DFFE & SAWS Q1 & 2 2022/23 Performance; with Minister
Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment
28 February 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) briefed the Committee on its performance reports for the first and second quarters of the 2022/23 financial year. The DFFE concentrated on the targets that were not reached, the reasons for that and the corrective measures being taken,
Members were told that the Department fully achieved 76 percent of its 70 targets in the first quarter. In the second, it achieved 73 percent of its 78 targets. At the end of December 2022, the overall spending of the budget stood at 73 percent.
Among the missed targets were plans for declaring marine protected areas and developing a fire detection system on the Garden Route. Others involved preferential procurement and job creation targets.
A number of consultation processes were delayed either at the request of stakeholders or the necessity to get the buy-in of more entities. Members were assured that these processes would be fast-tracked to ensure targets were reached in the fourth quarter.
The briefing by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) pointed to loadshedding as one of the major reasons for them not reaching targets for the provision of acceptable data on air quality. Radar installations and monitoring equipment going offline were problematic and although alternative energy resources were made available, it was insufficient as loadshedding levels were higher than expected.
The SAWS said its weather forecasting standards were still high and that it met or exceeded the requirements of international conventions to which it was a signatory.
Members raised concerns about how irregular expenditure was being dealt with at the DFFE and asked how international funding for climate change measures would be handled. They urged the SAWS to move more quickly on plans to provide alternative energy sources for its weather stations.
DFFE briefing: quarterly performance
Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), told the Committee that the Department had to achieve 80 percent of its performance targets overall to be seen to be making an impact on the ground. In the first quarter (Q1) of the 2022/23 financial year, it fully achieved 76 percent of its 70 targets. In Q2, it achieved 73 percent of its 78 targets. She said the under-spending and underperforming branches were working hard to improve. At the end of December 2022, the overall spending of the budget stood at 73 percent.
She asked the chief financial officer (CFO) and senior officials to highlight the unmet targets and the corrective measures in place.
Ms Andiswa Jass, CFO, DFFE, said that the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) issued a qualified audit opinion in August 2022. The qualifications concerned irregular expenditure and capital work in progress (CWIP). Irregular expenditure accumulated to R5 billion. It stemmed from the 2018/19 financial year, mainly on objective criteria in tender processes that were not completely disclosed. CWIP on Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) projects was found to be incorrectly valued and allocated. The services of the Valuer General were sourced through procurement processes. However, the processes were delayed due to administrative non-compliance.
An audit action plan was implemented to ensure all audit findings were addressed and corrective steps were taken. The plan was discussed weekly to ensure all matters were cleared by 31 March 2023.
Only 46 percent of the budget allocation was reported to have been spent by 30 September 2022. Systems in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were affected by increased load shedding during the last weeks of September 2022. They were unable to capture payments and a backlog was created. The payments only went through in early October 2022. The Department was now having weekly meetings to monitor expenditure and procurement plans.
Only 13 percent of expenditure was on companies that were majority female-owned. The target was limited by the procurement legislation which National Treasury only finalised in January 2023. Since the revision of the procurement legislation, all bids and quotations now contained specific goals that gave preference to black people, women and people with disabilities.
Dr Ashley Naidoo, Chief Director: Oceans and Coastal Research, DFFE, told the Committee that the target for the number of management plans to be developed for declared Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) was not reached. The service provider to develop the two MPA management plans was appointed in August 2022. An inception meeting between the DFFE, the service provider and the funder was held on 5 September 2022 and a draft MPA management plan was in the process of being developed. Stakeholder engagements were held.
Mr Maesela Kekana, Chief Director: International Climate Change Relations, DFFE, reported that the target to appoint a service provider for an early fire detection and management system for the Garden Route was not met. The contract was advertised in September 2022 and evaluation was set to take place in October. However, extended engagement with municipalities was required to enhance ownership of the project.
The target to appoint a service provider for automated weather station monitoring of lightning and heavy rain was not met. The terms of reference were submitted to the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) in July 2022 and were being processed for advertisement. Extended engagement with municipalities was required and this delayed the processing. I
The air quality monitoring stations reporting to the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) did not meet minimum data requirements due to power interruptions and instruments being out for repairs for longer periods. Two stations were relocated to more secure sites to reduce vandalism.
Ms Flora Mokgohloa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation, DFFE, reported that the targets for the implementation of High Level Panel recommendations on biodiversity conservation were not met. Intergovernmental consultation on the draft White Paper was still ongoing. At the request of stakeholders, the Department extended the public comment period to 26 September 2022. A large number of comments still needed to be consolidated. A review of the timelines would be requested for the White Paper to be submitted to Cabinet in Q4.
The target to create 800 jobs in the biodiversity economy was not met and no jobs were created. The tender process was at the bid evaluation phase and a project manager would be appointed by the end of Q3.
Mr Ahmed Khan, Acting DDG, reported that job creation targets were not met. Only 4 163 full-time equivalents (FTEs) were created against a target of 8 257. Only 8 069 job opportunities were created against a target of 16 750. The cause was ineffective project management. The department would now implement the approved standard operating procedure and introduce an in-house project management model to reduce dependence on external service providers.
Only 27 percent of the target for initial cleaning of invasive plant species was met; 68 percent of the target for follow-up cleaning was met. The NRM tender was evaluated and subsequently cancelled due to non-responsiveness. Approval was granted to extend the contracts to enable continuation while implementing a new tender process.
The target for the cleaning of accessible coastline was not met. Projects under the Working for the Coast focus area were still at the advertisement stage. The areas cleaned were done by other organisations or entities. Some of this was part of the mopping up after floods. It was envisaged that the annual target would be met after the activation of the Municipal Cleaning Programme during Q3.
Ms Mishelle Govender, Acting DDG, said a target for developing waste management regulations had not been met. A notice of intention to approve a Section 29 plan had not been published for public comment due to the need for further consultations with industry. The guiding criteria for the multiple implementer model had been finalised and the plan was being revised for publication in Q3.
Ms Pumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, reported that refurbishment plans for three nurseries were not fully implemented due to internal delays that affected the ability to purchase most of the materials required. The procurement processes would be fast-tracked during the next quarter.
The department fell short of the target to plant trees outside the forest footprint. Climatic conditions in the dryer areas delayed planting. The ordering process was underway and transport was now available.
Ms Sue Middleton, DDG: Fisheries Management, reported that the internal and external consultation on the Aquaculture Development Bill and the aquaculture regulatory framework was underway. The delay in the process was due to the industry stakeholders’ request to extend the process. It was decided to allow the internal and external consultation processes to take place in parallel to address the delays.
The draft West Coast rock lobster anti-poaching strategy had not been developed. There would be further engagement with stakeholders.
The target for the allocation of small-scale fishing rights was not met. No declaration of small-scale fishing communities and small-scale fishers was made in the Western Cape. The process depended on the outcome of a court process. A revised plan with shortened timeframes has been finalised.
The strategy for the integrated development support programme for small-scale fishers was presented to 15 municipalities in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape to request their support. Partnership meetings took place and the relationship was requested to be formalised to benefit more areas. Eight small-scale fishing cooperatives were currently benefiting from the strategy.
Only 72 of the targeted 300 work opportunities were created because the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers had to be employed through a service provider to implement projects. The Fisheries branch and the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) were approved to directly employ 1 500 EPWP workers.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked what metrics were used for waste management as it seemed that there was no waste management or planning around waste management.
Ms A Weber (DA) asked for a breakdown of improvements in dealing with irregular expenditure since 2019. She suggested that the focus should not only be on reaching targets. There must also be competent people, and she wanted to know why important positions took so long to be filled. Were there any interim arrangements while these positions were vacant?
She asked for details about the 15 air quality monitoring stations. Were they close to power stations and if not, how was the air around the big power stations monitored? How many were functioning and how many were vandalised? How many were fixed and at what cost?
She asked who managed EPWP workers when they were employed. Why was the procurement of trees for provinces combined? Some provinces were not mentioned. Were they not provided with trees and who was tracking the planting of the trees and the success rate?
Ms H Winkler (DA) asked why the R5 billion irregular expenditure took so long to resolve. She wanted to know why there was no reporting on the St Lucia Estuary. Could the Department give some clarity on the $145 million that was raised from the Green Climate Fund? How was it going to be allocated and would there be a higher level of transparency? Where were the 800 biodiversity jobs supposed to be created and why was there a problem with the appointment of the project manager? She wanted to know where the invasive species were cleaned out and how the locations were determined.
Mr N Singh (IFP) complained that there was not enough time for questions about the huge amount of information provided. He requested that in the future, problem branches be given more time for interrogation. He would like to compare performance targets with expenditure. Although expenditure was presented, he would like to see a graph comparing the two.
Mr D Bryant (DA) asked what disciplinary actions had been taken for irregular expenditure. People needed to be held to account for their actions. He was concerned that not much had happened around the oceans and coast since September 2022. The time management plan was long overdue and should be finalised and presented to the Committee as a matter of urgency.
In planting trees, he wanted to know what the greatest stumbling blocks were and if water scarcity in areas was considered when decisions were taken about the kinds of trees that were planted. He asked what the progress was on the Aquaculture Bill. He raised his concern about the slow progress in small-scale fishing and said the Department was not doing enough. Full time jobs should be created and not only EPWP jobs. He asked about the importance of confiscated marine items. Had the White Paper on biodiversity been submitted to Cabinet. How many prosecutions or arrests had been made for non-compliance with regulations?
The Chairperson asked how long it took to train people to draft management plans and who the service providers were.
Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, agreed with Mr Singh that there was no improvement in one or two of the branches, with air quality being one of them. She confirmed that there had been consequence management on irregular expenditure as per a previous update and undertook to re-circulate the document to the committee.
The Minister explained that an offer of $8.5 billion was made to South Africa at COP 26. President Ramaphosa made a presentation before COP 27 and the money would therefore be managed from the Office of the President and not by the DFFE. The further Green Climate funding was policy loans under the regulation of French and German banks. These funds would be spent under strict Treasury requirements.
Ms Tshabalala said cases of irregular expenditure were investigated and the necessary disciplinary action was then taken. The accounting officer had received authorisation to condone certain actions, but the process could not be rushed to ensure accuracy.
Ms Jass said that expenditure had improved and that 73 percent was reached at the end of December 2022. Under the leadership of the DG, weekly meetings were held to ensure targets were reached.
Ms Vanessa Bendeman, DDG: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring, said that the number of administrative notices was estimated on the basis of the complaints received by the Department.
Mr Kekana said the information about air quality around power stations was last updated in 2017. The information was provided by Eskom-owned monitoring devices which did not give not live updates.
Dr Naidoo informed the Committee that the Isimangaliso and St Lucia management plans would be presented at the next meeting.
They were now working with NGOs and two internal staff to improve the MPA management plans. He undertook to provide a summary spreadsheet showing where the Department was currently and what was planned.
Ms Mokgohloa said that EPWP jobs were managed by project managers.
Mr Kahn acknowledged the importance of wetlands. A list of rehabilitation stages was available. Regarding full time employment, he said that the EPWP jobs were used as a matrix to determine full time job opportunities. There was also an attempt to ensure workers got as many days of employment per year as possible.
Ms Govender reminded the committee that waste management was a shared responsibility. Local Government worked with a blueprint and all sectors were brought on board.
Ms Nodada said that reporting on tree planting in Limpopo and Mpumalanga was combined as it fell under one person in the Department. Delays could be due to the size of the trees required not being available. Bigger trees were required in some areas to ensure a higher survival rate. Partnering with the Human Settlements Department had assisted the Department in tracking the location of planted trees. More trees were planted and tracked by partnering with other stakeholders, including the Green Forum. Emphasis was placed on planting water-wise trees. The suitability of trees was decided on the advice of the Department of Agriculture. Most trees planted were indigenous as they did not require a lot of water, but fruit trees were planted to assist with food security for households.
Ms Middleton said that the Fisheries Management branch and the MLRF were confident of reaching 80 percent or more of their targets, with special attention to the Aquaculture Bill’s submission to Parliament. The third draft had been completed and submission to the State Law Advisor was planned for Q4. She agreed that the small-scale fishing sector deserved the support of the Department. Training and support targets for this sector were met in the last quarter. The West Coast Rock Lobster plan was ready for sign-off.
Mr Wickness Rooifontein, CFO, MLRF, said the Department was not dependent on the sale of confiscated goods for revenue as previous year incidents were taken into consideration when budgeting for the next year. Any excess amount was returned to Treasury.
Ms Weber thanked the Minister for the progress report on the irregular expenditure.
Ms Winkler mentioned that the Minister had indicated that the climate funding fell under the National Treasury. She therefore wanted to know what role the department played regarding these funds. She also wanted to know the timeframes for getting air monitoring stations up and running again. People were dying of respiratory illness and the data was essential.
The Minister indicated that she was drawing a distinction between the Just Energy Transition Investment offer of $8.5 million and other financing the Department might receive.
Mr Kekana requested an opportunity to respond to the financing questions in writing. He said they were engaging Eskom about the monitoring systems.
South African Weather Service quarterly performance
Ms Feziwe Renqe, Chairperson, South African Weather Service (SAWS) Board, made introductory remarks. She said that load shedding increased diesel consumption. Air quality stations were off-line on numerous days. Although plans were made to compensate for loadshedding, higher stages than those planned for had a huge impact. The SAWS was looking forward to the state of disaster announced by the President that would exempt necessary entities from loadshedding.
Mr Ishaam Abader, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SAWS, told the Committee that the SAWS had partially achieved the target for the availability of Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) infrastructure. The shortfall was due to severe load shedding during September, significantly impacting the data recovery of the greenhouse gases (GHG) instrumentation. In addition to procurement of nitrous oxide and ultraviolet biometer instrumentation, the SAWS was investigating the procurement of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system for the GAW laboratory.
There was also partial achievement of the target for the availability of radar infrastructure. The radar infrastructure instability was due to frequent power outages from load shedding; insufficient diesel for increased operation of backup generators; and no in-house specialised skills for maintenance of supporting infrastructure like UPS, air conditioning systems and diesel generators. Supply chain management (SCM) processes were underway to provide a suitably qualified panel of approved service providers to assist with preventative and corrective maintenance.
The target for air quality stations in priority areas meeting minimum SAAQIS meeting data requirements was partially achieved. Instrument failures and faults were experienced at numerous stations. There were intermittent power failures due to load shedding. Localised power supply issues and power surges resulted in unexpected damage to ageing and new instruments. Stations in the Highveld network experienced 62 days of downtime, the Vaal network 147 days of downtime and Waterberg-Bojanala network 31 days of downtime due to load shedding. The SAWS was investigating relocating some stations to more stable electricity supply areas. Alternative means of powering equipment were also being explored.
The target for generating unregulated commercial revenue was partially achieved. A total of R5 528 327 was generated. The revenue from major partners was below budget due to the loss of key clients. Air quality sales, instrument sales, as well as advisory and consulting sales were below target. The partners had been requested to address the gaps in revenue with other potential sales. Strategic partners with experience in the commercialisation of products and services to key sectors in South Africa would also be appointed.
Only 28 percent of the workplace skills plan target was met. Slow procurement processes and finding suitable service providers within the available budget contributed to this. There would be additional training interventions in Q3 to catch up to the target.
Only 39.39 percent of the employment equity target for women in management was reached. This was due to the resignations of female employees in managerial roles. Measures would be taken to recruit women for identified managerial positions.
The target of 10 youths in internships and learnerships was not achieved as the placement of forecasting interns was planned for Q4 to coincide with the academic year. Also not achieved was the target of five placements in work-integrated learning, with three being people living with disabilities. There were no applications and the opportunities would be re-advertised.
Mr Norman Mzizi, Chief Financial Officer, SAWS, informed the committee that the deficit in Q2 was R55 million and R31 million in Q1. The lack of revenue was the main contributing factor. An accounting change from CapEx to OpEx that was approved in October 2022 would rectify the deficit.
Ms Winkler enquired about the efficiency of the KZN data coming through.
Mr Singh asked whether there was a chance of international grants to enable them to install alternative resources due to the importance of the work done by the SAWS. He asked why administration targets were not met.
Mr Bryant emphasised that the powering of monitoring stations was essential and alternative plans must be made.
Mr Paulsen raised a concern that renewable power had been discussed a year ago. Why was nothing being done? He asked that a plan be made known to ensure the matter was dealt with urgently. The Minister had informed the Committee that an entity that charged a fee for services would find it difficult to raise a grant. She had indicated that the Board and CEO were in an interesting situation of seeing whether a loan could be obtained to install alternative energy sources. The department provided support for outdated equipment.
The Chairperson asked how early warning systems operated.
Mr Abader said that radars were not the only source for forecasting. International lightning detectors, automatic weather and rainfall stations and satellite information were available. European and other satellites were used.
South Africa was a signatory to international weather forecasting conventions and had met and exceeded all the requirements.
Two administrative targets were not met due to the need to align the timelines to the academic year and the fact that people with disabilities did not apply for the positions allocated.
A longer term plan to deal with load shedding would be implemented. Load shedding levels were higher than what had been planned for.
Mr Mnikeli Ndabambi, Executive: Information Systems and Security, said that the local authority managed air quality in KZN and did not resort to the SAWS. Alternative energy sources for radars were required and the SAWS would start by providing two with alternative energy. He undertook to provide the alternative energy resource plan and budget to the Committee after its adoption by the board.
The Chairperson thanked participants for their fruitful engagement. He hoped to see strategic improvement in future performance reports. He urged the Departments to provide written responses where they endeavoured to and communicate with the Committee Secretariat on this.
The meeting adjourned.
Modise, Mr PMP
Bryant, Mr D W
Creecy, Ms B
Dlamini, Mr M
Gantsho, Ms N
Paulsen, Mr N M
Singh, Mr N
Weber, Ms AMM
Winkler, Ms HS
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