Strategic Framework for Water Services: briefing

Water and Sanitation

19 November 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


19 November 2003

Document handed out:
Presentation: Strategic Framework for Water Services
White Paper: Strategic Framework for Water Services

Chairperson: Mr J Van Wyk

A senior team from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) briefed the Committee, and fielded questions, on the Strategic Framework (SF), government's approach to water and sanitation service delivery for the next ten year timeframe.

Mr Van Wyk enquired why the Strategic Framework (SF) document had been previously called the White Paper on Water Services. Although Cabinet had approved the document, he asked about the status of the document in terms of policy. He mentioned the Committee's visits to all the provinces, except the Western Cape, to investigate the state of water and sanitation service delivery, free basic water (FBW) supply and waste water treatment. The role of the Department had been changing from provider to sector leader in terms of monitoring and policy implementation through the Water Services Act and Local Government.

Mr Mike Muller (Director General) introduced his team: Mr Helgard Muller (Chief Director: Water Services), Mr Abri Vermeulen (Manager: Policy and Strategy), Mr Simon Mpamonyane (Sector Development Manager) and Ms Thuli Khambule (Co ordinator: Water Services). He said the SF was a policy framework approved by Cabinet that was binding on the Department. The Cabinet changed the name because it considered that the document reflected a consolidation of nine years of policy development.

During his ensuing presentation (see appendix), H Muller rendered a very broad perspective of the SF and of water and sanitation services according to census information. The SF also had to be seen in the broader perspective of services for economic development and poverty alleviation.

Ms Khambule said the Department had employed inclusive consultative processes to develop the SF and its comprehensive ten-year strategy on new institutional arrangements for the Department, municipalities and water boards. Mr H Muller emphasised that they now took cogniscence of conservation and ongoing operations and management, not just the building of new systems for consumption.

Mr D Miamane (ANC) asked for clarity around institutional rearrangement because this would imply amendments to present legislation. He also asked how institutions like the water boards and municipalities would be affected.

Mr M Muller reminded the Committee of government policy that required a process of consultation and review to ultimately decide, in a spirit of voluntary contribution by the stakeholders, if new legislation was necessary and/or to what extent amendments should be considered.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked how the Department would prioritise water and sanitation service delivery to areas where these services were non existent. He also asked what legislative powers the Department had to intervene with service suspensions since local government had the responsibility of reticulation and collection. Thirdly, in relation to sanitation, he asked if the Department would consider national best practice.

Mr M Muller said these projects were directly dependent on budget allocations from government. The DWAF currently had no new capital budget for water services because the money went into the municipal infrastructure grant administered by the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG). Hence, DWAF would now exercise a monitoring and support role and ensure that DPLG addressed the backlogs. Among other good reasons why money should not be spent on backlogs, was (1) The more backlog served, the more equitable share (ES) used to operate it, and (2) there were many problems with existing systems that needed additional investment that might absorb these funds. The Department no longer had a budget because all new funds in this financial year were to be administered under the new system.

Regarding legislative powers for disconnections, the Constitution gave national the powers to legislate on norms and standards, but discouraged national from litigating against local sphere. However, the Department was very clear that local government had to be able to recover the costs of provision to ensure sustainability.

He agreed with Mr Arendse about cases of national best practice. Communities would be able to witness successful programmes they could replicate in their own community. The Department was no longer directly responsible for these programmes but they would encourage local governments to learn from their neighbours.

Mr M Masala asked if the entire water sector, particularly workers, had been consulted about which parts of the Act were likely to be amended.

Mr M Muller assured him that organised labour would be consulted. In fact, bilateral processes were underway and the sector thus far seemed supportive. No formal consultations were underway yet.

Mr Vermeulen stressed that these technical amendments would not change the essence or intention of the legislation.

Mr S Phohlela was keen that the Department market that 11million people had gained access to safe water since 1994. He requested a comparative study of water and sanitation service delivery before and after that year.

Mr M Muller said that prior to 1994, there was not a single government department responsible for water services as administrations were so divided. Some work was done during 1990-1994 on access to water and sanitation. In 1994, there were 12-4 million people without adequate water supply and sanitation, compared with 5 million today. There were also 8 million people with a standpipe supply, compare with 12.9 million now. In the urban areas, 16 million people were served with household connections, compared with 28.3 million now. He recalled 21million people without any sanitation, compared to 18 million now, 1 million with improved VIPs compared with 4 million now, and 14 million with flush toilets compared with 24 million today. This was generally an improvement, considering an increase of 10 million people in the country.

Mr S Sibya (IFP) asked if municipalities had now been capacitated to execute their mandates and if the capacity building grant (CBG) was in monetary or expertise form. He asked about the difference between the CBG and equitable share (ES.

Mr M Muller said that the CBG was managed by DPLG to provide training and technical assistance. Skills development was conducted through the Setas to satisfy the needs of the sector. The CBG was a conditional grant managed by DPLG, and the ES was an unconditional grant given by DPLG and Treasury to local government. The Constitution stated that it should be used for the provision of basic services. This reflected a consistent approach across government.

Mr M Phala asked if the Department had a close working relation with SALGA , and also why no mention of boreholes had been made in the SF.

Mr M Muller said it would be premature to talk about implementation because the parties agreed to a process that would culminate in an agreement, be it legislation or restructuring of institutions. With regards to boreholes, he said the section on planning made provision for certain qualities of water that had to be provided by local government and the Department would ensure this occurred. The prescribed norms and standards would control all sorts of sources.

Mr A Nel (DA) asked if government would adjust the budgets of local governments or if the Department would bear that responsibility, especially with regards to grants in the envisaged financial system.

Mr M Muller referred him to p23 of the SF that outlines the intervention of the grant system.

Mr S Simmons asked for time frames and whether problems were being encountered re the transfer of DWAF schemes to municipalitie.

Mr M Muller could not offer absolute statistics about of these scheme transfers, but was prepared to invite an official to supply the information.

Mr Van Wyk posed five, sometimes overlapping, questions. Firstly, he highlighted a contradiction in the SF (p7 and 8) regarding target dates for the access to FBW. Then he asked about the progress made towards the target date of 2010 for the provision of free basic sanitation (FBS), and if the budget would allow for this implementation. Next, he asked for comment on the impact of pre-aid meters, the review of legislation in terms of time frames, education (e.g. understanding of the FBW policy) and health programmes in communities, and the level of involvement in the consultation process.

Mr M Muller did not see a contradiction. He explained that by 2005, all local governments had to have a policy to supply FBW and pursue the policy of parallel development that would ensure safe water supply by 2008. He admitted that government was not sure what was meant by FBS and perhaps the next seven years would provide an answer.
Good water management for the Department was crucial and the pre paid system might be the answer. Properly programmed, these meters could be employed efficiently.
He stressed the need for education because consensus came from knowledge. Parliament could play a major roll in this.

In response to Mr Nel, Mr M Muller said the SF document was available on the website and to local government. The Department would also highlight certain topics on flyers or handouts.

Ms Khambule said consultation had taken place in all the provinces through bilateral meetings with other stakeholders and workshops. Invited were local government representatives, NGOs and key stakeholders like Cosatu, Nedlac, Agri SA etc. Concerns raised at these consultations were very similar to those raised in the Committee on budgets and delivery capacity.

Mr Mpamonyane told of the task team investigating training needs in the sector. There was a memorandum of understanding on the role of the SALGA, DWAF and the LGW SETA to administer how service providers were engaged.

Mr M Masala thought most people were uncertain if they were in fact receiving FBW because it was not reflected in their accounts. Mr H Muller agreed that such complaints were received on a daily basis. He invited members to supply names so that complaints could be followed up.

Mr Phala asked how water could be provided to schools where it was lacking.

Mr M Muller said the responsibility of water in schools was clarified in the SF. The provincial Departments of Education should take first responsibility for water and sanitation provision in schools.

Chief P Mathebe was uncomfortable that rural people had been neglected in the consultation process. He advised that consultations rather be done on a district level in the future.

Ms Khumbule stated that NGOs were invited to presentations and that local government was seen as the representative of the people.

Mr M Muller agreed that there should be a better balance between urban and rural 'voices'.

Mr Miamane regarded the document as an innovative approach. The voice of the people has been captured in the SF, according to his evaluation in his constituency work.

The meeting was adjourned.


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