Department of Environmental Affairs, Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, SANBI Quarter 1 performance

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

30 October 2018
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on their first quarter performances.

The DEA first reported that eight people had so far been confirmed killed by the recent fires in the southern Cape, and there were reports of a ninth individual killed. A pilot had also died from a plane crash while battling the blaze. Expenditure on projects in the first quarter had been slower than anticipated, such as ‘Working for Water’ projects and infrastructure investment at SANParks, iSimangaliso and the SA Weather Service (SAWS). Agreement had been reached with South African National Parks (SANParks) that the first national park to undertake establishing coastal management lines would be the Garden Route National Park.

Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority said its controlled burning programme had been hampered by unfavourable environmental conditions, together with unseasonal autumn rains of over 200mm.  Admission fees were R260 000 below budget, which was based on historical trends relating to seasonal income, but the harsh economic period had resulted in fewer visitors than usual to the gardens during what was usually a slow period.

SANBI had also suffered the effects of economic conditions, with fewer visitors to its gardens affecting its income. However, its cash reserves were sufficient to meet its 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.

Members were concerned about the types of chemicals that were being used for vegetation control, and asked if dangerous chemicals such as “Roundup” were used by the DEA. They asked if the Department owned or hired the aircraft used in firefighting, and requested reports on their maintenance, and expressed regret that the country should lose pilots due to faulty aircraft. They sought more information on how the 100 participants were recruited for the DEA’s learnership programme, and the reason for three of them to drop out. They asked whether there had been any land claims, and whether the rhino poaching strategy was working. The Committee urged the Minister of Environmental Affairs to address the issues raised by the Auditor General.

Meeting report

Department of Environmental Affairs: 1st Quarter Performance Report

Mr Ishaam Abader, Acting Director General: Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), introduced his delegation. He said that Dr Guy Preston, Deputy Director General: Environmental Programmes, would have to leave the meeting early to attend to the fires currently happening around the country. He therefore requested that Dr Preston be allowed to present first.

Dr Preston informed the Committee that eight people had so far been confirmed killed by the fires in the southern Cape, and there were reports of a ninth individual killed. Among the dead was a toddler, three children, and a pregnant mother who died while attempting to escape from the blaze. A pilot had also died from a plane crash while battling the blaze.

He requested a minute of silence to be observed for the victims of the fires. 

The overall summary of the Department’s 2018/19 first quarter performance was: 93 of 130 targets (72%) achieved, 21 (16%) were a work in progress, and 16 (12%) were not achieved. Monthly financial management reports had been consolidated and submitted to the National Treasury on time. The DEA’s quarterly performance reports had also been submitted to the National Treasury and the Department of Performance Management and Evaluation (DPME) on time. The risk management progress reports had been prepared and analysed, and the quarterly DEA performance management reports and supporting evidence had been verified.

Expenditure on projects was slower than anticipated, such as ‘Working for Water’ projects and infrastructure investment at SANParks, iSimangaliso and the SA Weather Service (SAWS). Payments were not processed for the period under review.

Vacant positions had to go through a process of prioritisation before being filled. This process was consultative and takes time. Prioritised posts were to be filled after approval was granted. There were currently limited vacancies at senior management service (SMS) level to achieve the planned annual target of 50% women in SMS. The DEA would, however, continue to fill newly available SMS vacancies with female candidates.

A process was under way to appoint a panel of service providers for investigation of complex matters. A needs assessment had been was conducted with the biodiversity branch and South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Discussion

Mr R Purdon (DA) asked what chemicals were being used, and if dangerous chemicals such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ was used.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) asked why Program 6, which took the most money from the Department’s budget, had very few slides in the presentation dedicated to it, compared to the other programmes.

Dr B Holomisa (UDM) asked why the stakeholder consultation process was regarded as a challenge.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) queried whether the Department owned or hired aircraft. He requested reports on their maintenance, and added that it was unfortunate for the country to lose pilots due to faulty aircraft.

Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) asked about the turn-around strategy, and what the challenges faced before the initiation of the turn-around strategy had been.

Mr Hadebe added that there was a need for clarity on what was being done to address issues raised by the Auditor General (AG).

DEA’s response

Dr Preston responded that different chemicals were used for the 379 species of plants, and that Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ had been used. However, it was being phased out completely and was currently being used only on seaweed.

There was a huge database of factors being measured. The Department had to comply with the Treasury’s Modified Cash Standards (MCS), and there was a scheduled meeting on 6 and 7 November to address that matter.

The Department would get to fix the wetlands, and the team was working as hard as they could.

The DEA did not own aircraft, and rather leased them. They were strictly maintained to all standards and independently audited. In case of an accident, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigates and presents findings. He requested that people refrain from speculating on the cause of the accident, and rather wait for the CAA to finish its investigation. He added that he was personally at the memorial service for the deceased pilot, and it was unfair to his family and loved ones to speculate on the cause of the accident.

The Chairperson said the impression he got was that the Modified Cash Standards was still a problem. He complained of the numerous justifications and requests by DEA for extensions to comply with the standards.

Quarter 1 Expenditure report

Ms Esther Makau, Deputy Director General: Financial Management Services, DEA, said there was a record postponement of events due to the unavailability of stakeholders. In the first quarter, it had held three events. These were:

  • Budget Vote speech on 16 May in Cape Town, Western Cape.
  • World Oceans Day on 8 June in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Launch of Mayibuye Game Reserve on12 April  in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

Six community outreach activities had been conducted:

  • Port St Johns - Workshop on wildlife economy;
  • Kimberley: Galeshewe, Pick and Pay Circle;
  • Mpumalanga:  Bushbuckridge Mall;
  • Mpumalanga: Mkhuhlu Shopping Complex;
  • Limpopo: Thabazimbi Mall;
  • North West: Moruleng Mall.

Four combined community and school outreach activities had been conducted in the Free State:

  • Thaba Nchu Shopping Centre;
  • Botshabelo Mall;
  • Dewetsdorp; and
  • Soutpan.

Three environmental awareness campaigns had been implemented:

  1. Rhino Anti-Poaching Awareness Campaign
  • City of Tshwane Half Marathon -- “Save our Rhino” -- on 28 April in Silverton, Gauteng.
  • Water point duty at Jointeze Irene Ultra, to create Rhino awareness on 8 April in Centurion, Gauteng
  • Double Drift school awareness held on 25 May in the Double Drift Nature Reserve in Alice, Eastern Cape.
  1. Oceans Economy Awareness Campaign
  • SA Agulhas II Open Day hosted on 8 June in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
  1. Waste Management Awareness

World Environment Day school waste management awareness campaign with the theme, “Beating Plastic Pollution” held from 4 to 8 June and 18 to 21 June at Sannieshof, Tswaing Local Municipality, North West.

Preparatory meetings with facilitators and provinces were held. The Fundisa for Change Advisory Committee Meeting was held with facilitators from SANBI, the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Rhodes University on 15 May. Provinces were consulted on teacher training at an Employment Equity (EE) Forum meeting on 4 May. The Western Cape preparatory meeting was held on 1 June and the Free State preparatory meeting was held on 8 June.

97 learners from the initial 100 recruited in 2016, were currently participating in the Environment Learnership programme. Recruitment of a new intake of 100 learners would be facilitated and finalised in the fourth quarter of 2018/19.

At the start of a new financial year, very few cases were generally referred for prosecution.  This was usually the product of a significant number of cases referred for prosecution at the end of the previous financial year, which required a significant amount of time in the post-investigation phase. Cases had been prioritised, however, and these would soon be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which would allow the shortfall to be made up at the end of the second quarter.

Agreement had been reached with the South African National Parks (SANParks) that the first national park to undertake establishing coastal management lines would be the Garden Route National Park. The Minister had to inform the Members of the Executive Council (MECs) in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape as part of consultation, to afford them an opportunity to respond to the proposed plan in the Garden Route National Park.

The Department had briefed the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources in Parliament on 26 June. The Committee had considered the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Bill, which would be referred to all nine provincial legislatures, as it was a section 76 Bill, and then referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for adoption.

There had been a challenge in linking the power sector optimiser model to the MPA (marine protected areas), which affected the overall model and led to the postponement of the stakeholder engagement process. A soft link was now being used as an alternative option: The stakeholders’ meetings were scheduled for 20 July for government and 24 July for extended stakeholders.

A draft business case for the Wildlife Sector Transformation Charter had been developed, but the submission still needed to be finalised. It would be submitted to the Minister in the second quarter.

Stakeholder consultation meetings had been held with internal stakeholders on the draft norms and standards for the management of abattoir waste. Furthermore, the draft norms and standards document and the letters requesting comments from other stakeholders had been prepared and routed via the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) for publication for public comments.

Discussion

Dr Luyenge asked if the DEA always intended to have 100 learnership positions, and what the strategies were for retaining staff to ensure they did not go elsewhere. He wondered whether there was a communications unit in the Department.

Dr Holomisa asked how the 100 learners were recruited and what the reasons were for the three who had dropped out of the programme.

Mr Purdon asked about Programme 3 on oceans and coasts and estuarine management. He wondered who had cancelled the service provider and how the protocol would be amended. He asked DEA to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government. He asked about the timings for the amendments and whether legal vetting had been concluded. He added that since land for licensing had been provided for the Eastern and Northern Cape Provinces, whether other provinces not been affected.

Mr Hadebe asked whether there were any land claimsm and whether the rhino poaching strategy was working.

Mr Makhubele asked about climate change and the air quality management programme. After terminating a service provider and now doing that work in-house, did that not mean that the capacity had already existed in the DEA and therefore there had been no need to engage a service provider in the first place? He requested geographical information on where the 100 learners were recruited from, to ensure it was a nation-wide recruitment.

DEA’s response

Ms Makau responded that there was no challenge of absenteeism at the Department and the vacancy rate was only 4%, which was better than in the private sector. The Department engaged with the municipalities in the different provinces, which then run adverts for the learnership positions. The target was 100 learners, and it was achieved. The three who had left the programme did so because they had secured permanent jobs elsewhere.

There was a communications unit in the Department, and there were 195 current litigated matters in the Department. The legal costs amounted to R 7 million.

There had also been a significant reduction in the number of rhinos killed in this quarter.  

Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority: First quarter performance

Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, and Ms Abeeda Kadir, Chief Financial Officer (CFO, presented the report on the first quarter performance.

The strategic objective of Programme 1: Conservation & Park Operations, was to ensure the world heritage values were conserved and ensure effective partnerships and stakeholder relations. Two new environmental audits had been completed this quarter. These had been for the Kosi Bay Resort hospitality facilities -- campsites, ablution blocks and cabins – and the Kosi Bay workshop

ISimangaliso’s service provider, Katanga Cleaning, cleaned the coastline. The entire coastline of 320 km was cleaned each quarter. The controlled burning programme was dynamic, and was carried out in response to the impact of changing weather patterns on vegetation and other environmental factors. Unfavourable environmental conditions, together with unseasonal autumn rains of over 200mm, had contributed to not achieving the planned 625ha of controlled burning. Only 325ha had been achieved.

Maintenance of roads, water and infrastructure was ongoing. At uMkhuze, the Eastern and Western shores roads had been graded, drains cleared and headwalls repaired.

Two more area managers were appointed, which increased the number of stakeholder engagement meetings. The new organogram placed this function under the stakeholder and communications manager in the support services unit. Once this appointment had been finalised, the communication strategy would be reviewed and developed.

The strategic objective of Programme 2 on transformation was to optimise empowerment in all activities of the Park in a way that would improve the livelihoods of the previously disadvantaged. 75 enterprises were supported through site visits and workshops. The number had been more than planned due to the appointment of a manager and site visit assistant. Meetings were held with additional small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) contracted to Katanga for cleaning and maintenance, to assess their support needs.

At the start of the 2018 academic year, there were 30 students on the programme. One additional first year was recruited this quarter. Of these, 10 seniors participated in the two-week annual students work-based training, and 27 students participated in this year’s Annual Student Workshop. The Authority was still awaiting project funding for expanded public works programme (EPWP) projects, mainly “Working for Water” and “Working for Wetlands” projects.

The strategic objective of Programme 3 on tourism was to optimise the Park’s revenue generation in a commercially and environmentally-sustainable manner that fostered job creation and the empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities. There were delays in awarding new licences tendered in March 2018. Revenue was expected to increase in the next quarter when the new licences were awarded. Field ranger accommodation, uMkhuze hides, the campsite and boardwalk, were nearing completion. Tender documents for roads in the north were being finalised and specifications for libraries in schools were in process.

The strategic objective of Programme 4 was to ensure that ISimangaliso’s operations were properly funded and cost-effectively managed while maintaining an appropriate system of internal control and reporting of accounting, management and statutory information. Of the four research applications approved, two applications were relevant to management as they contributed to groundwater management and the management of invasive alien species. The real-time monitoring system was in place, and a service provider maintained the system that includes online access to real-time data.

One visitor market survey was completed between 1 and 3 April 2018.  Five youths from the surrounding area were trained as enumerators. 17 schools and 1 133 learners made unsolicited visits to the Park.  iSimangaliso placed guides with 16 schools.  Hosted trips would take place next quarter, which would bring the work on track to meet the target.

ISimangaliso was in contact with “Working for Wetlands,” who had indicated that a plan for wetland rehabilitation was scheduled to take place in due course, but no dates had been finalised. The first tranche of funding was received in the last week of June, so work could commence only in the second quarter. Tender documentation had been prepared, and they were only awaiting approval to proceed with the tender process.

Income exceeded the budget by R8.4m for the period April to June 2018. This difference was due to differences in the basis of preparation of the budget  -- the modified cash basis as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) -- and the financial statements – Generally Recognised Accounting Principles (GRAP) -- and the application of GRAP23. The fees received under “Other Income” were below budget because of delays in the funding for the land rehabilitation project. This would even itself out by the end of the financial year. Park revenue had decreased due to delays in awarding concession licences because of capacity in the tourism directorate.

Expenditure was above budget by R2.2m. The repairs and maintenance costs had increased because of maintenance on the new fences erected in the Park. Personnel costs were below budget because of the finalisation of the new structure and approval of appointments and critical posts to be filled. The depreciation was below budget due to the delay in the award of the completion certificate as a result of the snags not being completed and additional work being requested. This included the gate entrances and the meet and greet areas. Professional and technical fees had been reduced due to staff empowering themselves with some of the tasks assigned to consultants.

Accounting revenue for the period ended 30 June was R39.6m. The accounting surplus for the period was R10.6m. This was a non-cash surplus and was the result of the accounting policies relating to grants (GRAP23). In other words, R29.0m had been recognised into income in respect of capital expenditure. The reciprocal expense was reflected in the balance sheet under the fixed assets.

Discussion

Dr Holomisa congratulated the new CEO, and asked if the outsourcing to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Wildlife Authority was necessary. He commented that there had been a large number of resignations of people going on to greener pastures, and that the Park should make efforts to be the green pasture in future.

Mr Hadebe said the community around the park saw Isimangaliso as the enemy. He said deadlines should be imposed for deliverables, instead of it being open-ended. He had once attended a public meeting on Isimangaliso, and the public had held very negative views about it. There was no buy-in into the authority’s plans and programmes. He asked what informed their annual targets.

Isimangaliso’s response

Mr Buyani Zwane, Chairperson: Isimangaliso Board, responded that the Board was scheduled to meet the following day and on the agenda was many of the queries raised by the Members.

Isimangaliso had not cancelled Cape Gateway events, but rather they had been participants in the events and not organisers. The marketing plan had been cancelled because of the bigger issue of climate change and the water shortage in Cape Town.

 

SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI): First quarter performance

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, Chief Executive Officer: SANBI, said the government grant had exceeded the budget because of the infrastructure grant being received earlier than anticipated.

Investment income had exceeded the budget by R760 000 (21%) as a result of investment and bank account balances being higher than budgeted for. Other income formed a steady flow of cash to the entity, totalling R650 000. This was made up of sundry income, such as plant sales and ad hoc income. Other grants, sponsorships and donations were below budget by R9 million (40%). This was mainly due to timing on the following projects: Global Environment Facility (GEF) 5, various National Research Foundation (NRF) funded grants, Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW), the CAPE legacy project, wetland mapping, carbon capture and storage technology, and various projects funded by the Botanical Society. The funds were still expected to flow to SANBI.

Rent received was R430 000 (18%) above budget. This was the result of higher than expected sales generated by restaurants. Admission fees were R260 000 below budget. The budget had been based on historical trends relating to seasonal income, but the harsh economic period had resulted in fewer visitors than usual to the gardens during what was usually a slow period. Personnel expenditure had shown a R2.12 million (3%) positive variance against the budget. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had not yet approved the cost of living increases. Operating expenses were R19.06 million (37%) below budget.  The unused budget allocation was expected to be utilised during the financial year. Capital expenditure was below budget.

Overall, the cash reserves were sufficient to meet the short-term needs, as well as SANBI’s obligations arising from project funds received. The Institute was solvent, with total assets exceeding total liabilities by an adequate margin. Total assets had grown by R35 million (5%) due to the growth in cash received towards projects. Current liabilities had increased by R106 million (70%) due to an increase in obligations towards delivering on project commitments.

Discussion

The Chairperson informed the Members that the new board was having its first audit meeting the following day, and would report the findings to the Committee at the next meeting.

Mr Makhubele asked for clarity on the university outreach programme and engagements.

Dr Rampedi responded that the terms “savings” and “surpluses” in the report referred to funds that were not yet utilised, and not that they were profit-making. The university programme was small, in that they first started engaging with those who wanted to work with them, but their target was to ensure that all 26 public universities were engaged in the programme.

The Chairperson asked the DEA to focus on the matters raised by the Auditor General (AG) in his audit report.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

 

 

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