DHS & DWS Budget: Committee Reports

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

17 July 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Audio: DHS & DWS Budget: Committee Reports 

Tabled Committee Reports

The Committee was briefed by the Committee support staff on Reports for both the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Water and Sanitation on the impact of the supplementary adjusted budget and revised 2020/21 Annual Performance Plans. Most notably, the Human Settlements Development Grant was reduced by R1.73 billion (a 14.1% reduction in real terms). The Urban Settlements Development Grant was reduced by R3.36 billion and received a reallocation of R2.26 billion, which represented an overall reduction of R1.1 billion. Water and Sanitation saw a reduction of small Water Services Infrastructure Grants Projects under construction from 349 to 326; while the total number of regional bulk infrastructure projects phases under construction was increased from 103 to 110.

Members first reviewed the Reports, expressing their views on the listed observations and recommendations, and proposing various amendments.

Members suggested that there should be a programme in the Department’s report that would help combat high unemployment. Job creation should be clear and measurable for the Committee to be capable of holding the Department accountable. They also said that there should not be so many people in acting positions; candidates should be appointed to fill all the vacancies.

The Members also deliberated on the eviction incidents that have happened of late. Concerning the matters, Members agreed that it was a constitutional directive that before an eviction took place, there should be a court order so as to respect people’s human rights. In the eviction case of Mr Bulelani Qolani, the disaster process regulations of this government were undermined by the City of Cape Town. The incident in Lawley South, Johannesburg, happened before the national COVID-19 lockdown and thus should not be covered by the Report.

Although both departments’ Reports were adopted by the Committee, the DA and EFF rejected both Reports.

The Committee’s third term programme was reviewed and adopted.

Meeting report

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation on the Supplementary Budget Vote No 33 of the Department Of Human Settlements

Mr Sabelo Mnguni, Committee Content Advisor, Human Settlements, presented the Report which came after the Department’s previous meeting with the Committee on 15 July 2020 to discuss the adjustment budget with related reduced targets which were reflected in its revised 20/21 APP and Strategic Plan. It contained the implications for the COVID-19 pandemic on the mandate of the Department, the analysis of the revised budget on each programme and the revised budget allocations.

Human Settlements Grants

Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) was reduced by R1.73 billion (a 14.1% reduction in real terms). Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) was reduced by R3.36 billion and received a reallocation of R2.26 billion, which represents an overall reduction of R1.1 billion (or 13.5% in real terms). Title Deeds Restoration Grant (TDRG) was reduced by R 377.82 million (representing a real decrease of 66.8%), and reallocated to the Emergency Housing Grant in programme three (Informal Settlements) for the rapid provision of emergency housing solutions in areas where existing housing arrangements were not conducive to social distancing.

Observations and Recommendations

  • The Emergency Housing Grant received an additional allocation of R377.82 million.
  • The Committee observed that a reduction of R377.82 million from the Title Deeds Restoration Grant (a decline of 66.8% in real terms) would affect the number of title deeds being issued (this was reallocated to the Emergency Housing Grant)
  • The Committee noted that lower allocations to the HSDG and the USDG would result in planned projects being delayed.
  • The Committee note with a concern the high level of acting in critical positions; the Human Settlements Director-General position was noted.
  • The Committee note with concern that municipalities were not spending their allocations and not meeting their targets because of a lack of capacity.
  • The Committee noted that the Covid-19 regulations prohibited evictions. The Committee condemned illegal occupation of land.
  • The Committee noted the R300 million set aside to assist people in the rental housing that could not pay their rent due to Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Committee noted that the Department did not have a target of job creation on their adjusted budget

Ms Shereen Dawood, Committee Content Advisor, Water and Sanitation, went through the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation on The Impact of the Supplementary Adjusted Budget and Revised 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan on the Department of Water and Sanitation (Vote 41). She presented the overview of the impact of the Department’s supplementary and budget and its revised targets. The changes to targets in this programme for the 2020/21 financial year relate to – increase in the number of regional bulk infrastructure projects phases under construction from 103 to 110; decrease in the number of regional bulk infrastructure projects to be completed from 28 to 27; and a reduction of small Water Services Infrastructure Grants Projects under construction from 349 to 326.

Observations and Recommendations

  • Sustainability of tankering water as a short-term measure vs. long-term implementation of source development
  • Reprioritisation of direct and indirect grants from Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant and Water Services Infrastructure Grant.
  • Transfer of water assets to municipalities after the pandemic
  • Creation of job opportunities
  • Acting positions in the Department

Discussion

Questions and comments on the Human Settlements Report

Ms M Mohlala (EFF) asked why the Report scheduled the permanent position of Director-General (DG) to be filled in the first quarter of 2021. Why should it take so long?  Regarding the budget cuts mentioned throughout the Report, she asked how job creation would be ensured without the necessary funds.  

Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked for a mistake on page one to be corrected. The Report stated that the number of cases, as at 15 March 2020, was 51; the correct total was 61. She outlined that the recommendations should explicitly state that they were of the Portfolio Committee not the “Joint Committee” as stated in other recommendations. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) would draft its own report with its own recommendations. Therefore, these recommendations were only for the Committee.

Regarding the issue of job creation, she said that this had been raised in the main budget and adjustment budget. She said that regardless of a budget cut, the fact remained that R29 billion had been allocated to the Department and there was an expectation that jobs would be created.

Ms E Powell (DA) said that regarding observation 1.1, she recommended changing the wording from first quarter 2021 to ‘2020/2021’. Currently, it was ambiguous because it could be interpreted as 2021/2022. She asked for the Committee to be clear that it expected this information during the first quarter of 2020/2021.

Concerning observation 1.3: “the Committee noted that lower allocations to the HS DG and the WS DG would result in planned projects being delayed […] the department must assist all the provinces and their metros with their plans and these plans must be submitted to the Committee.” She reiterated her previously raised point of concern that when the amended APP and Strategic Plan was presented to the Committee, only one province had submitted its revised provincial targets and plans but the rest of the provinces had failed to meet the deadline. This meant that the Department presented an incomplete APP to the Committee and the Acting DG commented that it was unfortunate and that actual revised provincial targets would be presented to the Committee at a later stage. Ms Powell said that it was crucial that for Committee’s Report to indicate that the Committee had not had sight of the implications of the revised HS DG budget on targets. At this stage, the Committee did not know which projects would be continued or rolled over because of budgets cuts. It must be stated that Committee had not been presented with the revised provincial targets in relation to the HS DG budget cuts because the provincial departments were unable to meet the two-week deadline.

Ms Powell said, regarding observation 1.6, that the Committee could not play politics within the Committee Reports. On observation 1.6 she agreed that the Committee noted with concern the inhumane treatment in the case of Bulelani Qolani in Empolweni informal settlement, Cape Town. The Committee knew that evictions were happening across the country. A case in point was the incident in Lakeside informal settlement, in Lawley South, Gauteng, which happened in April during stage five of the COVID-19 lockdown; this was where violence ensued after the Johannesburg metropolitan sent Red Ants troops to demolish people’s shacks. Minister Sisulu had condemned both illegal land invasions and illegal evictions across the country. She proposed that the Committee should add a comment to state that this conduct had taken place across the country and was not unique to the City of Cape Town. Illegal land evictions and evictions were a problem for metropolitan municipalities across the country; the Committee should condemn the actions of other metropolitan municipalities as well. 

Ms N Mvana (ANC) said that she was more than pleased with the Report. She did not understand what Ms Powell was saying by comparing the different cases of evictions. She said that the case in Empolweni was mentioned because it occurred during the COVID-10 lockdown metropolitans after the Minister had given the instruction that no eviction should occur. The worst part of the case was that the gentlemen, Mr Qolani, was humiliated. The Committee was not comparing any metropolitan municipality to another other than to mention that this case because it occurred during this time.

Ms Powell interjected that the incident in Lawley South also happened during Lockdown.  

Ms Mvana replied that what the Committee was saying was that it was not encouraging the eviction of people who were occupying land illegally but what was being discussed in this report was unrelated to the incident in Johannesburg. The Committee would not start a new report but would finish the one which was discussed – which made no mention of the instance in Johannesburg.

Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said that she thought the Report reflected all of what the Committee had discussed and clarified issues which were unclear.  She expressed her approval of the recommendation regarding emergency housing where it dealt with the issue of social distancing; it clarified many of the issues that had been raised.

Regarding the issue of reviewing the plans by municipalities, she said that it was clear as it was not the first time that this had been brought to the Committees attention. It was presented by the Acting DG that municipalities could not meet the timeframe given to them. The Committee was waiting for these municipalities to present their reports. She said that due to the timing of the programme and Report, the Committee could not wait for them to do so but that these reports must be submitted to the Committee.

Concerning the eviction matters, she said that it was a constitutional directive that before an eviction took place there should be a court order to respect people’s human rights. This was the case before the COVID-19 lockdown. The disaster process regulations of this government were undermined by the City of Cape Town. She asked Members not to compete nor compare as no one was here to defend their terrain. The incident in the report was the case in Cape Town. The incident in Johannesburg happened before the national COVID-19 lockdown. She gave her support for Ms Mvana’s stance, saying that Ms Powell’s proposed correction to include Johannesburg would confuse the report.

Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) said that she was satisfied with the Report. Regarding the issue in the Cape Town, she said that Cape Town, as a part of South Africa which belonged to everybody, must be condemned for inhumane behaviour. The Committee must be fair and neutral on this matter.

Ms N Tafeni (EFF) complained about the Committee Member in Cape Town. She said that the Department needed to immediately address the issue of evictions in Cape Town.

Ms Mohlala said that regarding the issue of observation 1.6, she agreed with Ms Powell. Regardless of where the eviction happened it was the same and it must reflect in the Report. She asked the Committee to not play politics. If the people of Lawley in Gauteng were treated unfairly it must reflect as well. She said that this issue was discussed previously. In another report the issue was removed, and it was said that Lawley should not be mentioned. She asked for the case of the evictions in Lawley to be included in the Report. The issue of Lawley happened during COVID-19 and Section 14.1(c) of the Disaster Management Act regulations stated that no one must be evicted.

Questions and Comments on the Water and Sanitation Report

Ms Sihlwayi asked for clarity on the recommendation 4.1 regarding water tankers and asked for a Member to read it to her.

Ms Tseke asked for clarity on recommendation 4.2. She asked to make an addition on the second paragraph of the recommendation that currently read: “The Portfolio Committee further recommends that the Department of Water and Sanitation utilise the District Development Model…” She suggested that the Committee should strengthen the use of the word “utilise” in this sentence.  

Mr R Mashego (ANC) emphasised Ms Tseke’s point and raised the point of job creation in the water and sanitation’s Report. He asked that there should be a programme in the Department’s report to help combat high unemployment. Job creation should be clear and measurable for the Committee to be capable of holding the Department accountable. He also said that there should not be so many people in acting positions; candidates should be appointed to fill all the vacancies. He asked to be stronger on the point of unemployment in the report.

Ms Sihlwayi asked the Department to add a plan, to distribute tanks during COVID-19, to recommendation 4.2; the plan should be submitted to the Committee. She specified that the plan for distribution of water tankers to schools, in partnership between the Department and the Department of Basic Education, should be presented to the Committee. She requested a report for all these issues with budget implications.

On human settlements regarding Ms Powell’s recommendation on recommendation 1 of first quarter 2020/2021, the Chairperson emphasised that the quarter would be in 2021 and the recommendation could not be allowed to be unimplemented beyond this date. The Committee would deliberate on it after the budget process in the first quarter.

Regarding the evictions in Western Cape, she said that she agreed that all unlawful evictions must be condemned but that the problem in the case of the Western Cape was the inhumane treatment of Mr Qolani. She emphasised that the Committee did not support illegal occupation nor did it support the unlawful eviction of persons under COVID-19 lockdown regulations. She agreed that the Committee condemn the case of Lawley in Gauteng as an illegal eviction and denounce all illegal evictions wherever they took place. She also agreed on the inclusion of job creation in the report.

She said that the Committee was providing oversight on the plans of government: the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTFS) and the National Development Plan say that government must create jobs. Job creation must be measurable and the Department must be able to say how many jobs it had created. Previously there were not any set targets for job creation, making it difficult to hold the Department accountable.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mashego’s concern about the vacancies in the Department. The phenomena of acting positions must come to an end and the Department must appoint candidates to permanent positions as a way of showing its commitment to decreasing the unemployment rate.

Ms Powell interjected that the Chairperson had left out her point on the revised provincial targets in the Chairperson’s summary.

The Chairperson said that the Department must bring the revised provincial targets to the Committee for it to be able to detail the issues.

Ms Powell wished for it to be noted that the DA objected to the revised APP and Strategic Plan that were presented by the Department of Human Settlements, as these Reports did not detail how the HS DG budget cuts would impact provincial programmes. She said that the DA would issue a minority report.

The Chairperson said that the provincial departments would be asked to present the details to the Committee, and it might be the case that the provincial cuts had not been affected by the HS DG’s budget cuts.

The Chairperson called for Committee to move to the consideration and adoption of the Reports.

Mr Mashego moved for the adoption of the Reports and Ms Tseke seconded the motion.

Ms Powell asked for the Committee to note that the DA rejected the Human Settlements and Water Sanitation Reports. 

Ms Mohlala asked for the Committee to note that the EFF rejected both the Human Settlements and Water Sanitation Reports. 

The Chairperson stated that the Committee adopted both Reports for the Department of Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation.

Committee Third Term Programme

The Chairperson said that from 21 - 24 July 2020, there would be mini-plenaries and there would be no meeting. On 28 July there would be a follow-up meeting scheduled with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) on the tariffs. She noted that the meeting must include the debt collection challenges faced by boards and municipalities.

Friday 31 July, the Committee would put together all petitions it had received because it was requested to prioritise them. From 3 August to 17 August would be the constituency weeks and the Committee’s programme would resume on 18 August; it would continue on virtual platforms. The Minister was being called to brief the Committee on the Department’s master plan of how it would resolve the challenge of granting national access to water as well as the resolution on challenges of sanitation. On Friday, 21 August, there would be a briefing on the outstanding matter of the Vaal River system intervention and the Hammanskraal problem. From 25 August until September, the Committee would be engaging with provinces and water-boards. Water-boards had tabled their APPs and Strategic Plans. After this, the Committee would be dealing the first quarter performance of both Departments for the current financial year; if oversight was needed, the Committee would plan for it. The outstanding oversight was that of Lesotho, which was thought to be currently unfeasible. The Committee would look to other provinces to do oversight if it was permitted in the first quarter of 2021.

The Chairperson requested the Committee adopt the programme.

Ms Powell recounted that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was given an update on interventions and progress on targeted interventions for the COVID-19 relief programme two weeks prior to the meeting. She requested that the Committee be given an update on this as it was the most pertinent issue in the country. Members had a responsibility to their communities to report back on what was going on. She asked for the Committee to urgently receive the same report that the NCOP received.

Regarding the first quarter report tabled for September 22, she requested the Committee explicitly add the Chairperson’s undertakings for the acting DGs or Minister to brief the Committee with a progress report on the filling of vacant posts currently occupied by acting incumbents. She requested that the Committee should have a report on the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) expenditure of metropolitan municipalities. She pointed to the fact that the metropolitan municipalities’ financial year ended on 30 June and that by September, these municipalities should have finalised their reports on their progress during the 2019/2020 financial year. It was important for these progress reports on USDG expenditure be presented to the Committee. She asked that this be added to the programme.

The Chairperson agreed that metropolitan municipality expenditure be included in the programme.

A Committee Member referred to the initial plan adopted by the Committee to say that it had adopted the request to visit to Lesotho and reminded the Chairperson of the other places that needed to be visited.

The Chairperson replied that if there was oversight that was needed, the Committee would focus on the province in question. She said that she did not think the visit to Lesotho would be soon. Level one of lockdown may only be reached in October or November and only then could movement be allowed. The Committee may visit one province in September.

The Chairperson requested the Committee move on the adoption of the programme.

Ms Sihlwayi moved for the adoption and Ms Mvana seconded the motion.

The programme was adopted, and Chairperson stated that it would be distributed to Members.

The meeting was 

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