responded on the targeted publications and knowledge resources. She said the targets set for the previous year had been achieved, and the same targets had been set for the current year.

Ms Nana Magomola: Chairperson: SANBI, said the 1% of the allocation was based on available income, and the actual figure would go up with the new allocations coming in with the NZG. Also, there was a lot of work involved in absorbing the NZG into SANBI. The zoo was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) but SANBI did not have this capacity and these issues would be escalated for further deliberation with the mother body, the DEA. There were also staff union issues to be dealt with, and two to three years of change management would be required for staff at the NZG to fully fit in. Another challenge was the duplication of roles -- for example, both NZG and SANBI had HR managers -- and this was being looked into

Mr Craig Allenby, Acting MD: NZG, said a large percentage of the mandate of NZG was not funded, so its transfer to the DEA and SANBI brought challenges due to the historical misalignment of funds which had resulted in a deficit.

The meeting was adjourned

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