The Portfolio Committee met on a virtual platform to adopt the its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) on the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and its entities, on the 2020/21 annual performance of the portfolio.
During the discussion on the report, Members corrected a number of grammatical errors. They also enquired about Operation Phakisa, sought clarity on the executive authority in charge of environmental programmes, and highlighted several key issues for the Department contained in the report of the Auditor-General’s office. These included the lack of consequence management, supply chain management issues, as well as the Department’s poor internal record keeping system.
The Committee also resolved that South African National Parks should be submitting quarterly reports to the Committee on its donor list.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the Annual Reports and Financial Statements; SANparks; IWPA; SAWS; SANBI & MLRF
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretariat to display on the Zoom screen the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and its entities -- South African National Parks (SanParks), the South African Weather Service (SAWS), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority -- on their annual reports and financial statements for the 2020/21 financial year.
Members made a number of grammatical corrections to the draft report.
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) sought clarity on the use of the word "legislation," as opposed to "legislations." She had checked the dictionary and thought since the word referred to more than one piece of legislation, its plural form "legislations" should be used in the report instead its singular form.
Mr N Singh (IFP) and the Chairperson both concurred with their colleague’s view and said that legislations should be the correct word, as the word specifically refers to laws, or a set of laws.
The Chairperson sought clarity on the details of Operation Phakisa. Since the Committee’s longest serving member was Mr Singh, it was suggested that he should give a few more details on the Operation to other Members after the meeting.
Ms Mbatha said that Operation Phakisa cuts across all government departments and provinces. The reason that the report included the operation was because waste management was part of Operation Phakisa. However, she was uncertain which department was in charge of the operation. However, she was aware that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) was in charge of all the harbours.
Under Programme 5, the Chairperson commented on the DFFE's low achievement rate, using the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions as a justification. She said that the Committee would await the outcome for the coming financial year, since the country was now on Alerted Level One.
Under Programme 6, Ms Mbatha sought clarity on the governmental departments responsible for environmental programmes. She wanted to know whether those programmes were managed through the DPWI only, or if other government departments and other spheres of government, such as municipalities, were also involved. To her knowledge, some entities managing waste management programmes. Her concern was that the programme was not well-implemented by the Department.
The Chairperson said her understanding was that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was managed by the DPWI, and that was where the authority lay. Given that authority, the DPWI could decide which entity or levels of government could be the implementing agents to carry out projects. The purpose of the EPWP was to create temporary employment for people.
Ms Mbatha said that the environmental programmes were not part of the EPWP programmes, but from her observation, were managed and funded in some cases by municipalities. Usually young people or graduates were hired to handle environmental problems such as waste management.
The Chairperson re-emphasised the point that it still fell under the EPWP, which made the DPWI the department that has the authority to decide its implementing bodies.
Ms Mbatha acknowledged the Chairperson’s response, and emphasised the need for the Committee to receive regular updates on the progress of Operation Phakisa. She stressed the importance of waste management and the environmental impact of the country, so the Committee needed to know more details to enable it to better perform its oversight duty.
Under point 4.8, the Chairperson expressed her concern over the lack of achievement, as only six out of the 12 targets had been achieved.
Ms A Weber (DA) commented on point 7.1, highlighting the two important issues contained in the Auditor-General’s (AG's) findings. Those were consequence management and supply chain management (SCM) issues. She believed that those two points needed to be included in the Committee’s recommendations.
Mr Singh sought clarity on the recommendations in section 7.1, asking if they were for the Committee or for the executives.
The Committee Content Advisor clarified that the Section 7.1 recommendations were made by the Auditor-General’s office for the Committee. The recommendations for the Department could be found in the next few pages in the report.
Ms Weber emphasised the importance of the internal control systems for the Department under bullet number 4 in section 7.3 of the report. She said that the proper keeping of receipts, invoices, and any records of such nature, needed to be improved. It was also an aspect which the Auditor-General’s office had picked up.
On section 7.6, referring to SanParks, Mr Singh believed that the Committee should be getting a quarterly report from the entity on its donor list.
Ms Weber said the Committee should be receiving a monthly report instead of a quarterly one, since SanParks already made a monthly report to the Minister.
The Chairperson said three months made more sense, because the Committee met with the entities every quarter.
The report was adopted.
The Committee's minutes for the meeting on 17 November 2021 were adopted, following a correction to the initials of Ms Weber.
Mr Singh enquired about the Committee’s programmes on 10 December. He was uncertain whether the Committee would have sufficient time to meet with the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), given its full day of scheduled meetings and the plenary. He thus suggested changing the programme and postponing the meeting with the NGOs to early next year.
The Chairperson was concerned that it would show bad faith on the part of the Committee, as those NGOs which were also from Members’ constituencies had requested to meet with the Committee.
Ms Weber suggested changing the meeting with the NGOs to either a Wednesday or a Thursday night, so that Members would get a chance to meet with those NGOs.
Members agreed to her proposal.
The meeting was adjourned.
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