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WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
26 MAY 2004
DEPARTMENT STRATEGIC PLAN: BRIEFING
Chairperson Mr. B Komphela (ANC)
Documents handed out:
DWAF Strategic Plan presentation
DWAF Budget Vote 34
Representatives from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) presented the Department's Strategic plan and answered questions. Members were especially concerned about the transfer of water provision services from the Department to municipalities.
Introduction by Director General
The Director General, Mr. Mike Muller, said that the Department's work with the Committee was very important, and that the Committee's oversight and constituency work provided the Department with important information about what was happening on the ground.
He went on to say that it was important to make the mandate of the Department clear and that the Strategic Plan be interrogated with the mandate of the Department as background. He added that planning should lead to the budget. He also clarified that although for members of the Committee the provision of water and sanitation was a key issue, the role of the Department was changing in this regard. The targets on p10 and 11 of the Strategic Framework were approved recently by Cabinet. In terms of the transfer of water services there was a joint position paper on this agreed to by the various stakeholders.
The Chair asked whether the municipalities were ready for the transfer of water services.
Mr. Muller explained that the competency was given to municipalities in terms of the Constitution and it was only a question of how quickly this is implemented. The process had been slow. All the monies which had previously been in DWAF's budget for the provision of services has now been transferred to Department of Provincial and Local Government. He also mentioned that the Division of Revenue Act had been passed.
A member (ANC) asked regarding the position of the Water Boards.
Mr. Maluleke (DA) asked what would happen if the Municipalities did not follow their orders
Mrs van der Walt (DA) asked about the position of bulk water which goes to the District and not local municipalities. She asked if the Department would be able to deal with problems.
Mr. Sibuyana (IFP) asked how the budget was compiled.
Mr. Ramphele (ANC) asked what the extent of the capacity of municipalities was and if the transfers were taking place only after they had the capacity.
He asked about unconditional grants and whether the water allocation is part of this. He added that if this was the case it would be a problem.
He then asked whether there had been studies done to see which municipalities are viable.
The Chair asked whether the lack of involvement by the Department in water provision had led to a decrease in the provision of water, noting that the municipalities cannot have the competency that the Department has, with its experience.
Mr. Muller noted that the Water Boards remain accountable to the Department, and that they did not get any money from the Department. He added that there is a process under way to review the role of the Water Boards which is being done in conjunction with the Water Boards and SALGA.
Mr. Muller said that the issue of what happens if a municipality does not follow the conditions of the grant is a problem that the government is grappling with. He added that this is an issue for DPLG as well. He said that it is not absolutely clear except what is in the Statute which is not specific.
On the issue of bulk water he said that the powers and functions were made clear by Minister Mufumadi. He added that the departments are trying to work in co-ordination with many different departments and that various departments had made input although the final decision was made by DPLG.
In terms of how money is allocated he said that the approach is to plan and then budget according to that. Who gets what is decided by a formula developed by DPLG. Municipalities will get money according to need and not according to their capability to spend it.
In terms of the transfers he said that the legal position is that the transfers are a negotiated process which is ongoing and the issue of capacity is included as a factor. He added that it is a difficult process but it must be agreed by all parties.
He said that the water grant is not unconditional but a conditional grant. He added that even the equitable share which is unconditional must be spent on basic services.
On the issue of the possible slowing in the provision in services he said that the Department was still being held to certain targets so it must give the support to local authorities that they need in order to achieve these targets.
The Chair then excused Mr. Muller who was attending another meeting but would rejoin this one later on.
The Chair noted on a matter raised in the last Committee meeting about how members should address each other, that the Rules Committee had in 1994 said that members must refer it each other respectfully. He had been advised that he should use his discretion, and that nick names and first names were not acceptable. In the NA people should refer to each other as Honorable member, but the Committees could determine their own process. He said that in this committee people could refer to each other as Comrade or Honorable member and should not refer to each other in ways which make them feel uncomfortable.
Presentation on the Strategic Plan
Ms Modiba (DWAF) greeted members and said that it was important to explain the planning process of the Department. She said that in 2001 the government had drafted 5 main strategic thrusts of government. Departments must look at the government objectives that relate to their Department and then set up a strategic plan. This would provide an overview of the Department, which must then develop a business plan. Staff performance is assessed in terms of the Business plan. See her presentation document.
The Chair asked for breakdowns in the staff according to gender, race and disability and youth.
Ms Modiba replied that on p 54 of the strategic plan there was a breakdown of race and gender but not disability, but she added that this aspect is covered in the Annual Report. She added that a new target of 75% black was set in Sept last year. P55 provides a comprehensive breakdown of the structure of the Department.
The Chair said that the issue of disability must be there and the issue of women must be forfronted.
Ms Modiba said that the Department was struggling with the challenge of reaching disability targets.
The Chair said that he was looking forward to seeing progress in this area.
Mr.Maluleke (DA) asked what sense of urgency was given to infrastructure development.
Mrs. Ndzanga (ANC) asked a question about ageing engineers referred to in the presentation. She asked if it had occurred to the Department to bring science and engineering students in for training to develop a reserve pool.
Mr. Arendse (ANC) asked if a final assessment had been make in the area of forestry. He asked where the indigenous forests are and who owns and manages them. He asked what protection indigenous trees enjoyed. He also asked if indigenous trees are defined by the National Forestry Act.
A member asked about woods such as the Blackwood which have commercial value. He asked how they are used and regarding local and export markets for them.
He then asked about the waste of money in the Department and the use of consultants. He asked what progress had been made in terms of recruiting good people in the Department.
Mr. Sibuyana (IFP) asked if there was a plan in place for the problem of people taking wood because they have no electricity.
On the comment made by Mrs. Ndzanga he noted that it would not help to take in youngsters from universities as they have no experience. He asked if it was not possible to keep older people.
He asked if it would be possible to develop infrastructure in areas where it does not exist.
Mr. Ramphele, acting as Chair while Mr. Komphela was out, asked the Department to respond only the the questions relating to the first part of the presentation.
Ms Modiba said that on the issue of engineers and losing experienced staff, the Department had a mentoring process in place and that there was also a learnership programme as well as a bursary scheme. She added that managers are compelled to manage this process and to ensure that future staff needs are planned for.
The Chair noted that it would be important for the Department to let the Committee know about vacancies etc so that they could inform people in the regions.
Ms Modiba agreed that this was important.
On the question of consultants she said that it was important to reduce their reliance on the consultants and to have the skills. However if a skill is needed and there was no one in the Department to provide it then they have to employ a consultant.
Mr Mathebe noted that it seemed that many of the consultants were previously employees of the Department. He suggested a ban on such appointments.
The Chair noted that it was important to look at the size of the staff that are consultants and what is spent on them.
The Chair asked about the implementation of Free Basic Water, and the problem of municipalities not being able to provide FBW. He asked how many were able to provide the 6kl and how many provided more.
Mr. Ramphele asked about the issue of workers on farms being evicted and the issue of water supply being used as a weapon by farmers to evict them. He asked what the Department was doing about this.
Mr. Sibuyana asked about the notion of SA being water stressed. He asked if the Department thought that all possible means of getting water had been considered. He added that in some areas game reserves have water but communities on their borders do not. He said that even in the Caprivi strip where there are no rivers people have water.
Mr. Maluleke asked if the SADC had had any talks about other schemes like the Lesotho Highlands water project.
Mr Mathebe asked about the transfer of entities to the Water User Associations - would they be able to sustain.
The Department responded to the question of FBW by saying that it supports the municipalities and monitors them. Not all municipalities provide FBW but 96% have a policy on it. 32m people have access to water.
On the issue of farmworkers the Department said that municipalities have difficult conditions putting services onto private land. The Act has a provision on the rights of people to access water, and there are common law rights so it would be easy in court to argue for the rights of farm workers, but not easy in practice. The Department can intervene but only if it knows about the infringement of rights.
The Chair noted that the Department has an obligation to provide information on these rights to the Committee so that it can spread the information.
On the issue of Water Stress Mr. Muller noted that the Department knows how much water there is and how many people need to use it. On this basis SA has little water. He added that it is important to look at the alternatives for getting water, but also at the cost effectiveness of these methods. He added that the National Water Resource Strategy will be finished and presented shortly.
He said that the Department talks a lot with partners in the region, especially Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.
He said that there are 250 Water User Associations, who all support themselves. He added that there are 20 schemes run by government.
The Chair noted that it would be important to go to another level of debate on this issue at some other time and also discuss the issue of emerging farmers and their water needs.
The Department then presented on the Forestry function.
Mr. Arendse reminded the Committee of the questions he had raised previously on the issue of indigenous forests. In addition he asked how highly commercialized the forests are and if there were norms and standards in place to ensure that they were managed sustainably. He asked if they were in private hands.
He then went on to ask for clairty on the Department plans to reduce its employees.
Mr Mathebe was concerned about the fact that the forests are managed by DWAf but sold by DPE.
Mr. Sibuyana said that a key area is the empowerment of disadvantaged groups. He added that the forests are no longer benefiting communities.
Mr. Phala asked where the money from sales was going and if DWAF was monitoring this. He said that there are still villages without water.
Mr. Ramphele asked to what extent there is a move in the direction of SA enjoying its national resources. He added that there are various ways of empowering communities and that they could have been better empowered. He gave examples in West Africa where there was more community involvement and where empowerment was the focus. He said that the emphasis here was on communities getting wood, not empowerment. There is a need to look at how to make these agreements more meaningful. He then asked about the issue of pending land claims.
Mr. Masala (ANC) thanked the Department for its presentation, and added that the Department has been a flagship Department. He asked about the Working for Water programme as no mention had been made of it.
The Department responded to the questions on the forests saying that there are few indigenous forests - 1/2% of the land in total. There is an inventory and the forests are managed by different people but the inventory lists this information. The Department does monitor the forests.
On the Department downsizing he said that they do not plan to throw people out but rather that they be transferred to other organisations/departments.
He agreed that there are a lot of ways for people to be empowered. The issue of right holders was important and he said that a co management approach was taken where there are rights claims to the land. The future of the land is decided in conjunction with the rights holders.
On the Working for water campaign he said it was referred to on P7 of the strategic plan. It is a conservation project but falls under water. As the Department gets smaller it needs to pass it on but the programme continues.
He said that as the government takes an integrated approach the various Departments. work together so there is communication about the DPE selling forests managed by DWAF.
In terms of rare woods he said that there is a policy which ensures sustainability. Wood is sold to the highest bidder. Most wood is bought locally.
The Chair said that the Committee would like to know more about the Working for Water Programme. He said that they would be meeting with the local government committee and the question raised by Mr. Matebe should be taken up in meetings with Public Enterprise.
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