The Committee considered its draft report on ‘Budget vote 41 on the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan of the Department for Water and Sanitation and its entities’. The report was adopted after amendment. The Economic Freedom Fighters abstained from adopting the draft report.
The Committee considered a proposal to postpone the meeting with the Department for Water and Sanitation, on the water tariff increase, from 25 May to 26 May 2021 because the Department was meeting with the media on 25 May 2021. Some Members favoured postponement to 26 May 2021 but other Members said that the engagements should be held after the water tariff increase had been implemented on 1 June 2021.
The Committee established that the Minister could be held accountable to Parliament on water tariff increases. Even though Parliament could not make any decision to approve water tariff increases, it can make recommendations to the Minister. The Committee decided that it would not meet on 26 May 2021 but would look at its program and invite the Department for engagements on water tariffs at an appropriate date.
The Chairperson welcomed Members and asked for apologies
The Committee Secretary said there were no apologies.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to display the agenda of the meeting and said that the title of the draft report of the Portfolio Committee (PC) Human Settlements would be revised to ‘Budget vote 41 on the strategic plan and annual performance plan (APP) of the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS) and its Entities’. She invited the Content Advisor, Ms Shereen Dawood, to take the PC through the draft report.
Ms Dawood gave a brief background and introduction to the draft report. She reminded Members that the DWS operated two accounts namely the main account which was funded from Budget Vote 41 and the Water Entities Trading account which is funded from funds received from the main budget vote 41. The Water Entities Trading account is appropriated towards implementing infrastructure. Revenue is also generated from bulk water sales. The strategic plan and APP align with Government Outcomes and the DWS‘s outcomes for 2019-2024. It is based on the National Development Plan and the seven priorities of the National Water Act of 1998 that were adopted by the Government for the 2019-2024 administration to address the importance of secure and equitable access to water and sanitation. Furthermore, the draft report contains a summary of DWS National priorities for 2019-2024 that were aligned to program targets, observations, and recommendations of the PC. She also summarised the aligned program targets, observations, and recommendations of the Water Trading Entities to the PC.
The Chairperson invited Members to comment on the draft report of the PC on the budget vote 41 of the DWS and its entities.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) welcomed the draft report but said it should not reveal any information on the Lesotho visit that was captured under the program that involved the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) as the report on the visit had not yet been presented. In Clause 3.1 he observed that there was a phrase that employee benefits would be reduced over the medium term and asked the Content advisor to advise the PC on the reasons for curtailing the budget. Also in 3.1, there was a phrase that mentioned that there was a lower water demand. He observed that this phrase might not be correct as population growth would lead to more demand for water.
Mr M Mashego (ANC) observed that the body of the report was voluminous in size and asked the Content Advisor to consider taking out the background. He agreed that the draft report addressed what the PC had engaged on, agreed with the observations of Mr Tseki that the Lesotho visit is removed from the draft report as the report had not been sent out yet. He made the following comments on the draft recommendations.
Draft recommendation on creating an independent regulator
The draft recommendation on the timelines of creating an independent regulator was not clear. He recalled that after the joint meeting between the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and the PC it was agreed that an independent regulator should be created as soon as possible. The phrase that DWS would remain regulators was inappropriate as the DWS had a long plan of operational processes that would extend to 2024. The PC must let the DWS know that this plan of action is unacceptable. The PC should inform the DWS that the independent regulator starts its work within three months.
Draft recommendation on “made in South Africa” chemicals
The PC had raised concerns on the cost incurred on the importation of chemicals used by the DWS to purify water and had decided that the DWS should ensure that “made in South Africa” chemicals were used for this purpose. Hence the clause should give a specific date on the progress reports on ensuring that “made in South Africa” chemicals be used for purifying water. The reports should be given quarterly to the PC.
Draft recommendation on filling the posts of Director-General and Chief Finance Officer
He reminded the PC that the Minister had only assumed office for two years but the clause referred to the timeframe of not filling these posts as five years. As the Minister might question the recommendation, it was advisable to remove the five years because this would be unfair to the Minister. The PC needs to ensure that the clause reads that an early timeframe is given to fill both the Director-General (DG) and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) posts.
Draft recommendation on Lesotho visit
The Lesotho visit by the PC was not part of the budget review and APP. Also, the report on the Lesotho visit had not been sent out. Hence he suggested that the recommendation on the Lesotho Highlands Infrastructure Project (LHIP) be removed from the report.
The Chairperson drew Members’ attention to how the LHIP was captured in the minutes and made the following observations
Draft recommendation on creating an independent regulator
She reminded Members that in the joint meeting with COGTA and SALGA, the PC had agreed with the proposal that an independent regulator is created but the PC should note that the DWS had inserted the creation of an independent regulator as part of its targets in the APP. The PC had raised concerns that consultations would still be going on in the fourth quarter. She agreed with Mr Mashego that reports be made to the Minister on independent regulators even if the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) is independent.
Draft recommendation on Clause 3.1- Lower demand for water
She agreed with Mr Tseki that the phrase is removed.
Draft recommendation on filling the posts of Director-General and Chief Finance Officer
She agreed that the phrase ‘five years’ be changed to two years.
Draft recommendation on made in South Africa chemicals
She agreed with Mr Mashego that progress reports be given to the Minister within the time frame of three months.
Draft recommendation on filling the posts of Director-General and Chief Finance Officer
She agreed with Mr Mashego that the Minister had only resumed office within two years hence the Minister had to be given time to complete the process of filling the DG and CFO posts. Hence the five years be changed to two years and a timeframe of six months be given to the Minister to complete the process of filling both the DG and CFO posts.
Draft recommendation on illegal construction of dams
The PC must give a timeframe to the demolition of the illegal dams and the DWS has to ensure that the license of the parties involved has to be revoked if it would serve as a deterrent. She recommended that the illegal dams constructed to stop water flow downstream must be demolished within six months.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) said that the Clause that addressed the TCTA program and spoke on the Lesotho Highlands Infrastructure Project (LHIP) should still be captured in the PCs draft report as the concerns raised in the report had been captured during the meeting. Hence she suggested that the draft report include the LHIP visits.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) agreed with Mr Mashego that the report should be structured so that it would not read like an essay. She observed that the DWS had not submitted any plan on consequence management to polluters that had constructed illegal dams that stopped water flow. She observed that the DWS had a core mandate of protecting people from health hazards hence the DWS had to punish defaulters. During the previous meeting, the PC had expressed concerns on the issue. However the draft recommendation does not reflect the fact that illegal polluters must be punished. Hence she suggested that the recommendations should include a phrase that a clear implementation plan on consequence management for any party involved in the construction of illegal dams.
The Chairperson reminded Members that in the previous meeting Mr Tseki had suggested that the PC had to invite DWS to clarify the issues flagged during the LHIP visit. The decision made by the PC was to ensure that clarity was given on the issues flagged on TCTA before the report on the LHIP visit was completed. Hence Mr Tseki was mentioning that the recommendation clause on the LHIP visit be removed to ensure that the DWS gives clarity to the issues flagged in the earlier meeting of the PC.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) observed that the report did not indicate how the DWS would assist the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality on dysfunctional sewer systems and does not give timelines on when the process would be completed.
The Chairperson asked the Content Advisor to take the PC through on the reasons why the draft recommendation on dysfunctional waste systems of municipalities was captured with the phrase in the draft report.
Ms Dawood said the PC could not be specific to assist Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality as other municipalities also had dysfunctional waste systems.
The Chairperson remarked that the clause on dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems for Municipalities was captured well as nearly all Municipalities had the same challenge on dysfunctional waste systems.
Ms Dawood took the PC through on the draft recommendation for dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems that leads to pollution.
The Chairperson asked if Ms Mokgotho had any more inputs on the draft recommendation for dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems.
Ms Mokgotho said the wording used in capturing the draft recommendation for dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems was too general as the challenge of dysfunctional waste systems in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality was critical.
Ms Mohlala agreed with Ms Mokgotho that the draft recommendation was not sufficient.
The Chairperson observed that this item was not on the APP but the DWS had promised to assist Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality during engagements with the PC. Furthermore, DWS had informed the PC that they had received funds to assist Municipalities with the challenge of dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems. She mentioned that the decision that the PC takes on APPs should cut across all Municipalities as DWS was collaborating with COGTA to address the challenge of dysfunctional sewer and wastewater systems in Municipalities. The Minister, DWS, and Entities should therefore come out with a plan of interventions with a timeframe for short-term, medium-term, and long-term interventions.
Ms Dawood asked Members if the timeframes for the short-term interventions should be limited to three months.
The Chairperson asked Members if the PC should recommend a short-term intervention of a timeframe of three months.
Ms Sihlwayi agreed with the proposal by the Chairperson that the short-term interventions be given a timeframe of three months because DWS was not giving the PC some reports. Further, if reports were not given in short timeframes, the recommendations could get lost. Hence to ensure that oversight functions of the PC had tangible results short-term intervention reports should be given within three months.
The Chairperson asked Members to move to adopt the recommendations with amendments.
Mr Tseki observed the words ‘regulator’ and ‘agency’ in Clause 6.10 had the same meaning.
Ms Dawood said the words had different meanings. The word ‘regulator’ means a party regulating the water tariff while the word ‘agency’ means an institution that deals with water infrastructure across the water value chain.
Mr Tseki said he was covered and moved the motion to adopt the draft report on ‘budget vote 41 on the strategic plan and annual performance plan (APP) of the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS) and its Entities’ with amendments.
The Chairperson noted that Mr Tseki had proposed the PC adopt the draft report with the amendments made by Members.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) seconded the motion to adopt the draft report on ‘budget vote 41 on the strategic plan and annual performance plan (APP) of the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS) and its Entities’ with amendments.
Ms Mokgotho said that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) abstained from the adoption of the draft report.
The Chairperson noted the position of EFF but remarked that the draft report had been adopted with amendments.
She informed Members that the next part of the agenda was on the minutes. She presented the minutes of 11 May 2021 (9.30 am -12.30 pm).
Mr Tseki observed that he did not see the last pages of the minutes that contained the clause on TCTA and specifically mentioned LHIP as the draft report has been adopted based on amendments on the LHIP visit. He recalled that the PC had agreed that the clause on LHIP visits be removed as the DWS needed to clarify some issues hence he wanted to correct the minutes.
The Chairperson reminded Mr Tseki that the engagements during the meeting of 11 May 2021 (9.30 am-12.30 pm) involved the DWS and not the LHIP visits and the issues flagged concerning TCTA. She completed the presentation of the minutes and invited Members to adopt the minutes.
Ms Sihlwayi (ANC proposed the PC adopt the minutes of 11 May 2021 (9.30 am-12.30 pm).
Mr L Basson (DA) seconded the motion to adopt the minutes of 11 May 2021 (9.30 am-12.30 pm).
The Chairperson presented the minutes of 11 May 2021 (19.00 -21.00) that addressed the APPs and strategic plan of the Catchment Management Agency areas.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) moved the motion to adopt the minutes of 11 May 2021 (19.00 -21.00).
Mr Basson seconded the motion to adopt the minutes of 11 May 2021 (19.00 -21.00).
The Chairperson presented the minutes of 14 May 2021 that addressed the APPs and strategic plan of the Water Research Commission and TCTA. She asked Mr Tseki if he had any comments.
Mr Tseki said the minutes of 14 May should reflect that the LHIP visit was not yet captured as the report had not yet been presented.
The Chairperson asked the Content Advisor to note the way the issue of the LHIP visit was resolved and ensure that it was captured correctly in the minutes of 14 May 2021. The Chairperson asked Members to state if they had any comments on the minutes of 14 May 2021 that would lead to any more amendments Members indicated that there were no further issues. Hence she asked members to move to adopt the minutes of 14 May 2021.
Ms Sihlwayi moved the motion to adopt the minutes of meeting for 14 May 2021 with amendments.
Mr Mashego seconded the motion to adopt the minutes of meeting for 14 May 2021 with amendments.
The Chairperson noted that the PC had finished the agenda for the day. She informed Members that the PC had received a request from the DWS that the engagement on water tariff determination be postponed from 25 May 2021 to 26 May 2021 because the DWS would be meeting with the media on 25 May 2021. The new meeting date is rescheduled for 26 May 2021, after the plenary meetings.
Mr Mashego noted that the change of dates would affect the engagements with SALGA.
The Chairperson noted that this was why the PC was inviting the DWS to engage on the proposed increase in water tariffs before it was implemented on 1 June 2021. The proposed date would still allow the PC to make its inputs before the implementation date of 1 June 2021.
Mr Mashego asked the Chairperson to state what would happen if the PC did not agree with the water tariff increase. He asked her to clarify if Members were being forced, as it seemed as if the DWS was just fulfilling its mandate of informing the PC.
The Chairperson remarked that the PC could register its disagreement with the DWS on the water tariff increase as the DWS was mandated to brief the PC on the water tariff increase. Usually, the PC is briefed after the implementation. However, it would be better if the PC was briefed on the water tariff increase before it was implemented.
Mr Mashego said he agreed with the Chairperson but believed that Members should have time to think about the implications of the water tariff increase.
Mr Basson said he agreed with Mr Mashego that it would look as if the DWS was just fulfilling its mandate of informing the PC about the water tariff increase. Hence Mr Basson proposed that the meeting on water tariff increase be done after the water tariff was implemented.
The Chairperson informed members that they should recall that the PC had prior meetings with the DWS on the increase in water tariffs. She asked the Content Advisor to confirm if the prior meetings on water tariff increase had been held or postponed.
The Content Advisor said that there had been follow-up meetings slated for engagements on the water tariff increase after the Minister had sent a communiqué that the water tariff would not be increased for some time. The follow-up meeting did not take place at the time scheduled. Members were also invited to note that presently the PC did not have the legislative mandate to approve or disapprove the water tariff increase even though Parliament can give its input. One issue that was raised in earlier engagements was to ensure that Parliament is included in the deliberations, but this can only occur if the National Water Act is amended. The PC is invited to consider including a clause in the National Water Act Amendment Bill that empowers Parliament to be included in deliberations on water tariff determination.
The Chairperson recalled that after the PC had engaged with the Minister on the water tariff increase the Minister had agreed that the DWS would not increase the water tariff for some time because of the economic challenges citizens had faced on the COVID-19 pandemic. She also recalled that the meeting was postponed many times and the last time Parliament meetings had ended very late even though the DWS was ready to brief the PC on the water tariff increase. Members were invited to note that Mr Basson had proposed that the meeting on water tariff increase be done after the water tariff was implemented because the PC could not influence the water tariff determination.
Ms Sihlwayi expressed concerns on the Content Advisor’s comments that the PC did not have the legislative mandate to approve water tariff increase and asked the Chairperson PC to confirm if Members had no role in the approval of water tariff rates.
The Chairperson informed Members that the Content Advisor was only reminding Members that no legislation gave Members the right to approve water tariff increases. The Minister, however, can be held accountable to Parliament on water tariff increases. Therefore, even though Parliament could not make any decision to approve water tariff increases, it can make recommendations to the Minister. Hence, during the last engagements with the Minister, the Minister had followed the recommendations of the PC and given a communiqué that there would be no increments on water tariffs for some time because COVID-19 had affected citizens’ economic livelihoods. The Content Advisor was therefore only trying to remind Members that no clause empowered Parliament to be part of the approval process as the National Water Act Amendment Bill is being processed. The proposal put forward is to decide when the engagements on water tariff determination would be held. Although Mr Basson is trying to say the PC did not have a say in the approval of water tariff increases this was not the case as the PC had intervened earlier through the Minister.
Ms Sihlwayi said that with the Chairperson’s explanation she agreed with Mr Basson that the PC engages with the DWS after the water tariff had been implemented.
The Chairperson noted that the proposal by Mr Basson to engage with DWS after the implementation of the water tariff on 1 June 2021 had been seconded by Ms Sihlwayi. She invited the Content Advisor to make her inputs.
The Content Advisor said the meeting with DWS was not only on determining if the water tariff increase should be approved by the PC but involves the report on the 2019/20 annual reports and financial statements. Postponing meeting till after the implementation of the water tariff increase on 1 June 2021 would delay the operations of water boards because at the end of May 2021 the Water Boards table their corporate agenda to the PC.
The Chairperson remarked that Members take decisions but the Chairperson and the Content Advisor could only alert Members on the implications of decisions. Since the proposal to engage with DWS after the implementation of the water tariff on 1 June 2021 had been seconded, the meeting should be after the water tariff has been implemented.
Ms Mokgotho said the PC should meet before the water tariff increase was implemented.
Ms Mohlala seconded the new proposal.
The Chairperson observed that there were two views on the water tariff determination engagements and suggested that the PC should take a vote on the proposals.
Mr Tseki said he was not sure that the PC should take a vote on the proposals and asked the Chairperson to guide the PC.
Ms Mohlala said she did not understand why the PC could not have the meeting before the water tariff increase was implemented.
The Chairperson informed Ms Mohlala that she was out of order as some Members had put across their views, and counter views had also been presented by other Members. She reminded Ms Mohlala that she could not promote her views. The proposal by some Members is not that the meeting should not be held but that the meeting should not be held on 26 May 2021. Hence she remarked that the Chairperson and Secretariat would look at the program of the PC, prioritise the matter, and choose an appropriate date for the meeting on water tariff increase.
Ms Mohlala reiterated that DWS has informed the PC that it was available for the engagements hence she expressed concerns on why the PC could not meet with the DWS on the water tariff increase before it was implemented on 1 June 2021.
The Chairperson reiterated that Ms Mohlala was out of order and remarked that the Chairperson and Secretariat would look at the PC’s program and write an application to invite the DWS to engage in the water tariff increase deliberations at an appropriate date. She further remarked that the meeting would not take place on 26 May 2021 because Members could not be forced to have meetings after they had a long day of previous engagements.
The meeting was adjourned.
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