The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) briefed the Committee on their revised Annual Performance Plans.
Members raised concerns about provinces and municipalities receiving conditional grants and not utilizing them, resulting in the funds being returned to the fiscus. The Department was asked to identify these provinces and deal with them accordingly. Conditional grants have conditions but the audit outcomes confirmed these conditions have been violated by municipalities not complying with them. Members asked about the reallocation of the Title Deed Restoration Grant (TDRG) which although understandable, one needs to consider the economic implications this may have and may need to revisit this. They questioned both DHS and DWS still having acting Directors-General. For the sake of accountability, these positions need permanent employees. DWS was asked to provide clear time frames for the completion of revised targets. Concerns were raised as the water tanks that were rolled out had no water in them. Many rural areas have no water at all and DWS must clarify its action plan. Both Departments were asked how the adjustments are going to affect job creation. DWS was asked what it was doing about the creation of illegal dams as the Ebenezer Dam is at low capacity because the flow of water is being diverted. Members asked the Departments what they are going to do differently to ensure the money allocated is used to benefit the intended beneficiaries. Members were concerned about the procedure followed by the Minister for the appointment of the water services advisory board known as the National Rapid-Response Task Team.
The Chairperson called for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who have passed on during the pandemic. She wished a speedy recovery for everyone infected by the virus. An apology was noted from the Minister due to bereavement; however, the Chairperson welcomed both Deputy Ministers.
Opening remarks by Deputy Ministers
Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete said that the Departments were instructed by National Treasury to adjust its plans to align with the reality of Covid-19 and its impact on their work. On the 8 July the Departments presented their special adjustments budgets. They had now finalised the revised MTEF and Annual Performance Plans to respond to the adjustments in the budget. Interventions have been implemented to respond to Covid-19. As indicated in previous meetings, the downward adjustment of the budget will directly translate to the Department having to live with the reality of reduced targets for the MTEF and APP.
Deputy Minister David Mahlobo drew attention to the contents page of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) presentation which will not go into too much detail but will indicate where the Department has been affected as there had to be reprioritisation of funds. More than R1 billion was supposed to be taken away but due to the importance of water, that budget was brought back to DWS. Only R200 million was taken away. The money will mainly go to support local government, especially municipalities. It will also ensure that certain water resources programmes are supported. It also shows that the indicators and outputs that have already been approved, remain unchanged.
Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Revised Annual Performance Plan
Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director-General, Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), briefed the Committee on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s 2020/21 addendum to Budget Vote 41 Annual Performance Plan
Overview of 2020/21 APP adjustments
• Programme 1: Administration No changes were made to outcomes, outputs, performance indicators and targets in the APP tabled on 12 March 2020. Most of the targets set for Programme 1 relate to compliance requirements. There are a limited number of new projects in Programme 1 and these will not require additional capacity in the current financial year. The current capacity will be sufficient to deliver on the targets that have been set. The reduction on the compensation of employees (COE) budget will, therefore, not have a negative impact on Programme performance.
• Programme 2: Water planning and information management - See document for changes
• Programme 3: Water infrastructure development - See document for changes
• Programme 4: Water sector regulation No changes were made to outcomes, outputs, performance indicators and targets in original APP.
• Infrastructure projects per province - See document for changes.
Department of Human Settlements (DHS) Revised Annual Performance Plan
Mr Joseph Leshabane, DHS Acting Director-General, said the Committee should keep in mind that the pandemic is still unfolding. DHS anticipates further adjustments and disruptions to its programme. The reality is that the people who account for Covid-19 infections and deaths form part of the Department's supply chain. The passing of the North West MEC has huge implications for the Department programmes there.
The revised Strategic Plan per programme:
Programme 1 (Administration) – No changes were made to this programme.
Programme 2: (Integrated Human Settlements Planning and Development Programme)
The funding Model was reprioritized from 2020/21 to 2021/22 Financial Year.
The 5-year target for evaluation was reduced from 12 to 8 (to be prioritized under programme 2)
The Technical Indicator Description (TID) for the following indicators were revised:
The percentage of projects under implementation monitored (HSDG, USDG and TRG)
The number of evaluation studies completed
The percentage of compliance with Statutory tabling and prescripts
Programme 3 (Informal Settlements Programme)
The number of UISP evaluations increased from 0 to 4 evaluations
The TID for the following indicators were revised:
The percentage of UISP projects under implementation monitored (HSDG and USDG)
The number of UISP evaluation studies conducted
Programme 4 (Rental and Social housing Programme)
The number of evaluations increased from 0 to 2 evaluations
The TID for the following indicators were revised:
The percentage of social and rental housing projects under implementation monitored
The number of social and rental housing evaluation studies conducted
Programme 5 (Affordable housing programme)
The number of FLISP evaluations increased from 1 to 2 evaluations
The TID for the following indicators were revised:
The percentage of FLISP subsidies disbursed monitored
The number of FLISP evaluation studies conducted.
Revised Annual Performance Plan
Programme 1 (Administration)
• Adjustment of Q2 and Q3 targets for implementation of Internal Audit Plan to align to Audit Plan.
Programme 2 (Integrated Human Settlements Planning and Development Programme)
• Consolidation of the title deeds targets from 4 into 2 targets in the APP.
• Revision of the outcome indicator and TID for revitalisation of distressed mining communities.
• Revision of TID for percentage of projects under implementation monitored (HSDG, USDG and TRG).
• Due to budgetary constraints the target on revised finance and funding model will be removed to 2021/22.
• Strengthening of TID in compliance with revised framework for APPs.
• Revision of Quarter 3 target for Technical Capacity for more assessment of sector capacity.
• Revision from 4 to 3 evaluation studies to be conducted.
• Revision of APP Quarter 3 target on integrated implementation programmes for PDAs completed
Programme 3 (Informal Settlements Programme)
• Revision and adjustment of quarterly target on evaluation of UISP due to COVID-19 challenges.
• Revision of TID for management of Upgrading of Informal Settlement programme.
• Revision of Quarter 3 target for Technical Capacity for more assessment of sector capacity.
Programme 4 (Rental and Social Housing Programme)
• Reduction from 2 evaluations to 1 evaluation for rental and Social Housing Programme.
• Revision of TID for target of social and rental housing projects monitored.
• Revision of Quarter 3 target and TID for Technical Capacity for more assessment of sector capacity.
Programme 5 (Affordable Housing Programme)
• Rephrasing of targets for assessment of Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) from 4 quarter assessments of FLISP subsidies to approved beneficiaries to 4 quarterly assessments on number of households that purchased units through FLISP.
• Adjustment of quarterly targets 2 and 3 targets for Affordable Housing evaluation study due to COVID-19.
• Revision of Quarter 3 target for Technical Capacity for more assessment of sector capacity to develop a more focused and responsive capacity programme for the sector.
The Acting DG took the Committee through the adjustments budget (see document).
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said that the red codes in the DHS presentation do not really say anything. She agreed with the stance the Department has taken about waiting for municipalities to submit business plans before starting or finalising programmes, as it will cause disjuncture if it proceeds without the business plans. She said it is a development model in practice, which is within the Covid-19 plan.
She recommended the Department should identify those municipalities that are delayed in utilizing their budget, resulting in the budget being returned to the fiscus. The Department should note that Covid-19 is calling for a change on how things need to dealt with. She raised this because previously there were provinces with zero programme implementation and those provinces need to be identified so the Department can figure out how to deal with them as Covid-19 necessitates emergency interventions.
Ms E Powell (DA) noted the DG stated the provinces have not submitted their revised targets and that the targets still need to be recalibrated. She asked what the legal process is to follow since an APP has been tabled before Parliament but does not contain the actual revised target. Does one submit a further revised APP once those targets come in? Why did the provinces not meet their deadline? The adjustments budget has been on the cards since March 2020. She sympathises with the death of the North West MEC but cannot understand the delays.
The Title Deed Restoration Grant (TDRG) was identified as a priority but R377 million has been reallocated from the TDRG to the Emergency Housing Grant (EHG). This is understandable given the crisis the country faces with housing during this time. How does this reduction impact the work of DHS over the medium term? How does this impact the number of title deeds that can still be issued under this programme? She noticed the City of Cape Town released a media statement that its Deeds Office remains closed. As most of government is open, why is the Deeds Office still closed? What remedial actions is DHS taking and what impact will that have as the lack of deeds is a crisis in this country?
She expressed her concern about the Minister’s absence from several Committee meetings. It raises questions as to whether the Minister deems the work of the Committee important.
She asked Deputy Minister Mahlobo to shed light on why DHS and DWS still have only Acting DGs and when those positions will be filled. It is unconscionable that this Department, given the gravity and importance of its work and its massive budget, has DGs who do not really have the authority and "the teeth" to carry out necessary reforms as they are only acting and are at the behest of the political leaders.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) asked DHS to provide a list of projects with schedules for implementation. How are the housing solutions going to be rolled out under the Emergency Housing Grant during this pandemic? What is the target number of households who will benefit from this process? Since allocation to the Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) and Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) have been reduced, what are the anticipated delays in planned projects? Will DHS incur extra charges rolling them out?
She asked DWS if it can provide the Committee with clear timeframes for the completion of Covid-19 targets, in terms of phase one and phase two, as it does not appear in the presentation. She asked what challenges the district municipalities face when revising business plans for the disbursement of the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant and Water Services Infrastructure Grant? What is the immediate effect of the revisions on RBIG and WSIG on service delivery in the affected communities?
As part of the reallocated funds for Covid-19, R1.4 billion will be used for long-term reticulation intervention. She asked if DWS has an action plan or a proposal to determine how the long-term reticulation network will be used. Which areas have been identified for this intervention?
She asked the Committee to bear in mind that people have no water at all, and the water scarcity problem did not start now, it started a long time ago. It was reported that people in the Eastern Cape are on the street protesting for water, instead of remaining in lockdown and taking care of themselves. There is no water in the majority of villages in the Eastern Cape and even Limpopo. Villages are facing a serious problem. She urged DWS to use the money wisely to rescue the people, because for 26 years the government has been failing. The Committee must ensure that the people receive water.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said the state of waste water treatment plants in the country is very bad. The projects put in place to address this are few according to the presentation, She asked if DWS could clarify the way forward on this. Both DWS and DHS did not provide information on the target for job creation. The Committee would like clarity from both Departments on the budget for creating jobs.
Government introduced the Provincial and the Municipal Emergency Housing Grant pre Covid-19 to assist municipalities and provinces with national disasters throughout the country. She asked DHS if the Municipal Emergency Housing Grant is going directly to the municipality, or will they receive it upon request to the National or Provincial Department. She noted that it had been challenging to access the grant.
Mr S August (GOOD) echoed the point about conditional grants not being spent over the last three to four years. He asked what impact the grant adjustments for 2020/21 will have, since grants from previous years have not been spent. He asked if it possible to revise the decision to take the R377 million from the TDRG, as people want to use their title deed for economic stimulation.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) said that DHS does not state the plans for informal settlements. He requested it provide the Committee with a clear programme, unpacking the action plans. Informal settlements are being built anywhere and the Department's stance on addressing it seems very weak.
Ms Tseke (ANC) asked DHS if they will reinvest the emergency HSDG to avoid the grant being used for something else.
The Chairperson reflected on the R300m Affordable Rental Debt Relief initiative. The DG said they are still awaiting the framework but there is no deadline. The Committee would like a deadline to know who will benefit from this as many people have been affected by the pandemic, have lost jobs and cannot pay their bonds. The Committee welcomes this relief. The relief initiatives should be fast tracked so people can receive assistance.
She asked both Departments about the conditional grants. Conditional grants to provinces and municipalities have conditions but the audit outcome confirmed these conditions have been violated and municipalities are not complying in its allocation. She asked what the Departments are going to do differently to ensure the money allocated is used to benefit the intended beneficiaries. The provinces and municipalities need to up their game, since the performance of municipalities is worrying. The Minister of Finance indicated that he will be introducing zero budgeting, which means the Departments need to upscale their planning to ensure it is long-term. She warned that with the current system used by municipalities and their performance level, the Department may lose the budget again. The current cuts are minimal but moving forward with zero budgeting, it can get worse. People do not understand the implications of zero budgeting and they will have to up performance.
Mr Balzer replied that the phase one intervention, which was the delivery of static tanks and carting of water by a motorised tanker, is anticipated to conclude at the end of August 2020. DWS is still working with the municipalities on the final scoping of the phase two projects. The municipalities are preparing their revised business plans and those projects can take between 6-18 months to conclude. DWS will continue to monitor as these projects moving forward and will report back to the Committee on the progress made. The long-term reticulation projects were chosen for accelerated completion and will provide sustainable water supply to the communities who are particularly vulnerable now.
He has noted the points raised about the service delivery protests, especially the protest in the King Cetshwayo District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. There has been engagement with the municipality and Umgeni Water, who will take on the responsibility for water services provision in that area, given the district municipality has terminated a contract they had with a service provider.
He referred to the tanker services and asked that if any area has been identified as deficient, the complaint should be logged through to the call centre, so DWS can respond to the deficiency. DWS recognises that there will be times where tanks run empty and if those calls can be logged to the call centre, it will assist in directing the tankers.
DWS has recently assembled an Anti-Pollution Task Team which is now assessing the status of the water treatment works across the country. Based on that assessment DWS will engage with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and municipalities to develop an implementation plan, to do refurbishment. That goes hand in hand with the revival of the Green Drop programme. Through the Green Drop programme, action plans can be put in place to catch up with the maintenance backlog on the wastewater treatment works.
Mr Balzer replied that the APP indicates that 1 295 job opportunities will be created. He said the conditional grants and the Auditor General's municipal audit outcomes report on the compliance of those allocations, is a concern for DWS as well. He and his finance team, together with the infrastructure unit of DWS will be upscaling their own monitoring of those projects and the use of those funds and compliance with grant requirements. Conditional grants to municipalities get transferred on a quarterly basis and the team would then be able to see what interventions have to be put in place if conditional grants are not being complied with. An action plan will be put in place based on the weaknesses identified in the AG’s report.
Mr Leshabane replied that all the province delivery plans, with all the trimmings, were approved by the end of March. The Committee should bear in mind that when the provinces were given two weeks to revise those business plans, the reality is that they had to go back to every individual contract they had and revise each contract committed to each project. There are nearly 2 000 projects funded through those grants. In doing so, they must consult the municipalities and all parties involved. DHS understands this matter is urgent and from what it sees, the main provinces are negotiating the reduction of commitments for projects. There are specific contractual issues that need to be managed but the bright side is that the lockdown forced contractors to come to the table and revise contracts as they were unable to meet the commitments.
He is comfortable that the revisions to the targets are practical and specific. Members will recall projects are multi-year. They start in previous financial years carrying on into the next financial year so between the lockdown and the reduced budgets, provinces can reconcile that. He acknowledged DHS was ambitious in giving provinces two weeks, but the provinces have done their best. DHS would like to come back and outline the full extent of those projects as well as unpack the upgrades to informal settlements.
DHS will be happy to come back to confirm the emergency housing grant is in place. This grant is only entering its third year of existence. It was specifically introduced to assist provinces and municipalities to respond to disaster where houses are damaged and emergency temporary accommodation is required. The grant is accessed on demand by provinces and municipalities. The municipality would apply, DHS would verify if there is an emergency and respond accordingly. DHS is proud if its turnaround time for this, but criticizes municipalities that have been approved, have available funds, but then do not use them.
This ties in with the compliance concern. The compliance framework is in place. In some cases, the delivery model had to be revised. Adjustment to the delivery model for emergency housing will be presented in the mid-year adjustments. In that model, money is not transferred directly but rather DHS approves a project and implements it directly in that province or municipality. DHS will come back with the relevant details later.
Mr Leshabane replied that under the current Covid-19 state of disaster, DHS had to scout the country and identify provinces and municipalities, where the settlements are overcrowded. Applications for those specific settlements were processed and approved for emergency housing. DHS will come back and present those requirements to the Committee.
The reduction in the budget had two effects in reducing the resources available to buy deliverables. This forces DHS to reprioritize but also make trade-offs with what is put forward and what will come downstream.
The priority of the title deeds has not shifted. It is now funded through the main grants: HSDG and USDG. This means as planning is done within those grants, DHS will have to deal with outstanding parts of previous projects. This also results in an unintended dilemma where provinces treat the backlog as something that must only be funded through dedicated funding, when in fact it forms part of the core business.
He confirmed that the affordable rental relief package forms part of work DHS does around the clock. It is on schedule to finalise consultations, including with Treasury, by month end. They had to go back and relook at all the relief measure available to households, such as UIF, to avoid double dipping. That proved to be far more intense than initially anticipated. There is a proposal but there is still work that needs to be done
He agreed with Mr August that the title deed does more than just secure tenure. It empowers the household, and that is why the programme is a priority. He will follow up with the Deeds Office about the reported closures. After the state declared Lockdown Level 3, all the functional systems of DHS have had to be operational. Nationally there is a serious backlog in deed registration and property transfers and in some cases that backlog has reached six months. Under lockdown municipalities closed and the whole chain had to be suspended as all relevant offices were closed. It might not be an isolated case; it may be around the country but he will check on that matter.
He had previously commented on the difficulties DHS was having navigating through everything, not as an excuse but as the reality DHS is faced with. The distribution of powers and functions is what needs to be navigated. As the delivery models have to be revised, DHS does not have the authority or power to trample on the constitutional distribution of powers and functions. DHS now must do things differently to help municipalities and provinces. DHS has implemented provincial steering committees to work closely with a province's operational environment. Special purpose arrangements have also been put in place to expedite projects and programmes. DHS is aware of the difficulties of underperforming provinces and municipalities and had to come closer to their operational environments. DHS is taking full advantage of the District Development Model and intergovernmental relations for the collaborative implementation of programmes.
He concluded by telling Ms Powell that he does have a full set of "teeth".
The Chairperson thanked the DGs for their responses and said she might have missed it but neither responses spoke to job creation. It is important to get a response on that.
Mr Leshabane apologised for the oversight and said that the job creation targets and transformation targets can be provided. DHS tracks the job creation per contract, what kind of jobs and the time periods in direct as well as indirect construction. These targets will be presented with the revised APP target.
Mr Balzer said he did respond to that question but any changes that may occur during the Covid-19 phase 2 programme will be presented to the Committee.
Deputy Ministers response
Deputy Minister Tshwete told the Committee things need to be done differently moving forward because of Covid-19. She could not remember when the Minister missed a Committee meeting without a valid reason. In their culture they respect bereavement and they do not discuss it. She knows the Minister is bereaved and that the Minister always attends except when she goes to National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) or has other obligations. She disagreed with Ms Powell’s statement.
The Deputy Minister said the Department notes that certain budget cuts have a negative impact but it understands that the cuts were necessary due to Covid-19. They must do what they can with what they have. She promised that the Department will monitor the municipalities and the provinces to ensure compliance, especially with the title deeds grants as provinces do not use the grant. the Department needs to come back and unpack some of the concerns raised, such as informal settlements. A comprehensive report will be provided. the Department gets paid to do the work and whenever the Committee requires answers, they are available to answer. The Committee needs to accept the negative effect Covid-19 will leave. It will not just disappear but it calls for change and adaption. In some cases, offices have closed as staff has been infected by Covid-19. She will ensure they receive the report on why the Deeds Office in Cape Town is closed.
Deputy Minister Tshwete thanked the Chairperson for her good work and asked her to bear with Department in certain areas where the Committee is not happy, the Department will do its best to resolve it. It appreciates the good advice it receives from the Committee She told the Committee to be safe during this time and to follow the guidelines to avoid getting sick.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo thanked the Committee and said that the budget was supposed to go back to the national fiscus to contribute to the R500 billion Covid-19 relief package the President had announced. DWS was supposed to lose more than R1 billion but some funds were returned as noted.
Members should note that the money DWS was supposed to surrender was given to certain provinces for projects that were important but not ready. It is important that this money is used to assist all those affected. DWS wants to prioritise provinces to where the money was taken. That is why the DG spoke about the business plans. All the water services authorities have been advised that they will not have access to funds unless they have an approved business plan. DWS is supporting all those provinces.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo said water source availability is a problem. The interventions put in place as a temporary relief have a clear cut-off date. It is not a permanent solution to provide people with water carting. DWS does not like water carting. Citizens do not have water and water is a human right. Citizens cannot go a day without having access to water. DWS knows water carting is not sustainable but knows the same process can be exploited by people who are engaged in corruption. There are protocols put in place to deal with this concern. A mine is being explored for its potential in getting a ground water source. There are challenges that need to be worked through but those matters are being attended to.
It is not correct to say that DWS has failed for 26 years. Records state that many advances have been made. Many communities that did not have the infrastructure or water now have those resources, and the numbers do not lie. Even so, more still needs to be done. There is system failure but there is also progress.
He said the money made available for sustainable infrastructure, both small and large infrastructure, is aimed at the provinces most affected mainly due to drought and lack of access. It must look at how much has been prioritised to assist those provinces. The Committee received a statistics report which found the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, and most rural provinces, have many challenges around water. The Apartheid government chose to keep infrastructure from those provinces for political and economic reasons. The numbers provided in the presentation on the Eastern Cape showed more than 91 interventions are in place towards sustainability. The number is extremely high because of the magnitude of work needed. All this information about the needs of each province can be found in the annexures provided.
Water quality and pollution are not being taken lightly. As the country approaches Mandela Day in remembrance of former President Nelson Mandela and what would have been his 102nd birthday, DWS is running a campaign where you can adopt a river in your area and clean it. He urged MPs to join the campaign and adopt a river in their own areas. This will aid in the cleaning of the rivers to preserve the environment. He urged them to get involved in other programmes that aid in protecting resources. This will also aid in job creation for young people. As part of fighting Covid-19 and as part of greening the environment, the Ministry is extending an open invitation to all to join these various campaigns.
The Minister's apology has been noted and that bereavement is not in their hands. He said if Ms Powell has submitted a Written Question for the Minister's Reply, the Ministry will be able to respond to that question. It is on record that the department structure has been finalised and has given DWS an opportunity to stabilize its administration. DWS undertook to fill the vacant positions because it is important to stabilize the administration. It has been admitted that the current acting team has been able to stabilize the administration and even the Committee can agree that they are on the right track. Acting Director-General Tshangana could not join and that is why Mr Balzer is acting DG. Mr Balzer is very capable and a seasoned engineer.
He said that the people who are acting are acting with full delegations and authority in terms of power. To act does not mean you do not have the authority to make decisions and they can act without fear of favour and contradiction. That is why the concerns about malfeasance have been noted, they are taking action through the acting accounting officers. DWS agreed that the stabilization of the administration is non-negotiable, and DWS is proceeding on that as part of the turnaround of DWS. It will continue to report to the Committee on that point.
He said that job creation will be made a standard item and Mr Balzer has responded on that. Besides the direct jobs that can be seen, there are indirect jobs that cannot be seen in the value chain. He appreciated the guidance and criticism received from the Committee as it has been very fair and constructive. They are proud of the frontline workers who ensure there is water and limited disruptions during this time. Some of these men and women have been infected by the virus and passed away and the Department sends his condolences to all those who worked for the sector.
Follow up questions
Ms Powell said the specific question about the TDRG was not answered. She asked how the reduction of funds will impact the title deed programme over the medium term and how it has already impacted the work. What are the implications for the ordinary man and women on the street?
She noted that the APP received by the Committee is missing some pages and does not reflect all changes.
She told the Deputy Minister that she is getting tired of hearing that "there is a process". She understands that there is a process but the process for employing a Director General needs to be a priority. The DG is essentially the head of the Department and of all these programmes and budget. When a Committee member asks what the process is and what the timelines are, she does not want to hear another ‘It is a process" excuse. She understands the Deputy Minister is in a difficult position, as he cannot speak on the Minister’s behalf, but he should not come with the same excuse. It is a crisis, especially during the pandemic. It is not to diminish the hard work and integrity displayed by the acting DGs. It is a serious ethical, moral, and procedural problem, that the Department needs to rectify.
She said she wrote to the Chairperson as the NCOP had received a progress update from the Honourable Minister and the Department on the Covid-19 interventions taken by DWS and DHS to date. She asked when this Committee will receive a progress report on the interventions, progress made and the expenditure against the emergency allocated budget.
Ms Sihlwayi asked the Deputy Minister if the water tanks will always be filled with water. She understands it is the municipalities that must fill the tanks. Whose role is it to fill the tanks with water? There is a need to clarify procedural roles in this matter.
Ms Sihlwayi had a concern about how Members should conduct themselves in Parliament and how they should address the Minister and Deputy Ministers. It is a concern how Ms Powell has raised the matter of the Minister. There are rules about the way Members address each other to avoid a different connotation being made. A woman is a female being but when she is within the walls of parliament, she is no longer a female, she is an Honourable Minister and should be addressed as such. It did not sound well.
Ms Mohlala said that the Members are told that when they require information, the information will follow, in the form of writing. Many queries have been made and no written feedback has been given. It feels like the Members are being undermined because the meetings happen, questions are asked, but no written feedback is given as promised. This is unacceptable.
Ms Mohlala said the Members are concerned with the roles of the Directors General not being filled. It was seen in the AG’s report, that the issues of acting positions in DWS has been ongoing for years. This matter is not being brought up to embarrass the ANC but is an issue. Any institution that does not have a head, things have been proven to go wrong. She said that acting heads can leave whenever they want and that leaves no room for accountability. For the sake of accountability, these positions need permanent employees. She does not understand what the problem is with the hiring process. She acknowledged Mr Balzer seems to be doing a good job but asked what processes were undertaken to take a person form the Advisory Committee to be no acting DG.
The Chairperson told Mr Balzer to ensure business plans are followed and that the Department must upscale its monitoring. She was invited by the Chairperson of the COGTA Portfolio Committee on an oversight visit at Polokwane municipality. The intervention report stated the Department gave them 126 JoJo tanks. Upon inspection it was found they appointed one contractor to install all 126 JoJo tanks. The report had sections that were pending completion. She said that having a business plan is not enough. The Committee wants a different approach. When these conditional grants are given, the business plans approved should be implemented to the letter. In this regard one could see that the budget allocation for one man to install all those JoJo tanks was not good. Many people need jobs and it important to empower as many people as possible. The District Development Model launched by the President needs to find expression.
She said Members should realise that there is a process. Every APP, as the Members engage it, the structure must be finalised. In the meeting the Committee was told that the structure of the Department has been finalised. The process of appointment should follow. She agreed with Members that that process needs to be fast tracked. The Committee should come up with a timeline by when the positions need to be filled. She proposed that by the time the Committee receives the first quarterly report, the Department needs to give feedback on how far they are in filling those positions.
She said the illegal construction of dams is a concern. The Ebenezer Dam is at its lowest capacity and the Committee has learned of a farmer who has constructed an illegal dam and closed off streams. It is the Department's responsibility to deal with these illegal constructions.
Acting Directors General response
Mr Balzer replied that the Department will tighten the monitoring of the business plans and he noted the additional comments and suggestions by Members and the Chairperson. The illegal construction upstream of the dam which is diverting the flow has been noted. He would follow up and get back to the Committee.
Mr Leshabane confirmed that the TDRG is coming to an end this financial year, as it was introduced as a three-year grant instead of being included in the main grant. The Department is going back to the main grant where the allocation for the title restoration project will be included in that. However, the reduction in the capital budget implies that the deliverables initially planned, are going to be reduced. The extent of the reductions is subject to the plans of the provinces. DHS has then asked the provinces to retain its target for title deed registrations. DHS can only confirm when they have received and consolidated all the business plans. The direction given to provinces was to protect two programmes: the informal settlement and the title deed programmes so there is no reduction. DHS will provide those details once those plans are received.
He apologised for the incorrect scanning of the APP as it was never meant to mislead the Committee.
The additional information requested can be emailed or the Committee can schedule another meeting where DHS can elaborate on those specific issues. He asked to follow up on the response letters signed off to the Office of the Committee Chairperson.
The Chairperson said she did not receive those letters.
Deputy Minister response
Deputy Minister Mahlobo replied that the concerns about water tanks have been previously reported. There is a hotline available to the public that receives information directly. DWS has received a lot of information on the ground, saying that the tank interventions have not been realised. In certain cases, tanks have not been delivered or there is no water, or vandalism is reported.
The water service is the responsibility of the local government. The Ministry decided under advisory from government and advisory board, that DWS must do whatever it takes to support municipalities. Under these times, there are municipalities that are struggling and DWS will provide storage tanks and water tanks. Certain areas had challenges with water quality or with the water source being too far. Phase two, as presented by Mr Balzer, will try to address sustainable solutions, such as looking at introducing infrastructure to utilise ground water in rural areas. There are many challenges but DWS will keep trying to support municipalities, even those who do not do their jobs. COGTA is responsible for the R20 billion intervention for municipalities and COGTA can come and assist because that is their primary mandate. The Department will continue to receive calls from the Committee and will always try to intervene when municipalities are struggling. There are certain areas where DWS's best has not been good enough. He is happy with this Committee as it has made water everybody business.
He said that nobody should break the law. The Department is going to send the Scorpions to intervene as a matter of urgency in the matter of the Ebenezer Dam.
The attitude toward the business plans remains that the business plan needs to be correct in terms of compliance, and it will be able to hasten all the allocations.
The Department needs to increase monitoring and can use technology to assist in their monitoring. Even tankers are being tracked through geo-mapping. It will be looked at as an area for stabilising the Department.
The team will investigate the report of one company delivering the tanks at the Polokwane municipality. It does take away from broadening participation but from a project management perspective, there may be delays in execution. DWS will investigate that matter and come back to the Committee with answers.
He said that the Committee should understand that questions received through the Office of the Committee Chairperson and oral and written question will be answered. When certain questions have been asked, a written response may still be being formulated and when there is pressure and when other offices are involved, it can cause misleading situations. The Department does not want to contradict itself, responses in writing will follow.
He said that the Department agrees that stabilising the administration is important. The Department will come before the Committee and respond to all the issues presented today.
Ms Mohlala asked the Minister to answer her question on the process taken to hire her water services advisory board.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo replied that the executive authority made appointments in terms of the legislation. It is was within the Minister's rights to ask Mr Balzer to step in at this time.
The Chairperson said that if the Members are not happy with the response, the questions will be forwarded to the Minister.
Ms Powell echoed the importance of the Minister coming back to the Committee on the advisory board. The appointments were made at the discretion of the Minister, but she thinks it should have been based on public service legislation, in terms of recruitment, selection and transparency. It is important to understand the process that was followed. Questions have been raised about the National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT). There are many concerning reports seen in the media on how these appointments are being made. The Committee needs to receive responses.
The Chairperson said a meeting will not be called to answer these questions; the questions will be forwarded to the Minister. The Department should not wait for the Committee to convene again before the response is sent. A response should be sent to the Committee Secretary and that response will be sent to all Members. There are parliamentary processes for questions and responses and they will be followed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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