The South African Weather Service (SAWS) and South African National Parks (SANParks) briefed the Portfolio Committee on their performance during the first two quarters of the 2018/19 financial year. Generally, there had been a decrease in revenue for both entities. In the case of SAWS, this was due to a lower requirement for its services owing to fewer aircraft flights, and for SANParks there had been a drop in the number of people visiting the parks. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee attributed the decline in revenue to the poor performance of the country’s economy.
SAWS said that while radar data availability was achieved in quarter one, it had dropped to 74.4% in the second quarter. The radar provided early warnings for severe thunder storms, flooding and storm winds. Mthatha and Durban radar had had power, antenna drive and Rainbow computer workstation faults respectively. The lightning detection network’s data availability had been adversely affected by a break-in and vandalism at the Musina site, but there had been a recovery in the second quarter.
SANParks reported that there had been a 37.5% increase in the number of elephants poached in the Kruger National Park (KNP), due to an increased demand for ivory. Sustained incursions into the park by elephant poachers from both the east (Mozambique) and the west were continuing. However, only one rhinoceros had been poached from the six rhino parks outside the Kruger National Park (KNP), in the Marakele National Park.
The Committee was concerned about elephant poaching situation, and asked SANParks to explain what measures it was putting into place to address the issue. Other concerns included the number of staff arrested for rhino poaching, the agreement with the private game park on the western boundary of the KNP, how to resolve the Auditor General’s approach to Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) reporting and the monitoring of black visitor numbers to the parks.
Members were interested to learn more about SAWS’s position on involving the public as stakeholders, how it was dealing with vacancies within the organisation, and how far in advance it could predict the weather.
South African Weather Service: Quarter 1 and 2 performance
Mr Mnikeli Ndabambi, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): South African Weather Service (SAWS), and Ms Busisiwe Shongwe, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): SAWS, briefed the Committee on the entity’s performance during the first two quarters of 2018/19.
In quarter one, SAWS achieved 59% of its targets, and in quarter two 79% was achieved.
In strategic goal number one, the provision of products and services, only one aviation project was partially achieved in the second quarter. This was the aviation research demonstration project.
In strategic goal number two, capability and capacity development, the 85% target for radar data availability was achieved in quarter one, but dropped to 74.4% in the second quarter. The radar provides early warnings for severe thunder storms, flooding and storm winds. Mthatha and Durban radar had power, antenna drive and Rainbow computer workstation faults respectively. The lightning detection network’s data availability had been adversely affected by a break-in and vandalism at the Musina site, but there had been a recovery in the second quarter.
The Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) targets to monitor greenhouse gases and climate change had not been achieved due to unavailability of supplies for trace gas instruments, which involved a problem between SAWS finance and the supplier. A recovery plan was in place. The development of an integrated talent management framework and the implementation of two transformation programmes had been achieved in the second quarter, although the first quarter target had been missed.
The target for engaging the required number of funders for phase three of the National Equipment Programme (NEP) could not be achieved in quarter one, but a proposal had been submitted to the Ford Foundation in quarter two.
Plans for the establishment of a new SAWS head office building had been stalled due to a lack of funds, and a service provider had not been appointed. A public-private partnership (PPP) had been registered with National Treasury, but the project would need to be budgeted for in the 2019/20 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF).
There had been challenges with the retention of SAWS’s 2015 ISO 9001 certification. Due to budget constraints, the service provider to assist with the development of the framework could not be appointed in the first quarter. However, in quarter two, funds were transferred from other projects, a service provider was appointed, and the framework developed and finalised. The process for the integration of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Occupation Health Standards (OHS) was underway, but the delay in finalising the framework had had an impact on the integration, resulting in the target date for the implementation having to move to the next quarter.
All the targets for strategic goal four (research and knowledge/intelligence creation) had been achieved. However, the growth and sustainability goals had been adversely affected by cuts in government grand funding and reduced revenue due to lower air quality sales to municipalities. Year to date, the entity had recorded a small surplus, which comfortably exceeded budget expectations.
South African National Parks: Quarter 1 and 2 performance
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, CEO: South African National Parks (SANParks) and Mr Dumisani Dlamini, CFO, briefed the Committee on the first and second quarter performance of SANParks.
They reported that there had been a 37.5% increase in the number of elephants poached in the Kruger National Park (KNP), due to Increased demand for ivory. Sustained incursions into the park by elephant poachers from both the east (Mozambique) and the west were continuing. However, only one rhinoceros had been poached from the six rhino parks outside the KNP, in the Marakele National Park. There had been an increase in arrests by the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), with an ncrease in the number of firearms recovered, and the implementation of technology systems in the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ). Joint operations between the environmental crime investigating (ECI) and the SA Police Service (SAPS) had led to arrests and the recovery of firearms external to the park. SANParks contined to receive ongoing support from alliance partners in both SA and Mozambique.
The total number of visitors to national parks in the first quarter was 1 303 101, which was 7.7% lower than last year, and had reached 2 983 836 in the second quarter – a 4.4% drop. The number of black South African visitors, which the SANParks had aimed to increased, had actually declined.
The organisation had spent R1.073 billion against a budget on R1.170 billion, with savings being achieved in
Human Capital Management (HCM), maintenance and operations. It had received an unqualified audit opinion, with other material compliance matters involving irregular expenditure, non-adherence to the verifiability of performance information, and its failure tro meet the black visitors target.
The Chairperson announced that the draft report on the August colloquium on capitive lion breeding had been distributed. Slight adjustments had been made to the report, especially on the proposed resolution of the Committee. However, the body of the report remained the same. The report had been long outstanding and there was need to finalise it. He encouraged Members to comment on the two presentations and the draft report.
Mr R Purdon (DA) said it would be possible to take the report further. There had been substantial changes. He suggested that the report be discussed the following Thursday. It was not fair for the Committee to get a changed report at the beginning of the meeting, as they would need time to study it.
He was disturbed to see the elephant figures. He asked SANParks to clarify if it was only the KNP which was affected. He wanted more details on the elephant situation.
Ms J Edwards (DA) concurred that more time was needed to study the report before discussing it.
She was concerned that the Committee had been mentioning and asking SANParks for its plans and ideas for a proactive approach towards elephant poaching. She asked SANParks to provide details on the how many parks were affected. The elephant situation was going the same way as the rhino issue had. There had been warnings about rhino poaching, but no proactive action had been taken, and now the situation was worse. She asked SANParks to explain, in detail, what it had done to be proactive in their approach. What was the plan going forward? She asked SANParks what it had done before so that the exact opposite could be done, because it was not working.
Ms H Kekana (ANC) asked SAWS to explain how long into the future it could make weather predictions, and whether it could predict droughts.
She asked SANParks how many of its staff had been arrested for rhino poaching since 2008.
Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) asked SAWS whether there was involvement of the public, as stakeholders, in the execution of their duties. If that was not the case, he asked if it was contemplating reaching out to the public for maximum participation and empowerment around the issues of SAWS. Was SAWS satisfied with its staff establishment -- were there vacancies or was the staff establishment commensurate with the funding available?
He asked if SANParks had met the 30-day target to pay service providers. If not, it should make sure there was transformation to change the situation, particularly where providers from the poor communities were affected.
Mr S Makhubele (ANC) noted the both SAWS and SANParks had not achieved many of their targets. He hoped that when they came to report for the third quarter, there would be considerble improvement.
He asked SANParks if it was working on the advice from the AG regarding black visitors, and requested that it bring a full strategy that addressed elephant poaching when it came to present the third quarter report.
The Chairperson asked SANParks to explain why there was no reporting on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), and what It intended to do about that.
The Chairperson told SANParks that the Committee had resolved that hunting along the western boundary of the KNP, by the private reserve, had to be regulated, and that a new agreement had to be negotiated and signed. The Committee had been told that the agreement was nearing completion, and had asked for it to be sent to its Members, but it had not been sent. Why had it not been sent? SANParks had to report on how far they were in terms of that discussion.
The Chairperson told SAWS that the indicator for the public-private partnership had been in its plan for a while, but did not seem to be any movement. He asked what the plan was and whether they intended to keep it. The understanding was that there had been discussions with National Treasury and all the other relevant people. However, the issue of funding was still being raised. What was the ultimate end game around the land involved? What did it intend to do there, considering it had just moved into a new place.
Response by SAWS
Mr Ndabambi responded that SAWS could predict the weather up to two weeks, and that was deterministic. That meant SAWS could predict the rain, temperature, wind speed and wind direction for up to two weeks. In terms of months, prediction could be done up to two months, and that was probabilistic. SAWS provided the probability of it happening -- the higher the confidence, the higher the percentage. SAWS could predict 30 years, 50 years and 100 years, but these were only for climate predictions. For example, SAWS was currently expecting long periods of drought. When the rains come, they would come late and for a short duration. That had an impact on the type of crop that could withstand such changes. It could be seen that the grazing lands had been decreasing, and they were expected to decrease with time.
Mr Ndabambi said SAWS needed to improve in terms of maximizing public participation. Two years ago, SAWS had started going to the communities, but it had been limited by the budget. However, it had developed an integrated service strategy which encouraged the entity to do that again. There were plans to enhance the strategy because it was very important to enable people to interpret the information so that they could apply it appropriately.
Regarding vacancies in the core business, SAWS was coping with the staff available. However, there was a skills scarcity countrywide. Vacancies were being filled, but the key vacancy that needed to be filled was the executive for weather and climate service, which included all the services of the core business.
For quarter three, there was a recovery plan for significant improvement.
Ms Shongwe referred to the PPP, and said the current lease with the new offices was valid for five years. There had been delays with the PPP, mainly due to the funding. SAWS was at the stage where it was ready to appoint the transaction advisor. At the time, the estimated cost for the transaction advisor over the four-year period was about R80 million. Due to the fact that the entity did not have funding, it could not appoint the advisor. SAWS was currently having discussions with National Treasury and with the Department as well. The biggest hurdle was the availability of the budget, so there was need to source funding to be able to develop the PPP. At the moment, it did not look like SAWS would be able to move to the new premises after the five years of the lease.
Response by SANParks
Mr Mketeni agreed that the elephant poaching was a concern. Fortunately, there was no elephant poaching at other parks. When it came to the KNP, the poaching problem was due to the size and the area coverage. The problem was coming mostly from the north of the park. SANParks was establishing a new hangar, where a helicopter could be stationed. It would also have one of the ultra-light bantam planes to cover the north. Some rangers had also been sent to the north of the park. More manpower and equipment was being shifted to the north. In the last two years, there had been 23 arrests for rhino poaching.
Normally, SANParks met the targets for every quarter. After a quarter, the entity could tell what had gone wrong in the previous quarter. There was a tendency of picking up around the second quarter. because the entity started to understand the problems being experienced. The hope was that the SANParks come back in the third quarter and fourth quarter, and that there would be a great improvement.
Regarding the black visitors, the findings of SANParks differed with those of the Auditor General (AG). SANParks had told the AG that the descriptor indocator of SANParks had been on observation, with a 10% margin of error. The AG was looking for source documents, and SANParks could not produce them.
In respect of EPWP reporting, the DEA wanted SANParks to account, but the AG did not want SANParks to account. These were two structures that should be respected by SANParks. The entity had received an unqualified audit from the AG on the same matter. There had to be an agreement between the DEA and the AG on how to account for this. Once that was clear, SANParks would comply.
Mr Mketeni said that he had met with all the stakeholders regarding the activities on the western boundary, and they had agreed to sign on 1 December. The date still stands. The report had been too thick and he had asked for it to be cut down. The report was going to be on his desk the following day, and he assured the Committee that Members would have the report soon.
The Chairperson responded that the Committee wanted to understand the key elements that were going to be agreed on. What was going to be the responsibility of the private nature reserve? What was going to be the responsibility of SANParks? What would be the benefits accruing to the community?
Mr Mketeni responded that the report had all of these elements.
The Chairperson said the Committee would schedule a briefing on the issue by SANParks some time next month.
Mr Dlamini said that the data collection regarding revenue worried the entity. It was a serious concern and the entity was putting pressure on its legal services to ensure that the court cases were resolved. The unfortunate part with the legal process was that one had to work with matters like court dates, and sometimes the concessionaires would have ‘gimmicks’ such as postponements. Some of them had been found to be on the wrong side of the law and had been required to pay, but one would find that they did not have enough money to pay.
There were two aspects to creditor payments. With the normal creditors, the payment was being done within 30 days, which was within the PFMA requirements. However, there were situations where projects were taking a long time to complete. Sometimes there would be a dispute, where the work was assessed and a defect was found, and then SANParks would not be able to pay. There was a process of asking for that particular work to be rectified before payment, and this would push the payment period beyond 30 days. This affected the creditors’ payment cycle.
Mr Dlamini said enterprise development was being addressed in three parts.
Firstly, SANParks was concerned that some of its suppliers accepted construction work within its parks, but after acceptance, they could not complete it. Those services had to be terminated in order to appoint a new service provider. SANParks had now gone into the market seeking an expression on interest, asking service providers to come up with an enterprise development programme that would assist all service providers. The aim was to make sure that from the time the entity conducted a briefing session, there was a whole list of services that were available for enterprises. This included anything from how to structure their work, to how to maintain their finances and obtain cashflow, so there was a little bit of hand holding as part of that programme. The aim was for every supplier that was appointed by SANParks to succeed and make sure that they completed the work they had been appointed to do.
Secondly, SANParks had partnered with First National Bank (FNB). They had developed an FNB business incubator, where several suppliers who required incubation would be identified. It was a seven-month programme, where they would be taken through various programmes on how to manage a business. They would be allocated a mentor who would help them in real-life transactions and programmes up until a certain time.
Thirdly, SANParks had signed an MOU with the National Empowerment Fund (NEF). It also wanted to develop partnerships to ensure that if someone had been appointed to do particular work, there was finance readily available. The NEF would ensure there were financial resources available so that those people could complete work up to a particular stage when they would be able to pay. This was because some of the enterprises had the skills but they did not have the financial resources to do the work.
The Chairperson said that what had come out from the two presentations was that had been a decline in revenue at both entities. At SANParks, it had been the visitor numbers that were coming down, which had affected its projected income. AT SAWS, the number of aircraft flights was getting fewer. It was very likely that this was because of the current economic situation in the country. There had been a recession in this financial year, and the cost of living kept on increasing, so it was very feasible that very few people were travelling to visit the parks.
He hoped that the entities have looked at the areas were there had not been a sound performance, and that an improvement would be made when they came to present the third quarter reports.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Environmental Affairs Turnaround Strategy
- SANParks 2017/18 1st and 2nd Quarter Performance against the APP
- DEA - Industry Waste Management Plans
- DEA Vote 27: Turn around strategy & reclassification of EPWP Expenditure for 2017 /18 and 2018/19
- South African Weather Service - Quarter 2 Performance Report
- South African Weather Service - Quarter 1 Performance Report
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