Free Basic Water Report; Fire Protection Association Recommendations: adoption

Water and Sanitation

16 September 2003
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
17 September 2003
FREE BASIC WATER REPORT; FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION RECOMMENDATIONS: ADOPTION

Chairperson: Mr J H Van Wyk (ANC)

Documents handed out
Draft Report: Implementation of Free Basic Water Policy
Response of the Department to questions on 3 September 2003 (Appendix)

SUMMARY
Although there were outstanding matters on the Free Basic Water Report it was adopted unanimously. Fire Protection Association recommendations were also unanimously adopted.

MINUTES

The Chair mentioned that there was a certain urgency for progress to be made with regards to the adoption of recommendations for the Forestry Regulations as it affects establishment of Fire Protection Associations (FPA).

Free Basic Water Report
Mr Van Wyk indicated that the members have received previous drafts of the report and that some changes were effected. The Committee had an updated draft before them. The only area of real concern with the report, was its format that did not conform fully to the normal parliamentary report format and the need to deal with the conclusion in the report point by point.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) was of the opinion that it was time to make a pronouncement on the rest of the report. For him, the report seemed as perfect as possibly could be.

Mr A Nel (DA) was adamant that municipalities should be kept more accountable with the manner in which they apply the policy of Equitable Share (ES) because the money was intended to benefit the poor. He insisted that the document reflect strongly that municipalities use the money for water supply.

Mr Van Wyk and Rev A Goosen (ANC) agreed that they could not prescribe to municipalities how the money was to be used because it was not a conditional grant. However, it would be wise to monitor this expenditure to ensure that the money goes to the poor., Treasury, Department Water Affairs and Forestry, DPLG and Salga, through the submission of quarterly reports from the various municipalities, would be able to monitor this concern.

Mr P Dishetelo (UCDP) suggested that the relevant Act be quoted under the conclusion of the report for the sake of emphasis.

An ANC member asked if section 5 (7) referred to metropolitans in the urban areas. She continued to suggest that if it referred to municipalities only, the meeting must take cognisance of the fact that not all municipalities had the same infrastructure to deliver free basic services (FBS). The thrust of her concern was what happened with the money that was intended for FBS delivery.

Mr Van Wyk agreed that some municipalities did not have the same infrastructure and capacity to deliver favourably. He assured her that Treasury via the quarterly reports were aware of the situation on the ground and reiterated that the ES was not conditional because it allowed for the money to be used to subsidise basic services.

Mr Arendse agreed that the problem was real. He stated that the mechanisms in Treasury went a long way to address these problems. The whole question for this Committee was FBW delivery and sanitation. The question of the grant not being conditional had its own problems when it came to the specifics this Committee would be looking at, being water and sanitation because the grant was given for an array of things to assist the indigent communities. He suggested that the Committee could play a meaningful role in their oversight responsibility by assisting Treasury in the following way. In his opinion, Treasury relies on information they received from parliamentary members. With respect to water and sanitation, members could look at specific problems in their constituencies to see if the quarterly reports submitted by the specific municipality, reflected the actual condition on the ground and then report back to Treasury.

Mr Dishetelo suggested that it might help if the amount expended on water and sanitation was proportionally expressed.

Rev Goosen agreed that Treasury had created a window for a certain amount to be spent specifically on FBS, which could not be spent on anything else. This window, in fact, made that amount conditional which implied that the allocated equitable share must allow for your FBS amount including water and sanitation.

Mr Nel (DA) commented on the suggestion made by Mr Arendse. Dealing with approximately 260 reports submitted by the municipalities could be a cumbersome task. He was of the opinion that the Committee did not have the capacity to handle this administrative load. Instead, he would rather want to leave this task in the hands of the Department of Finance to address the Committee on specific problem areas.

Mr Arendse said that he understood Mr Nel`s problem. He was merely suggesting that because the Committee has access to these reports, they would be in a position to assist should a problem be highlighted in a specific area.

Mr E Sigwela (ANC) asked if there was no complimentary work done by other committees that could assist this process. He specifically referred to the Budget Committee (BC) which determined budgets at national, provincial and local levels. He asked if the Committee was accessing available information and/or informing this committee of matters of concern. He was of the opinion that the BC should not only see their task as an intellectual exercise but also become more relevant by becoming more acquainted with the real conditions on the ground.

Mr Van Wyk accepted that the discussion must be seen in a serious light. He suggested that discussion be summarised and an inclusive recommendation be attached to the report. The Committee should use its oversight role to become more focussed on the implementation of the FBW policy especially in the areas of non- implementation. All the relevant governmental instruments would be considered to ensure that the oversight role of the Committee was more effective.

Mr Dishetelo was perturbed because he questioned whether everything that was discussed was clearly understood. He asked about the legislative implications for the Committee, specifically referring to the suggestions made by Mr Arendse.

Mr Arendse conceded that Mr Ditshetelo made valid points. There are legal mechanisms in place to the public should they find that services in terms of the ES policy was not provided. He stated that rather than working as individuals, problems had to be identified in the constituencies and brought to the Portfolio Committee so that they could be addressed more effectively.

Mr Ditshetelo said that he was in agreement with Mr Arendse. They are different stakeholders in the same issue. He seemed to want to protect the autonomy of individual members because he was not in favour of probing.

Mr M Phala (ANC) said that there might be more suggestions that could be included in the summary. He proposed that the report be adopted.

Mr Van Wyk insisted that the meeting first reach consensus before the report be adopted.

Mr Nel said he would go along with the suggestion that the discussion be summarised for recommendation. He agreed with Mr Phala that the meeting adopt what was before them.

Mr Ditshetelo indicated that he would go along with the conclusion.

Mr Phala proposed that the report be adopted.

The report was unanimously adopted.

Study Tour Reports

Mr Van Wyk indicated that it was impossible to adopt the reports before the spring recess. It was decided at the previous meeting that the two delegations would study the reports with the aim of redrafting it for adoption. Unfortunately the groups could not meet. He suggested that the two groups meet on 22 September 2003 to discuss this.

Mr Van Wyk commended the delegation responsible for the Free State/Northern Cape report. He saw the report as well drafted because the approach of the report focussed on specific programs of the Department. He wanted the delegation to consider the conclusion and recommendations for the report.

The other report compiled by his delegation was very poorly drafted in his opinion. It created the impression of minutes rather than a report. This report would have to be revisited.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Chair stated that minutes would have to be adopted at all meetings and recorded for reference purposes.

Members were issued with a set of minutes that needed to be adopted by the Committee. Ot was decided that the members were given time to first examine the minutes to allow them to suggest corrections.

Mr Arendse noted that attendance registers would have to be attached to the minutes if it was to be adopted. It was evident that these registers were not updated and this may be problematic because members who were not present in a particular meeting could not be part of the adoption process.

Report to The House
Mr Arendse asked how the presentation report to the House would be dealt with. He suggested that the Chairperson draft a statement on behalf of the Committee for the above purpose.

Mr Ditshetelo was concerned and expressed the opinion that the members should go to the House with an open mind and is allowed to participate in the debate.

Mr Van Wyk was comfortable with Mr Ditshtelo`s wishes.


Fire Protection Association Regulations
Mr Van Wyk referred the meeting to the response of the Department to suggestions made by the members at the previous meeting. He referred to Section 21 of the Regulations and explained that there were time frames attached to the finalisation on dealing with regulations. He asked for a resolve on the regulations, either way. The two main issues raised, were the quality of voting rights and secondly, the inclusiveness of the consultation processes.

The Committee accepted the responses of the Department and unanimously agreed to accept the recommendations.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix
DEPARTEMENT VAN WATERWESE EN BOSBOU
DEPARTMENT OF WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY
LEFAPHA LA METSI LE DIKGWA
UMNYANGO WEZAMANZI NEZAMAHLATHI

CHAIRPERSON: PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY

Attention: Mr Tony Brutus

1. SUBJECT:
REGULATIONS ON CHAPTER TWO OF THE NATIONAL VELD AND FOREST FIRE ACT, 1998 ACT 101 OF 1998)

2. PURPOSE OF SUBMISSION
TO RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON THE REGULATIONS FOR CHAPTER TWO OF THE FIRE ACT.

3. BACKGROUND

The Portfolio Committee meeting held on the 3rd September 2003 raised three questions regarding the regulations for Chapter Two of the Fire Act and requested the Department to respond.

QUESTION ONE

Chapter 2, regulation 8(c): {the portfolio committee raised a concern that one vote per landowner will prejudice communities}.

RESPONSE

This is a valid concern and an explanation of why we decided on this option for allocating votes at a FPA founding meeting follows.

COMPARISON OF THE DIFFERENT VOTING OPTIONS CONSIDERED.

There are many approaches that one could follow when allocating voting rights at the founding meeting of a Fire Protection Association (FPA). Some of these, together with their advantages and disadvantages are given in the Table below.

Possible options to be considered for voting rights at the founding meeting of a FPA

Options for allocating votes

Advantages

Disadvantages

  1. Votes allocated per proportion (size) of land held in relation to the area.
  • This will advantage large landowners such as forestry companies.
  • Small landowners will be at a disadvantage.
    Title deeds and areas will need to be verified before votes can be allocated.
    This could stall the process for a substantial time.
    1. Votes allocated per size (number of people) of a community.
    • This will advantage large communities.
  • Small communities will be at a disadvantage.
    Each community will need to be defined and its membership verified before votes can be allocated.
    This could stall the process for a substantial time.
    1. Votes allocated per the number of properties held.
    • This will advantage landowners that own many (possible non-contiguous) properties.
  • Landowners and communities having few properties will be at a disadvantage.
    Title deeds will need to be verified before votes can be allocated.
    This could stall the process for a substantial time.
    1. Votes allocated per landowner as currently stated in the regulations.
    • Small communities will be advantaged.
      It is practical and can be implemented on the ground.
      Voting can proceed at the founding FPA meeting.
  • This may prejudice larger communities.

  • As with all options each has its pros and cons. However, option 4 is practical and can be implemented on the ground. Given the urgency, with which FPAs need to be formed, it is recommended that option 4, as far as possible, be followed.

    MOTIVATION FOR THE LAST OPTION (OPTION 4) FOR ALLOCATING VOTES.

    We submit that this option may not be ideal in all circumstances for allocating votes at the founding meeting, but compared to the others we think it is a practical one.

    Membership of an FPA is per landowner and this makes it legally sound to allocate membership per landowner. Communities are regarded as one landowner in terms of the Act.

    In addition, DWAF have measures in place that are designed to ensure that communities are not prejudiced in the allocation of voting rights at a FPA founding meeting and in the subsequent running of an FPA. These measures include:

    Training and instructing local DWAF fire advisors to be present at FPA founding meetings
    The process is designed so that an appropriate local government official (chief fire officer) is present at the founding meeting and approves the founding of the FPA.
    We assume that local government will represent the interest of the communities. See FPA forms attached as Flag A.
    DWAF will not register an FPA is it is found not be representative of the entire community in any given area.
    Collaboration and co-operation is vital in the veldfire management and in FPA formation. An FPA will be ineffective if there is no collaboration and co-operation among its members. This will result in the FPA being de-registered as provided for in section 8(1).

    It should be noted that voting at the founding meeting is used as an indication that the landowners in any given area wish to proceed with the formation of an FPA. Once an FPA is formed there are additional checks and balances in place to ensure that no party is prejudiced.

    Once formed, a FPA can decide to allocate voting rights as it sees fit. Whatever this decision is it must be agreed to by all affected parties and included in the FPA's constitution. DWAF has an oversight role in reviewing the constitution of a FPA and assessing its business plan before registering it. DWAF also has the right to revoke the registration of a FPA if it not abiding by its constitution and rules.

    QUESTION TWO

    Consultation: {the portfolio committee raised a concern that it seems that DWAF did not consult widely enough, especially with communities, in drafting these regulations}.

    RESPONSE
    The Directorate: Forestry Regulation administers the Act. A Technical Fire Committee (hereafter the Committee) was formed to advise on the drafting of the regulations for Chapter 2 of the Act and on the consultation process. The Committee comprised of both departmental staff and a number of expert consultants contracted by the DWAF.

    The Committee drafted the regulations in collaboration with the Directorate: Legal Services of the Department. The Committee identified stakeholders who could give valuable inputs to the draft regulations. The potential stakeholders were then requested to comment on the draft regulations.

    These stakeholders included National Disaster Management Centre, Provincial Disaster Management Centres, forestry industry, agricultural sector, other government departments, Saw Milling industry, National Forests Advisory Council, insurance companies and municipalities.

    Comments were also invited from structures representing communities, including vulnerable rural communities, including traditional leaders and the South African Local Government Association. These were approached through the offices of National Disaster Management (see Flag B).

    After incorporation of the inputs from the public, a revised draft was produced and gazetted for further comment (see Flag C).

    It is evident from the attached flags that the Directorate consulted widely, that is, many offices and structures were consulted. It was expected that these offices would communicate to the interested and affected members that they represent. It would not be appropriate for the Directorate to bypass the above structures and attempt to contact members of these structures directly.

    The Chief State Law Adviser was also involved throughout the entire process of inviting comment, reviewing and incorporation of the inputs in to the final draft published on 16th May 2003.

    The draft regulations and public comments on them were also sent to the Chairperson of the DWAF Portfolio Committee during February 2003, by email to Mr Tony Brutus, for consideration before they were published.
    No response had been received from the Portfolio Committee in this regard by the time regulations were published. It is therefore unfortunate that the Portfolio Committee stated that they only saw the regulations for the first time on 3rd September 2003.

    QUESTION THREE

    Damage to the sawmill in Inyaka plantation: {the portfolio committee asked if this sawmill was operating at the time of the ravaging fires in Mpumalanga between 24th and 29th August 2003}.

    6.2 RESPONSE

    The Mondi Timber Ramanus Sawmill was operating at the time it was damaged during the 24th to 29th August 2003 veldfire episode. Actually a black empowerment company had just bought this sawmill three days before it was damaged by a veldfire. The costs for this damage amounted to R43 million. A report on these fires is attached as Flag D.

    RECOMMENDATION

    The Department requests that any recommendations that you may have concerning question one and two be forwarded to the Department so that any necessary changes can be made to the Act or the regulations, if required.

    ACTING DIRECTOR: FORESTRY REGULATION

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