Government support: engagement with Ministers in the Presidency, Finance, COGTA

Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery

12 August 2022
Chairperson: Mr C Frolick (ANC) & Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

Video (Part 1)

Video (Part 2)

Video (Part 3)

The Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery convened in a hybrid oversight for briefings by the Minister of Finance, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), representing the Minister in the Presidency, as well as the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), represented by the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). The purpose of the meeting was to gain an understanding of the level of support provided by government to assist the affected communities in affected provinces and municipalities.

Members were concerned that the slow pace at which affected communities were being assisted was due to the incapacity of officials at the municipal level. National Treasury (NT) was requested to assist municipalities with the paperwork to fast-track interventions. The Minister of Finance acknowledged the lack of capacity at municipalities, but disagreed with the suggestion that NT should provide assistance. The Minister of COGTA advised that Cabinet proposed a review of the available capacity at municipalities and at national departments to address skills and personnel shortages.

Members observed that the presentations provided detailed information on relief interventions in the KwaZulu-Natal province, but limited information on disaster management activities in the North West (NW) and Northern Cape (NC) provinces was available. The Minister of Finance agreed to investigate and report back to the Committee on the matter.

The role of the DPME came under scrutiny. Members were of the opinion that the implementing departments, instead of the monitoring department, should report to the Committee. The DPME acknowledged the shortcomings in its report, and agreed to develop a reporting framework in collaboration with COGTA. The two departments would, in future, account collectively to the Committee.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Minister of Finance would unpack the progress and challenges that may exist to access finance for flood disaster relief interventions. The Committee would have to reflect on the responsiveness of government to natural disasters. Disasters were happening worldwide and were not unique to South Africa. Reports of rivers drying up and people being displaced in the United States of America, Australia and Spain, highlighted the challenge of climate change. He invited the Minister of Finance to make his opening remarks.

Minister of Finance's remarks
Mr Enoch Godongwana, Minister of Finance, commented on the relocation of Parliament, considering the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of savings had been made due to officials not having to fly for work purposes.

Reflecting on climate change and natural disasters, he reminded Members of similar disasters in 2019, but acknowledged that the magnitude of the recent floods was more disastrous. He referred to a belt in the Eastern Cape (EC) where disasters happen every year. It was becoming more important to plan properly from a developmental perspective. In April 2021, the President had been informed of a fund in the budget, consisting of four grants totalling R1 billion, which were available for immediate relief -- the R1 billion was in the bank.

Most government officials were aware that in terms of the process, a piece of paper was needed to access funds from National Treasury (NT). After engaging with the newly appointed KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Premier, officials had been working with the NT and funds were beginning to flow. He was hoping that lessons had been learnt on how to develop a system of disaster preparedness, because disasters would be a feature of every society in future. Once a disaster was gazetted, the normal procurement process should not apply, but should be agile in response to immediate societal needs. The President and NT would be assessing the funds made available in the immediate relief, repair and recovery phases. The decision would be tabled in the Adjustment Budget in Parliament.

National Treasury briefing
Ms Ulrike Britten, Chief Director: Urban Development and Infrastructure, NT, presented an overview of the allocation and spending on disaster relief from the NT perspective. As at the end of July 2022, R5.3 billion had been made available for disaster response. The amount included R4.6 billion that was allocated through reprioritisation. To date, only R674 million of the R1 billion made available for immediate relief had been approved for disbursement. The 2022/23 fiscal framework included a contingency reserve of R5 billion for unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure.

See presentation for further details

The Chairperson remarked that the numbers and figures were telling a story for Members to consider. Accessing the R1 billion remained a question, although he had noticed some movement in this regard.

Ms N Mente (EFF) said the report was long overdue and was supposed to detail how much money had been received and allocated for disaster relief interventions. In a normal functional system, the Office of the Minister of Finance was supposed to assist the affected people on the day that the State of Disaster had been declared, but the Office had not taken charge, although it was aware that the system at the municipal level was dysfunctional. She wanted to know how much money was available to assist the affected people. Almost 70% of children affected by the floods in KZN had given up on returning to school. Living in community centres deprives those children of a normal functional household and the ability to attend school.

She questioned if the Office of the Minister of Finance and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) offices had an idea of how much was needed, and how much had been allocated to assist the more than 3 000 households affected by the floods. She sensed a lack of coordination on the ground. She urged the Minister of Finance to lead and coordinate the relief measures and to deal with the dysfunctionality at a later stage.

She sought clarity on the three different prices for the temporary residential units (TRUs) in the three affected provinces. She wanted to know why no allocation had been made to the North West province. She requested the Minister of Finance to hold the Minister responsible for Small Business Development accountable for the R60 million made available for disaster response that had not been utilised, even though small businesses had been destroyed during the pandemic.

Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if the pockets of money available for disaster relief were enough to address the consequences of the disaster. On declaring the State of Disaster, the President announced that R1 billion was immediately available, and Parliament should be approached for additional resources. He asked for an update on the process of accessing additional resources. He drew attention to the R200 million required to fund the 457 applications received from small businesses, but only R60 million had been allocated to assist them. He asked if additional resources would be allocated to assist small businesses.

Ms D Direko (ANC) acknowledged the assistance provided to date, but said more still needed to be done, as people were still staying in shelters. The situation posed risks of gender-based violence (GBV) and Covid-19 outbreaks. She asked if the pace of support could be fast-tracked. Was the NT providing support to municipalities that seemed not to have the capacity to access the funds? The Auditor-General's (AG's) report highlighted municipalities as bad spenders of public funds. She was concerned that the money would be used for purposes other than disaster relief. She asked if a plan was in place to deal with future disasters, considering the challenges of poor spatial planning in some areas.

Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC) appreciated the schooling on the immediate relief grant process. She agreed that the capacity to use this money was lacking because people had not had their dignity restored four months after the disaster occurred. She believed that where the money was coming from, and how it was being allocated, was being under-reported. She asked how the more than R300 million used by the KZN departments had been accounted for, and if the NT would approve allocations from provincial coffers. She wanted to know if all of the R1 billion would be utilised.

Ms M Lesoma (ANC) reminded Members and officials to appreciate the fact that they were engaging on behalf of the public. Government must communicate in simple terms, similar to the way it was done during the Covid-19 lockdown phases. She thought it would have been helpful if the R1 billion was explained to Members and the public upfront. She questioned why the NT assisted municipalities with claiming from insurance companies while being aware that municipalities were expected to reprioritise their budgets. She asked if some of the regulations would be relaxed to assist the Departments of Human Settlements and Social Development, which were expected to serve communities living in community centres. Disaster relief should extend beyond three months to help rebuild communities. She welcomed the in-person attendance of the Minister and his team. This positive spirit was a sign that the work was moving in the right direction.

Ms L Beebee (ANC, KZN) asked if the NT was providing support to the affected provinces to ensure that funds allocated were used for the specified relief interventions. She wanted to know why expenditure by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) was not reflected on slide 14 of the presentation.

Mr M Mashego (ANC) said he better understood the situation and felt enlightened by the information provided. On a visit to KZN, he had sensed anger about the R1 billion that had been declared but was not made available. It was later clarified that the R1 billion was meant for all affected provinces, not only for KZN. A week after the disaster occurred, the President had instructed the Minister of Finance to facilitate access to the funds. He asked what would justify the request for more funds if the R1 billion had not yet been spent. Four months down the line, only R674 million of the R5.2 billion available funds had been spent.

He did not agree that NT officials must assist municipalities who were not able to utilise the funds. Municipal officials were elected to enable spending. The NT was not a branch of government and it was unacceptable to suggest that the Minister of Finance take over the municipalities' responsibilities. If the donkey did not want to drink water, it must be led to the dam. It was painful that people in KZN were drinking water from ponds while municipalities were unable to spend money made available to get relief.

Mr L Mangcu (ANC) remarked that the presentation had been 'kort en bondig' (short and concise). Following the analogy of the previous speaker, he said the Minister could lead the donkey to the dam but could not make it drink. The money was supposed to have been available in the immediate relief phase, but the time of immediate relief had passed. He asked what the time frames were in terms of the different disaster relief phases. The issue of TRUs, which he labelled as 'glorified shacks,' was a sensitive matter because of the price difference in the affected provinces. He wanted to know if a cap could be placed on the cost of the TRUs.

He queried if the lack of information on human settlements expenditure in the Eastern Cape was due to a reporting backlog, or if it was a reporting issue. The South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) was reported to have spent a lot of money on road maintenance in the Eastern Cape. He asked how the money was accounted for, considering that the province had applied for reprioritisation of the road maintenance grant. On a visit to the Eastern Cape, Members had been informed that municipalities were using the funds for goods other than disaster relief. He requested an explanation for not listing the expenditure of all goods in the representation. He found the information useful, and asked if the NT could assist the Committee by joining future engagements with other departments.

Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) said the Minister in the Presidency, who represented the Minister of Finance in the last meeting, had left Members with a sickening feeling. It was not helpful to talk about being hopeful when people were still living in shelters four months into the national disaster. As an activist, the Minister of Finance should be equally concerned about the situation of flood victims. She asked what the plan was to ensure affected people received decent housing. The popular view was about temporary housing units. She wanted to make sure that the money was spent to restore the dignity of the black child. She sought clarity on why no money had been allocated to the North West, and suggested that the province was being treated as a stepchild.

The Co-Chairperson replied that the North West was being treated like any other province, without political affiliation, and disagreed with the stepchild notion. He called on the Minister of Finance to respond to the questions raised.

Minister's response
Minister Godongwana agreed that it would have been helpful if the presentation had been shared earlier with Members. He approved the idea of an NT official sitting in on Committee meetings. In his view, the process of holding Ministers to account should change. It seemed incorrect that Ministers were being asked about under-spending, but the under-spenders were not being questioned. The national departments should account for under-spending. Funding for TRUs was available at the emergency relief level. The Department of Water and Sanitation must make sure that water tankers are available.

He said government was considering a number of factors to ensure that sufficient funds would be made available for unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure. Funds may be accessed provided that the means test was met. He acknowledged that the government would have to go back to the drawing board on managing disasters from a financial perspective—the capacity problem needed to be solved across all government departments. Municipalities were supposed to submit a document indicating the estimated costs and the number of TRUs to be built, to give the NT an idea of what the money would be used for. The Minister undertook to investigate and report back on the TRU unit costs. He said prices depended on the situation in each province, but agreed that a standard price per province should be set for TRUs similar to the standardised prices for classrooms.

The Minister of Finance suggested that live audits should be conducted, similar to monitoring personal protective equipment (PPE) expenses by the Auditor-General (AG) during the Covid-19 period. Disaster relief was available to all affected people with a limited timeframe for immediate relief. As an activist, he was not satisfied with the pace at which the matter was being handled. There was no reason for not allocating funds if there was a suitable plan to develop proper housing. He remarked that it was the duty of the NT to allocate money, but the starting point to any request was to say "no." The NT was not anti-development, but claims needed to be substantiated through engagement with the NT's officials. He was satisfied with the spirit and tone of the proceedings.

National Treasury response
Ms Britten said that the R60 million allocated for small business development had not been appropriated because small business requests did not meet the requirements. She explained the difference between orders and spending was that payment was made once the service was delivered, or the structure was completed. The AG warned against pre-payments. Concerns had been raised about the R700 million estimated by the KZN Human Settlements Department, when the NT had approved an emergency housing grant of R325 million to construct 4 000 TRUs.

The lack of reporting on NW province was not a mistake. It could be that the NT had not received the report on reprioritisation of grants, or that the province had neglected to report on the reprioritisation of grants. She undertook to follow up on the matter.

In response to the matter of deadlines for unforeseeable and unavoidable expenses, Minister Godongwana said that requests had to be evaluated to determine if the criteria were met. The Treasury Committee, chaired by the President, would present the Adjustment Appropriation Bill in the medium term budget policy statement (MTBPS) on 26 October.

The Co-Chairperson commented that he was pleased that the Minister had agreed to have an NT official sitting in on Committee meetings. Provinces would also be requested to assist with clarifying matters on the ground. The issue of committees working in silos must be addressed. He said the Committee was clear on the different spheres of government. For example, Directors-General (DGs) should be referred to as the DG of the department, and not the DG of the legislature. The Committee had a better sense of what was happening, which was different to previous engagements with the Minister via the virtual platform. He said the Minister had not been properly represented in his absence. The spirit of engagement must be kept alive.

Minister Godongwana, in his closing remarks, undertook to report back on the North West issue and to assist the Committee in generating accurate information if it meant that an NT official was required to join Committee meetings. Accountability for public funds should become a norm, in light of what happened with Covid-19 expenditure. He agreed that virtual meetings lent themselves to talking past each other.

The Co-Chairperson announced a 15-minute break. He excused the Minister and said it would be good to have the NT official present during the next two presentations.

DPME overview on flood disaster relief and recovery interventions
Ms Thembi Siweya, Deputy Minister in the Presidency: Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), said the Department was responding to the request of the Committee to develop a matrix of interventions and measures in collaboration with COGTA, to enable government to monitor developments on disaster interventions and to communicate progress with affected communities.

A matrix of key indicators for monitoring flood disaster interventions was included in the presentation. The matrix covered 12 intervention areas with roughly 45 indicators to monitor outcomes of interventions. Key intervention areas included humanitarian relief, human settlements and housing, school facilities, electricity infrastructure, water and sanitation, landfill sites, roads and bridges, rail infrastructure, public buildings and support for business planning and resource mobilisation. The matrix followed a result-based framework that was adopted by the National Joint Flood Coordination Committee as an approach for organising interventions.

Dr Robert Nkuna, DG, DPME, was mindful of the time allocated for the presentation and assured Members that adequate time would be allowed for engagement.

Mr Godfrey Mashamba, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Evidence and Knowledge Systems, DPME, presented an overview of the flood disaster relief and recovery interventions based on the developed matrix. Activities and outcomes of some of the key intervention areas were:

Provision for humanitarian support

KZN estimates showed 82 missing persons, and 17 deceased persons who had not been positively identified. New arrangements for the continuation of psychosocial support were recommended after social workers reverted to their normal duties.

Oversight monitoring activities on human settlement interventions

Increased provision of TRUs had enabled the relocation of 1 314 people from 40 mass care centres in eThekwini. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) provided 200 permanent structures for indigent families in KZN.

Repair of schools

By 30 June 2022, deep cleaning had been completed at 274 schools, and 65 mobile classrooms had been provided to 24 schools in KZN. Contracts had been awarded for repairs of Eastern Cape (EC) schools. At the time of reporting, no data on damaged schools had been provided by NW and Northern Cape (NC) provinces.

Health sector

Water supply functionality had been restored to 11 KZN health care facilities relying on water tankers. Repairs at health care facilities in EC were at various stages of procurement. No information on damage to health care facilities in NC and NW was available.

Electricity infrastructure

Electricity supply had been restored to most areas in KZN. Close monitoring and ongoing repairs were still required until the whole system was stabilised.

Bulk water infrastructure

KZN estimated R2.2 billion for short-term emergency repairs to wastewater treatment plants, water infrastructure and sewer infrastructure facilities. The long-term estimate to fix bulk water infrastructure was R7.7 billion. KZN had been requested to provide a detailed report on progress of repairs to bulk water infrastructure.

Roads and bridges

Construction of a new road within the Port of Durban had commenced. A budget of R242 million for building pedestrian and vehicle bridges in KZN had been confirmed.

See presentation for further details

Mr Mangcu felt frustrated by the presentation and sought clarity on the recommendations. It was unclear which entity was expected to implement the DPME's recommendations. He did not find it helpful to report on the assessment and costing of damage being finalised, but would instead have expected feedback on whether the assessment had been finalised. He wanted to know who was supposed to help the provinces to adopt and implement guidelines for administering non-governmental organisations (NGO) contributions, as recommended by the DPME. Four provinces had been affected by damage to homes, but the breakdown in numbers was listed only for the EC and KZN districts. He sought clarity on why the figures for the NC and NW districts were not being reported.

He questioned the role of the DPME in reporting missing and deceased persons without indicating what must be done about the matter. Could DNA or other forensic tools not have been used to identify the 17 deceased persons? He requested the DPME to investigate the claim by EC officials that they were unable to treat areas of natural vegetation, such as in Port St Johns, for fear of being fined. He wanted to know if reporting on the resumption of operations by the business sector had been provided for information purposes. He proposed that the recommendations be packaged for the relevant portfolio committees to monitor, emphasising tracking the progress of recommended actions.

Mr Mashego questioned the idea of the DPME being an accounting department to the Committee, and the need for a presentation of this nature. He suggested that it would be better for the implementing department to account to the Committee. He argued that the DPME was instead an internal mechanism for Cabinet. He sought clarity on the official position of displaced and relocated people in the NW and NC provinces.

Ms Beebee asked if the Department had ever requested disaster impact reports on infrastructure projects. She was wondering whether disaster impact reports should not become mandatory legislation for all new developments. She requested that detailed reports of the disaster relief activities which the DPME had undertaken be made available to the Committee.

Ms Mente got the sense that the DPME was not performing its own monitoring, and that it was being misled by people monitoring on their behalf. Information in the DPME report differed from conditions on the ground. She asked if the Department was aware of the submerged households in the NW province. Based on her information, the report that everyone had returned home was false. She found it interesting that R75 million had been allocated for water tankers on a 90-day provision basis. To her, this signalled that something was wrong. She reiterated that the office was being fed with incorrect information, and asked for a report that reflected the monitoring done by the office of the DPME.

Mr S Zandamela (EFF, Mpumalanga) urged the Chairpersons to pay attention to the NW issue. Four months after the event, the support for informal traders was still unfolding, which he regarded as a serious problem.

Ms Mkhaliphi agreed that there was a lack of monitoring by the DPME. She reported on the Buthelezi family, who had lost three family members in the flood. The family had been struggling with interventions by government, but was recently informed that the ward councillor, who visited them on the eve of the funeral, had claimed on their behalf.

She sought clarity on the NW issue, and questioned what the Department was doing to assist with the challenges in the province. A list of more than 300 people with housing needs had been submitted. She requested a breakdown of beneficiaries of the rebuilt houses. She criticised the Department for not reporting on the issue of missing people. Families were still traumatised, but it appeared to be business as usual. She drew attention to the communication gap between government officials and communities. The Deputy Minister should be made accountable for addressing communities on the challenges of the disaster.

Mr Rayi thought it was a waste of time for the DPME to report on monitoring if it was not responsible for the implementation. Reports should rather be obtained from the implementing departments, to enable the Committee to follow up on the recommendations. Visits to the NW province were last made in May. No further dates in terms of actual visits and real-time monitoring to track construction of TRUs and road maintenance had been reported. The report referred to the 84 missing persons without offering a solution to the problem. He asked if the government had given up on recovering the missing people.

Not all departments had responded to the circular issued by the Department to facilitate the revision of annual performance plans (APPs) and strategic plans. He wanted to know if this meant that budgets had not been reprioritised by non-respondents. He asked what the effect would be if strategic plans and budgets were not revised, and requested that an update on the implementation of recommendations be made available. He sought clarity on the reporting line of the Department.

DPME's response
Deputy Minister Siweya agreed that a reporting framework must be established in collaboration with COGTA, to work together and account collectively. She understood that the DPME was responsible for assisting government with planning and bringing stakeholders on board. The Department assigned responsibilities to the respective departments in terms of short- and long-term plans, and was in the process of creating a seamless process. She requested the Committee to allow time for the finalisation of the process, after which feedback would be provided collectively with COGTA.

She acknowledged that the engagement had alerted the Department to its shortcomings. She wanted to know how the Department could be legislatively empowered to correct the shortcomings. The aim was to develop a framework as a tool to use in the future, similar to what had been done for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Nkuna welcomed the engagement with the Committee. The DPME was an important part of the work of the Committee. He appealed to Members to view the DPME as a department that provided information. He drew attention to the powers granted to COGTA in terms of the Disaster Management Act, and suggested that the Act should be reviewed to include the role of the DPME. He undertook to submit a decision matrix with responses to all the questions raised by the end of the week ending 20 August. The Department would return to discuss its assessment and provide more concise responses to assist the work of the Committee.

The Co-Chairperson said the decision matrix should be submitted sooner rather than later to avoid the misalignment of processes. The written responses would assist the Committee in covering as much ground as possible in the preliminary report.

Deputy Minister Siweya said the Department would be working on improving the report. She appreciated the honest and robust engagement, and noted the concerns raised by Members.

COGTA overview on interventions and response to the flood disaster
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of COGTA, said that Mr Jurgens Dyssel, Acting Head, National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), would present the status of government's interventions and its response to the flood disaster in terms of three phases -- the immediate humanitarian relief, stabilisation and recovery, and rehabilitation and reconstruction. She would provide an update on people living in shelters after the presentation.

Mr Dyssel presented an overview of the status of the integrated and coordinated approach of government's immediate response and interventions to the flood disaster that had affected the EC, KZN and NW provinces. The three-phase approach was adopted to better coordinate the response, recovery and rehabilitation interventions in all the affected provinces. Based on assessment, the affected provinces were at different phases at the time of reporting.

Immediate humanitarian relief

Displaced families had been provided shelter at mass care centres, which were projected to be closed by the end of December 2022. As at the end of June, all displaced people in the NW province had returned to their homes. In KZN, 736 TRUs had been completed and handed over to families for occupation in phase one. Procurement for construction of additional TRUs had been cleared by the provincial Treasury and real time auditors for phase two. The pre-award assessment for procuring material to repair damaged houses had been concluded. Supply chain management was to proceed with the ordering. Eight sites had been identified for TRUs in the eThekwini Metro to resettle people living in flood-prone areas.

Stabilisation and recovery

The NDMC had allocated the total 2022/23 budget allocation of R516 748 000 for disaster relief grants to municipalities in the EC and KZN provinces, to support disaster response interventions. R145 328 00 of the provincial Disaster Response Grant had been added to the R371 420 000 of the municipal Disaster Response Grant for allocation to municipalities. The funds were earmarked for interventions to stabilise and recover health services and infrastructure, water, sanitisation, electrical and school infrastructure.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction

Given that the reallocation and reprioritisation of funds would not be adequate to address all the flood damage, additional funding was needed to address unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure to reconstruct and rehabilitate damaged municipal infrastructure. KZN had submitted a request for more than R2.9 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation interventions, while the EC had requested R50 million.

See presentation for further details

Ms Mkhaliphi addressed the Minister of COGTA on the issue of the Buthelezi family, who had not received any assistance with the loss of three family members. The ward councillor was reported to have claimed on behalf of the family, but was not responding to their questions. She was expecting a response from the Minister, because she needed to report back to the family.

She asked for an update on the list of 300 families who needed assistance, because the Housing Development Agency (HDA) official in eThekwini was not communicating with the families. She wanted to know if COGTA was coordinating with other departments regarding its challenges in providing TRUs. It seemed that the capacity to meet the 2023 timeframe was lacking. She wanted to understand how the District Development Model could be used as a tool to address the disaster.

Ms Mente said the Premier and COGTA were advised to create a system for storing the DNA of families, as this would allow for easy identification of fatalities and unidentified bodies. She was unhappy that the process had been described as tedious, because families were finding it very difficult, not being able to bury their family members. It seemed there was no plan to fast-track the process of recovering the more than 80 missing persons. It was unacceptable that the identification of 17 bodies had not been finalised. A system change was required to store the DNA of every citizen, similar to what had been done in other countries.

She found the NW issue painful. The figures in emergency housing had not changed since the last report, which meant that the report was old and no one was paying attention to the affected people in the NW province. The numbers were not adding up. 335 families had been affected, but the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) and the NT reported that more than 800 people had gone back to their homes. Clinics in the EC province had become inaccessible because SANRAL was not attending to rebuilding roads. COGTA should understand that the needs of people in the EC province were different because, compared to other provinces, most people had not lost their homes.

Mr Rayi said he had been expecting the presentation to show how the money transferred to municipalities had been spent. He requested a breakdown of expenditure to date. He asked for an explanation about extending the deadline to 17 August for contingency fund applications.

Ms Lesoma understood that there were champions in various districts to coordinate the activities of all spheres of government to fast-track interaction with communities. She was hopeful that the establishment of the Committee would specifically speed up relief. She sought clarity from the Minister about the ward councillor who had taken money meant to relieve an affected family. She was under the impression that bank accounts of beneficiaries were scrutinised. Section 139 was invoked to address capacity problems at municipalities, but the government seemed unable to coordinate the work of municipalities. She wanted to know if COGTA was assisting municipalities in submitting insurance claims. What tool was available through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) to assist with the reconstruction of assets of communities?

Ms Beebee noted that more than R3 billion would be allocated in the 2022 Adjustment Estimates Bill for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in the EC and KZN. She wanted to know if the funds were available in the fiscus, or if the budgets of specific departments would be reprioritised. She asked if the country would be investing in ecological infrastructure, to lengthen the lifespan of existing infrastructure.

Mr Mashego said an impression might be created that Members had not read the document. The disaster had started in 2022, but the commitment for emergency housing in NW and KZN had been extended to 2023. He asked if the period could not be shortened, considering that the emergency period ended in October 2022. He was concerned that the government was not acting as if it was a state of disaster, but was continuing with business as usual.

Mr Dyssel explained that a disaster, by its nature, affected the capacity to respond because of the pressure on resources and the need to respond in the shortest possible time. In addition to responding to the disaster, the existing vulnerabilities of communities also had to be addressed. Capacity building programmes and workshops were being used to improve the capacity at municipalities. Scholarships and bursaries had been allocated to develop robust disaster management systems. He undertook to include a table on the allocation of expenditure in future presentations. He explained that the role of the District Model was to spearhead the implementation of projects and facilitate working opportunities. The integrated approach was applied with the rollout of reconstruction programmes.

Ms Britten said that the R3 billion request for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in the EC and KZN was being considered by the President. The issue of ecological infrastructure highlighted the importance of maintenance -- for example, keeping rivers clean and dealing with invasive plants. She said ecological infrastructure was mainly an asset management issue.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma said that DNA testing had been done on the unidentified bodies, and the DNA testing of relatives of missing persons would be done in the near future. Discussions were ongoing to finalise an agreement between the police and health departments in this regard.

She said it was not true that money meant for the Buthelezi family had been paid to the councillor's account. Based on information from the COGTA MEC, the money had been paid to the Beekay Funeral Parlour [spelling not confirmed], which had conducted the funeral.

The Co-Chairperson said a proper investigation of the matter was needed to understand what had happened and ensure that the family could get closure.

Minister Dlamini Zuma, in her concluding remarks, said the difficulties of people living in shelters and not taken to TRUs or other housing units, were being attended to. The identification of land for rebuilding was a big challenge. The damage to infrastructure far outstripped the available resources. She called for honesty in the discussion about the lack of capacity. It was a problem not only in municipalities but also in national departments due to personnel shortages. Cabinet therefore proposed a review of the system and available capacity at the municipal and national levels.

The Co-Chairperson said that Members of the Committee would return to KZN in two weeks. An invitation would be extended to the AG and officials of the Department. The visit would demonstrate the continued commitment of Members, four months after the event. Lessons had been learnt from the engagements that would assist in visiting a seamless exercise. The Committee was looking forward to the preliminary consolidated report. He had found the discussions eye-opening.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their participation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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