A Parliamentary Legal Adviser briefed the Committee in a virtual meeting on the proposed amendments to the Climate Change Bill A-list, in line with the Committee’s recommendations at the last meeting. The amendments included changes in definitions, a reduction in the number of commissioners serving on the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), the exclusion of Ministers from appointment to the PCC to avoid conflicts of interest, and the role of the Secretariat.
The Committee's main concern was the reporting line for the Commission. Members felt it should report to the Committee responsible for the environment, but the Minister said that this decision rested with the President, and it should be taken into consideration that there were several ministries which were impacted by climate change.
The Committee agreed to defer the motion of desirability on the Bill to the next day, when the legal team would have cleared up the A-list.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) presented its report on the third and fourth quarter performance for 2022/23. They had received an unqualified audit, with three of their entities getting a clean audit. Most of the delays that had resulted in the non-achievement of targets had involved supply chain management (SCM) issues.
The Committee congratulated the Department on their progress, but raised concerns over some of the targets that were not achieved. These included the insufficient functioning of air quality monitoring stations and the continued presence of single-use plastics to the detriment of the environment. Members questioned whether the DFFE had considered introducing a legislative ban on single-use plastics.
The Department assured the Committee that they were working to resolve the issues surrounding its SCM processes. They had considered a ban on single-use plastics via legislation, but had resolved not to do so due to the multifaceted nature of the problem.
Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, welcomed the fact that the Chairperson had been discharged from hospital, and wished him well on his recovery journey. She said the Director-General (DG) was on sick leave, and the Acting DG would be Ms Mamogala Musekene.
The Chairperson expressed the Committee’s condolences following the loss of Mr Gatsha Buthelezi.
He called for the adoption of the agenda.
Ms T Mchunu (ANC) suggested that they first deal with issues of the Climate Change Bill, and then deal with Department later during the evening session.
Mr D Bryant (DA) seconded the motion to amend the agenda, saying he agreed with Ms Mchunu. His concern was that in terms of the second session, they allowed themselves an hour to do the clause-by-clause deliberations, which might cut it a bit close. He supported the proposal that they shift item 5 on the agenda to item 3, and do the previous item 3 as item 6.
The Committee agreed to proceed as per the amended agenda.
Climate Change Bill
Ms Thiloshini Gangen, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, said that after the previous meeting, she, the Department and the state law adviser had met to discuss the proposals raised at the last meeting with a view to incorporating the proposed amendments to the A-List, which they had done. At the last meeting, the Committee sought clarity on the definition of the term "national greenhouse gas emissions profile." The concern was that the proposed definition seemed to exclude other major sources of emissions, such as the mining industry. They sought to amend the definition to read that the national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions profile meant the latest trends in national GHG emissions totals, with and without sinks. This had been done to ensure that the definition was all-encompassing.
The second concern had been about the large number of commissioners that formed part of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC). They then proposed reducing the number of commissioners from 30 to 25.
The third concern was the possible conflict of interest among ministers who were also Members of Parliament, who were part of the PCC. They had thus proposed that ministers not be commissioners, but could be invited from time to time to the PCC.
The Committee had also sought clarity on the use of the word "must" on the appointment of commissioners in clause 10.6, and also the fact that the Bill was silent on the process for removing commissioners.
The Committee had also expressed concern that the President was the chair of the PCC, but that the Commission would be required to report to the Minister. It was then proposed that the PCC submit its reports, studies, strategies and recommendations to the National Assembly (NA).
There was also a need to clarify the role of the PCC secretariat in relation to the reporting by the PCC. They had proposed that the Executive Director report to the Minister only in relation to administrative and financial matters. The reasoning was that in that way, the PCC would then report to the NA on its core work, including reports, studies, strategies, recommendations and related information, but the director would report to the Minister on administrative and financial matters pertaining to the PCC and the Secretariat.
She said there were also concerns regarding time frames where they had inserted the words "at least" on page 12 before "time frames," and in lines 31, 36 and 43.
That was a recap of the Committee's concerns from the last meeting which they had incorporated and attempted to address in their final A-list.
The Chairperson said that on Clause five, their concern was not about the ministers, but about Members of Parliament being commissioners.
Minister Creecy said that the version they had seen was that Ministers would not serve as commissioners on the PCC, but there would be an obligation on the Commission to invite ministers to meetings where matters pertaining to the portfolios were being discussed. They were happy with that suggestion, because she did not think one would want to discriminate because a majority of ministers were also Members of Parliament (MPs), so they would be excluded by virtue of being MPs. However, as an example, the current Minister of Electricity was not an MP. She did not think they would want to have a different section for him. They had accepted that ministers, in a sense, would be ex officio, so they could come to meetings and provide input pertaining to their portfolio, but they would not be full members. They had considered that matter and found their proposal to be acceptable. When they had originally discussed this with the Committee, what they had said was that it would be useful to have ministers in those discussions, but they would be happy in a situation where they could be in the discussions and did not have to be commissioners. They understood the motivation of the Portfolio Committee for wanting the actual commissioners to be representative of various sectors of civil society, and in their view, that was acceptable.
The Chairperson said that there was a point he was driving at, which was the essence of the resolution of the Committee. The essence was that they wanted to drive towards establishing a PCC that reported to the Minister. This does not mean that they excluded ministers from being members of the Commission, but they excluded them from being commissioners. The Committee also spoke about the PCC reporting to the Minister, guided by the Public Management Finance Act (PMFA).
Minister Creecy said that a provision was included in the A-list that ministers whose portfolios were affected by the work of the PCC had to be invited to attend meetings of the Commission, and later on, there was the accountability requirement.
Mr Bryant said that the PCC was an entity, and the relevant Minister was the Minister for the DFFE at present. Therefore, the PCC should fall under the DFFE as one of the entities, and that has yet to be clarified.
Ms Mchunu said there was a need to agree that the provincial legislators (MPLs) were also part of the legislature, so they also had to be excluded unless the legal advice said otherwise. She asked whether the exclusion of MPs from being commissioners would trickle down to the councils, as they also formed a part of the legislature at those levels.
Ms A Weber (DA) said she supported Mr Bryant’s comment, and that it was important to clarify this issue. Her point of view was that it had to do with the reporting because there was a need to have one accountability, so even though there was the PCC, there was a need for a reporting line. Personally, she felt that if it was clarified that the Minister of DFFE was the responsible person, that should be the DFFE's mandate and the reporting should then also first go to her before it went to Parliament.
The Chairperson said that he understood that if the PCC would report to the NA, this would be through the Department via the Portfolio Committee, because that was the protocol.
Minister Creecy explained that when the President appoints ministers, he assigns Acts/Bills to those ministers. In the Fifth Parliament, the Marine Living Resources Act was assigned to the Minister of Agriculture. In the current Parliament, the same Act was assigned to the Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE). Therefore, should the Climate Change Bill become an Act, then it would be assigned by the President to a minister, which would then inform the location of the Climate Change Commission, because the Commission was a statutory body of the Act. It could not be put in the Bill that it belonged to the DFFE because different bills got assigned to different ministers. The Commission would account to the Minister assigned responsibility for that Act once Parliament passed it.
Mr Bryant said he understood the Minister's point, but the important point was confirming that the PCC was an entity and would fall within a department, and therefore under a minister. This meant that the PCC would have to report to one of those portfolio committees assigned to it. It was important for the Committee to address the issue, because it had been consistently raised that the PCC should not be given a specific set of responsibilities, but not necessarily be held accountable regarding its overall functioning under the auspices of at least one of the portfolio committees.
Ms H Winkler (DA) asked, if the President assigned a minister to the Act and the PCC would therefore be attached to that specific ministry, what role did they envisage the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs was going to play in the oversight and implementation of the Act. She pointed out that a lot of the wording in the Bill pertained to programmes that fell under DFFE, and if the Bill was attached to one ministry once it became law, it was still a whole of government approach that was required to assess the implementation of the Act. Should it not instead be that this Act was attached to a minister, but in terms of its reporting and oversight, it would require a body that was representative of all the departments that were responsible for representing or implementing various pieces of the Act -- for example, a steering committee on climate change, or something to that effect. She proposed a body where all portfolios and ministries were represented to ensure that they could exercise that oversight, otherwise she did not see how oversight was going to take place.
Ms Gangen said that the main concern of Mr Bryant and the rest of the Committee was centred on which department the PCC was going to fall under, and if there was going to be accountability. She said that the Minister had adequately answered that in practice, it was not a legal question. In practice, how it worked was that it would fall under a department which would fall under a committee, and there would be accountability. It was difficult for her to say once the Bill was passed into law where it was going to fall, but if one were to think logically, the Bill dealt with the environment and it seemed as if it would be best placed within this Committee. However, it was really difficult to say, because, in practice, Cabinet makes that decision.
Minister Creecy said that the Committee need not worry that the Department would not have the capacity to carry out the Bill, because when a bill was assigned the relative executive capacity to implement, the objectives of the Bill would also have to be assigned to the Minister. Therefore, there could not be a situation where the climate branch that was essentially responsible for implementing the Bill got assigned to one Minister, and the Bill and the entity got assigned to another minister. That could not happen. When a bill was assigned, it meant that all the capacity to carry out the Bill was given to that Minister. She pleaded with the Committee that because it was a technical question, a name should not be assigned to a portfolio committee or a minister, because it would require amending the Act every five years on a nomenclature issue. They all agreed that there would need to be an entity, and that entity would have to report to Parliament and to the relevant portfolio committee, and there was no dispute that the Bill allowed for that.
Mr Bryant said he was happy with the response by the Minister and Ms Gangen, and he fully accepted that confirmation.
Ms Gangen said that she would highlight only the amendments, but she would respond to all the issues raised by Members -- even those that did not form part of the highlights.
Highlights of amendments
On Page 2 of the A-list Clause 1.1, they had amended the definition of the term "national greenhouse gas emissions profile" to make it more inclusive, as they had discussed earlier, and so amended the definition to read national greenhouse emissions profile meant the latest trends in national greenhouse emissions total, with and without sinks.
The next amendment, on page 3, Clause 4(1), had changed completely to add subsections on the executive director submitting quarterly reports to the Minister on its activities, the submission of the PCC's financial statements, and the audit report on the financial statements. There was a subsection on the Minister tabling the reports and financial statements submitted by the PCC in the NA within a period of 30 days
The next amendment was on Page 5, Clause 10. 4, where they had revised the number of commissioners to 25 and included the words "traditional leader." They had also inserted a new subsection that stated that an MP may not be appointed as a commissioner of the PCC. They had also inserted a subsection that required the ministers of portfolios affected by the PCC's work to be invited to attend the meetings of the PCC.
In subsection 10, they inserted a dash after subsection 10, added the word "determine" and deleted the word "and." They had also included subsection 10(5) which provides that the PCC may adopt the rules which list the circumstances under which a commissioner may be removed, as well as the process for such a removal.
Clause 4, and discussion of the Committee process
Mr Bryant asked about the Clause dealing with the number of commissioners. He proposed that something be put in there to suggest that there should be an equitable representation of organised labour, because they could also run the risk of the Commission being dominated by one particular sector. The words "equitable representation" were vague enough to at least be interpreted by the Commission to suit their specific needs, but this was just to ensure that they did not have 20 members from organised labour, and one each from the others.
He suggested that while a serving Member of Parliament may not be appointed as a commissioner, they would be eligible once they have finished serving. This would mean excluding people who had previously been MPs
Minister Creesy suggested that instead of using the word "equitable," they use the word "fair." This was because if they used the word equitable, one would get into three of this and four of that, and those proportions were not equitable. "Fair" captured the spirit of what Mr Bryant was saying -- that it should not be dominated by one sector.
Mr Bryant said he agreed with the Minister.
Ms Weber said that they had had a discussion but had not come to a conclusion on the time that it would take to appoint the new PCC after the Bill had come into law, and there was a proposal to include a provision requiring the process to begin within six,12 or 18 months of the Bill becoming law, or whatever period would be realistic to the Committee. There was also a need to include an end point to the Commission. The discussion had not been concluded.
Ms Mchunu referred to the issue of MPs not being able to serve as commissioners. She asked that it also include the legislators, or just say the public servants, including the ministers, provincial legislators and councillors, so that they know that all who were serving at that level could not serve on the Commission. On the duration after the Bill had been passed into law, she said could give at least 12 months to the current Commission to finish the term, maybe while they restart the process again.
Minister Creecy said that all bills had provisions for the Minister to make regulations with regard to the transitional provisions. She suggested issues, such as the ones raised by Ms Weber and Ms Mchunu on the Commission's duration, belonged in the transitional regulations rather than in the law itself, because there was a whole range of transitional provisions which were not normally put into the primary legislation. She asked the Committee to allow that to be the regulations.
She said that they could say a Member of Parliament and a Member of the provisional legislatures may not be appointed, but pleaded with the Committee not to put municipal councillors in there at the moment, as they had the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) representation, which was quite useful. Climate change was a worldwide phenomenon, but the way it impacted was related to geographic locality, so she suggested that they should not rule out the possibility of SALGA representation on the Commission. The section could refer to MPs and MPLs, so there was some degree of flexibility at the sub-national level.
Ms Gangen said that they had amended Clause 13, page 9, from line 50 of the Bill, where they had omitted Section 13 and substituted it with a new section 13 which required the PCC to submit its reports, studies, strategies, recommendations and related information to the NA and to the ministers whose portfolios may be affected, within 30 days of their finalisation. A subsection also requires the PCC to make available the reports to the public via the website through publication.
In Clause 19 on page 12, line 22, they had inserted the word ‘at least’ before the word ‘within’. On Page 12, line 36, the word ‘at least’ was inserted before the word ‘every’. On page 12, line 43, before the word "within," the words "at least" had been inserted.
Clause 12A, and discussion of the Committee process
Ms Weber referred to the appointment of the executive director. She wondered whether the criteria should be set for the whole Committee to actually elect the executive director instead of the appointment being made by a minister. She did not have a major concern with this, but it may be fairer. She asked whether they were sure if there was one Secretariat, and whether that would be the one appointed by the PCC, or if it would be allocated by department under which it would fall.
Minister Creecy said the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Commission must be appointed, and obviously, the Public Service Commission had criteria for CEOs of entities in terms of qualifications and so on, but with regard to the deputy, the President should be entitled to make this appointment. She explained when one had a new commission , the commissioners did not necessarily know each other, or on what basis they would be electing a chairperson. The President should be afforded the opportunity to appoint, so that one could ensure that there was delegation to a person in which the President would have confidence. They had already spoken at some length about why it was useful to have the President chair the Commission in terms of its ability to be taken seriously.
Clause 32, and discussion of the Committee process
Ms Mchunu said Section 32 (2) talked about the penalties where the law had been breached in terms of emissions. She asked whether it meant that one could get both penalties, or just one of them.
Ms Gangen responded that it was worded that if one was convicted of the offence, one would be liable to a fine not exceeding a particular amount, or imprisonment, so it was not both, but that would be for the courts to determine as it was the discretion of the court. If one looked at the end of the second last line of the subsection, it indicated both such fine and imprisonment in both instances. Therefore, depending on the courts, it could be either or both.
Ms Mchunu said that she was concerned that it was confined to only two offences, and if the person was a persistent offender, would it not be prudent to include something that talked about repeat offenders?
Minister Creecy said that ten years' imprisonment could be imposed for such an offender, so they could deal with repeat offenders as well as subject them to both penalties. That was enough to deal with repeat offenders.
Ms Winkler asked whether the penalties provision had been made to hold directors of companies directly accountable, because there were loopholes if there were companies that declared bankruptcy, and if they could not be charged, could they not attach those penalties to individuals?
Minister Creecy said they should not get into the separation of powers. It was the duty of the legislative arm of the government to present the sentences in the Act for offences. It was the duty of the judicial arm to decide who was convicted, and how or what would happen to them. In certain instances, they knew that the courts had singled out individuals where they had found it appropriate. They should not overstep.
The Chairperson assured the Members that they were still going to get an opportunity to go through the Bill so it did not have spelling and other grammatical errors.
Ms Gangen said that the state law adviser used a particular style of drafting. She was not a drafter, but in so far as the grammatical errors were concerned, it did not mean that the grammatical issues were going to translate into the Bill. They were not necessarily errors -- just drafting conventions.
The Chairperson said that was what he was trying to say, that they would have an opportunity to look at a bill that was clear, without anyone’s style of drafting. The Bill must be read and understood by all the people of South Africa before it gets to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It would be cleared up by then.
Mr Bryant asked the legal team to advise on how long they would need to clean up the document and add a few things, otherwise they would have to do the clause-by-clause deliberations at the evening meeting.
Ms Gangen asked to be allowed to speak to the state law advisor before responding. She came back and indicated that she had been unable to speak with the state law adviser, who was in a physical meeting. She therefore proposed that they try and sort it out during the course of the day, and then hopefully, they would be ready the next day.
The Committee agreed to defer the motion of desirability to the next day, when the legal team had cleared up the A-list.
DEFF's Q3 and Q4 performance
Minister Creecy said that Department had finally achieved their objective of getting an unqualified report for this financial year. It had been a long journey, but she was happy to report that the Department had been able to get over the line. Three of their entities had received clean audits -- Marine Living Resources, iSimangaliso and the SA Weather Service (SAWS). The Committee would appreciate the progress, because before this audit, the Marine Living Resources had not even been on the radar screen. What had been achieved with those entities was very good, and the Department was very pleased.
They were also pleased that they would not be coming to the Committee with issues of underspending, because the Committee took a very dim view of underspending. Although the Department's overall performance was short of the 80% mark, this was where they had wanted it to be. Nevertheless, all things considered, the performance was reasonable. The annual reports were still coming in but had been tabled in the National Assembly. She suggested that the presentations focus on non-performance areas, the explanations, and the remedial actions being implemented.
Ms Musekene said the DEFF had achieved 75% of their targets in quarter three, and 76% in quarter four. In 2022/23, the Department made sure that they complied with the criteria as set by the Auditor-General (AG) and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) as they related to how achievement was assessed.
In terms of expenditure, they had been able to reach 98%, which was within the 2% allowable achievement for the expenditure. She explained the non-alignment of the budget spending and performance was due to not all performance indicators being translated to monetary value. Fixed costs to the Department did not form part of the performance indicators, and the entire performance indicators did not form part of the Department. Out of nine programmes, only two fell below the 60% mark in terms of implementation.
Ms Andiswa Jass, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DFFE, said in programme one, the Department had two targets in Q3. One was implementing the audit action plan, and the other was the expenditure. The implementation of the audit action plan was not achieved due to the manner in which they had crafted the targets. However, the Department had achieved 64% in terms of implementing the plan or the recommendations of the AG, while the balance was work in progress. The expenditure target was achieved for quarters three and four.
Ms Mmamokgadi Mashala, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Corporate Management Services, DFFE, said that in programme two, they had achieved three out of four targets. The one target that was not achieved was the appointment of females in senior management positions. At the end of the quarter, they were sitting at 46%, just below the target of 47%, due to resignations in the quarter under review.
At the end of the third quarter, expenditure was sitting at 93% of the quarterly target, and this was mainly because they had received invoices late for accommodation services. The programme two budget had been fully utilised. The majority of the budget had gone towards legal costs, and they had spent the entire budget in the final quarter to achieve 100% of their target.
Mr Ashley Naidoo, Chief Director: Oceans and Coasts, DFFE, said that spending on programme 3 in quarter three was at 50%, but it was in the last two quarters when they undertook the field trips and science expeditions, including Antarctica, and that had resulted in an improvement in the fourth quarter to 97%.
In the third quarter, they had eight targets and had managed to achieve seven of them. The one target not achieved was where they were aiming to conclude the shark biodiversity management plan which had been submitted to the Minister for approval, but they needed to go back and do some stakeholder engagement. They had done this through open calls for meetings, but had not got as much stakeholder input as required. This target was corrected in the fourth quarter, and was achieved.
Ms Maesela Kekana, DDG: Climate Change and Air Quality Management, DFFE, said the overspending on programme four was due to transfers to the South African Weather Service for infrastructure. They had eight targets, and six were achieved. The first target not achieved was the climate adaptations along the Garden Route, where they had committed to install cameras and masts, but that was not done because the quotation that they received was over the budget that had been allocated. They were instructed to restart the process. The second area involved the 15 stations that should be reporting to the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS), and in the third quarter, only eight of those were reporting. This was largely due to power interruptions during the early stages of load-shedding.
Mr Sabelo Nkosi, Director: Biodiversity Management, DFFE, said that programme 5's budget had been overspent due to infrastructure at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, as well as at SANParks. They had achieved seven of the nine targets. The two areas where targets were not achieved included job creation and biodiversity beneficiaries. Job creation that would be done through the biodiversity economy initiatives had been cancelled due to some procedural fairness issues the Benefits Advisory Committee (BAC) picked up. The second area involved training biodiversity beneficiaries, where they managed to train only 35 beneficiaries.
Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize, DDG: Environmental Programmes, DFFE, said that in terms of the Department's financial performance on programme six, they had spent only 79% of the budget in the third quarter mainly due to expanded public works programme (EPWP) projects that had progressed more slowly than anticipated, and had achieved only five targets out of 11. Among the six targets not achieved were the number of full time equivalent (FTE) jobs created due to the cancellation of tenders, which had had an impact on the appointment of service providers.
Ms Musekene said that the main drive for expenditure in programme seven in the third quarter was linked to the enterprise support programme. They had met seven out of eight targets set. The target that was not achieved related to the work they were doing under the prior informed consent amendment regulations, which were regulations that would control the import and export of hazardous chemicals and some of the pesticides that were traded internationally. The reason for not meeting this target was due to one of the users in the industry approached the Department because there had been an error of including one of the chemicals used for the preservation of wood. They had needed to look into ensuring that they did not hamper business development, and had to consider an extension which would allow them to correct the error.
Ms Pumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, DFFE, said that their expenditure on programme 8 was on par with what they had set for themselves to spend, because some of the work they were doing was not necessarily aligned with the annual performance plan (APP). They had achieved five out of the eight targets set. The three areas that were not achieved were the replanting of unplanted areas, as some procurement processes were not finished on time which had affected the delivery of required seedlings. In the interim, they would be collecting 390 000 seedlings from Limpopo to catch up on planting during the fourth quarter. In quarter four, there had been an improvement because all the processes were resolved. The second was on the nurseries refurbished, where there were some delays with regard to the procurement process which led them to a situation where there was no full implementation of the refurbishment of those nurseries. The last item was the trees that needed to be planted outside of the forest footprint, which was aligned with the issue of the Ten Million Trees programme. The challenge to expand was also linked to the procurement process, where there had been delays in the appointment of service providers for the provision of the trees.
Ms Sue Middleton, Chief Director: Fisheries Operations Support, DFFE, said that due to the transfer payment from the Department to the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF), what was reflected as spent on the fisheries management programme was on track. They had seven quarter three targets, and had achieved five. The two that were not achieved related to consultations around the Agriculture Development Bill, which was not achieved due to additional comments received by industry stakeholders, but this was concluded in quarter four. The second target not achieved was in relation to the freshwater inland fishing policy, which was also delayed due to some stakeholder representation requesting more time.
The only additional target that was not achieved under the MLRF was the number of FET jobs created. This was due to the formula used by the expanded public works programme (EPWP) because the jobs were created only in the third quarter. This would be an issue for the MLRF in quarter four as well.
Ms Musekene said that the overall financial performance for the quarter had resulted in 98% expenditure. Some programmes were not within the 2% mark in terms of the APP, but they were able to meet 56 out of the 74 planned targets for quarter 4, which overall gave them a performance of 76%. The CFO said that at the end of the final quarter, they had managed to spend 99% of their budget, resulting in their achievement of the two targets they had set.
Ms Vanessa Bendeman, DDG: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring, DFFE, said that they had spent all of the programme two budget, and achieved four of the six targets. The two areas that were not achieved related to the number of inspections conducted and the number of officials trained in environmental compliance. These targets had already been overachieved in quarter three, and despite the non-achievement in the fourth quarter, the overall annual performance was 100 % for the whole year.
Mr Naidoo said that for programme 3 (oceans and coasts), they were close to 98% with their spending of 97.1% of their budget. The reason for this was that the Marion Island budget expenditure occurred at the end of the financial year, and some expenses came through after the end of the year. They had missed only one of the eight targets, which was the approval for public comment for two protected lands.
Ms Kekana said the expenditure on programme four sat at 97.6% by the end of the financial year and in terms of the targets, it was the same with the previous quarter, where they had achieved six out of the eight targets. They were the same targets with which they had had trouble in the third quarter. The number of stations reporting to SAAQIS had further deteriorated in the fourth quarter. To remedy the situation, they enhanced the procurement process for inverter systems and battery banks by the SAWS to be installed at the stations, so they could function during load-shedding.
Mr Nkosi said that they had achieved 98.4 % of the programme five expenditure. They had achieved six of ten targets. The four areas were related to the acreage of land added to the conservation estate per annum. The reason for the variation included the lack of available or suitable and affordable land, and also the parcels of land that they had identified had pending claims or prospectors' mining licences. A second challenge was the implementation of the improvement plans for protected areas. There were issues around the technical description of the targets, and based on that, they had become quite specific in the formulation of their targets. There were also issues around jobs created, which they were considering for implementation in the current financial year. The other issues of beneficiaries being trained did not happen, because no jobs were created.
Ms Mkhize said by the end of the financial year in quarter four, they had spent 98.4% of the programme six budget. This expenditure accounted for both achieved and non-achieved targets. They had 12 targets, of which they achieved only eight. The non-achieved targets related to the FTE jobs created, the number of participants that had completed their training, and the buyback centres.
Ms Musekene said they had been able to spend 98.5% of their budget on programme seven. They were able to achieve seven of the ten indicators. The non-achieved targets were related to delays in the payment of waste picking collection service fees, which were connected to registration issues and information technology (IT) challenges. There had also been an issue related to delays in the implementation of the extended producer responsibility scheme, due to it being the first year of implementation, with some of the producers not being able to pay their fees on time.
Ms Nodada said forestry had spent 92.6% of their budget and only two of the eight targets set were not achieved. The first was on the number of nurseries refurbished, which was where they were struggling with in terms of appointing service providers. The second target not achieved was on the transfer of plantations, where they had managed to transfer three out of the four community forestry agreements. They had a challenge with a community that withdrew at the last minute, citing concerns over lack of capacity and seeming to have their own internal wrangles.
Ms Middleton said since expenditure in programme nine was a transfer payment from the Department to the MLRF, it was therefore reflected as 100% expenditure. They had achieved all their annual targets, but one target had yet to be achieved under the MLRF, which was the FTE jobs created. However, they were now back on track in the current financial year. She added that the MLRF had received a clean audit. The MLRF had managed to collect 94% of the revenue for the financial year. They managed to spend only 68%, but the underspending could be rolled over because they were public entities.
See attached for full presentation
Ms Winkler congratulated the Department on its audit results. On the MLRF, she said there were apparently disputed findings, with the units found that had led to the delay in implementing audit protocols. Under programme 3, Oceans and Coasts, she wanted to know where the reports on the water monitoring programme could be found. She asked what the timeline was for the tabling of the shark biodiversity plan, and also where it could be accessed.
Concerning programme four, she wanted to know how the various locations were selected regarding a climate change sector plan implemented in terms of human settlements and vulnerability assessments, and what the outcome had been. On the non-achieved target of air quality monitoring, she asked what the timeline was for implementing the alternative sources of power to ensure the integrity of reporting by these stations. The data was important for the communities that lived close to those air quality monitoring stations.
Regarding programme five, she said there was a wetland in the Free State where raw sewage was being pumped into it. She asked whether the Department was aware and whether they were doing something about that, because they were trying to protect the integrity of these amazing ecosystems. However, existing ecosystems were not being protected, and the fact that local government was collapsing was affecting the integrity of these ecosystems across the board, and this was a huge concern.
In terms of waste management, she said that the Department was still sitting at a point where waste was being recycled, and 39% of South Africans did not have access to proper waste management. Therefore, she wanted to know what programmes were going to be implemented to ensure that communities that did not have proper access to waste facilities were being accommodated. It was known that the issue existed at the local government level due to lack of enough resource capacity, or just basic incompetence by those local authorities to ensure proper waste programmes were in place. She wondered whether the Department was ever going to get on top of the waste management issue if they were unable, at a grassroots level, to really address the cause of the waste issues. This also pertained to the extended producer responsibility -- how successful was that programme? What exactly was being done to hold free riders accountable?
Mr Bryant congratulated the Minister and her team on achieving the unqualified audit and the departments that had also achieved a clean audit. He felt it was important to mention that a lot of hard work went on behind the scenes that the Committee often did not see. A lot had been achieved in terms of ensuring that the Department held those responsible for carrying out these responsibilities to account, and at the end of the day, everybody wins.
He said that the issue of the nurseries within the forestry directorate seemed to be a huge challenge and did not really seem to be something that was under control. This was obviously affecting the spending on forestry as well, as it had the lowest expenditure at 93%. In his opinion, this was due to them not being able to spend the money to develop these nurseries. He suggested that the Committee get a specific presentation from forestry at some stage in the near future in terms of how they were going to go about ensuring those nurseries programmes were completed post-haste, and that they did have a plan of action for that going forward.
Ms Weber asked whether the Department had cancelled the tenders in relation to the forestry, and what the process around the cancellation had been. What was the turnaround time? Was the tender process becoming shorter?
The Chairperson said it seemed that some of the targets were not met due to supply chain management (SCM) processes. He did not feel like those were substantial reasons. He wanted to know exactly where the problem was, and what necessitated the delays to the extent that targets could not be achieved. Could the supply chain take such a long process to even prevent a target from being achieved? He was keenly interested in the adaptation interventions around the Garden Route. Was the Garden Route the only place where they wanted to put the camera systems, or were there any other areas they had identified that they were going to implement in the coming financial years?
Minister Creecy said she fully agreed with Members that achieving the clean audit had been a joint process. Rigorous accountability through the Parliamentary process had been helpful and important in that process.
In response to Ms Winkler, she said she had actually asked the Department to prepare a presentation when they give a quarterly report, because obviously, the under-performance of the weather stations in the climate branch primarily affects the SAWS, and there had been a significant underperformance in the third and fourth quarter of SAWS. She said the presentation should indicate where they were with the upgrade process.
The sewerage issues were the responsibility of Minister Mchunu's Department of Water and Sanitation, and if they were unable to respond, they would come back to the Committee with information on whether they had issued compliance notices. She asked that details be submitted if it was a new issue, so they could send their inspectors out.
She said they do a lot of work with provincial and local government on waste issues to try and improve compliance and collections, and through the EPWP, had also put teams into some of the bigger towns and cities so that they could clean up illicit dump sites. The Department very much shared the Committee's concern that the country did not look good. Some of the reasons for the breakdown of collection services in cities across the country were complicated, and while the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) would be in the best position to tell the Committee how they were improving the functionality of local government, something needed to be done in the meantime about the process, because waste that was left lying around ultimately found its way into river systems and wetlands. Therefore, they were trying to augment clearing illegal dumpsites and cleaning processes in some of the bigger cities.
The Producer Responsibility Organisation was new, and in her opinion, they had done well in the first year, but clearly, they could always do better and they were gradually finding their feet. One of the issues they had to look into was the demand side interventions, because picking up the waste, processing it, and sorting it was only one part of the equation. The other part was finding a market for goods that would be produced and in that regard, they had seen some interesting examples in recent years. For example, in Cape Town, bricks were being made from plastic waste. It was one of those projects where they could work with waste that had a percentage of organic matter and also had a percentage of things that were hard to process, like polystyrene. In that regard, she had been interfacing with the Minister of Human Settlements to find out whether those bricks were acceptable, and the Minister had responded that some products had been approved for use as alternative building materials.
Some of the interventions that they had to get into were the demand side measures, because, in her own experience of clean-ups, there was a high demand for glass bottles, beer bottles and clear plastic bottles which one would never dump, because people were clear that such commodities were money. Therefore, there was a need to work more on the demand side so that there was a demand for things like ice cream and chocolate wrappers, which were abundant in dumping sites, so those commodities also had a market value.
Ms Musekene said that with regard to the demand side referred to by the Minister, carrier bags sold at retail stores as part of the demand side meant that they had been put into the regulations, with 2023 being the first year. They would be coming back at the end of the current financial year to brief the Committee on how they had fared because they had introduced recycled content into the product manufacturing of new bags, so since January of 2023, the plastic carrier bags that were being sold or that were on the market had a regulated content of recycling. This was just one of the measures put in place to ensure they improved waste management.
Mr Naidoo said that the water quality reports had to be submitted to the business performance assessment unit, so they were within the DFFE, so they could be sent to the Committee as required. The shark biodiversity plan had been published in August for comment, and the comment period had just ended. Staff were currently awaiting the bulk of the comments that had come in and were categorising them. They had given themselves until October to complete this, and if more specific responses were required, they would deal with that. The current version of the plan could be accessed from the Department’s website under the published gazette notices. They would assess whether it needed major or minor rework once the comments had been assessed.
Ms Bendeman responded to the wetlands issue raised by Ms Winkler, and said they prioritised protected sites over other areas, given their international importance. She was checking with their enforcement team on whether they were in fact, dealing with that particular case. Most of the sewage cases were captured under the name of the particular municipality, so they would verify the situation and provide a written response on whether action had specifically been taken with regard to that particular site itself.
Ms Musekene said that the Department had gone through an improvement process with regard to the audit outcome. Historically, most of the budget under environmental programmes had a different way of outsourcing, which had created audit problems in the past. It also led to ensuring that they go through open tender processes, which meant the supply chain management unit now had to deal with increased volume.
In response to Ms Weber, she said the challenges faced differed regarding SCM processes. The reason the target on air quality was not achieved was that they had gone on a competitive bidding process in that area, and the bidders had submitted their tenders. The prices were higher than the budgeted amount, and when one assessed those prices, they could be inflated or the prices had become higher than the previous market. In that regard, it was not that they could simply ignore or turn a blind eye to those areas. They had to go back and check on whether market analysis had been done and if not, they had to be done because they were managing government funds at the same time. If prices were inflated, they could not go ahead and just allow the service providers to make money out of the government.
Looking at programme eight (nurseries), she said that all processes were followed in terms of the bid committees -- specifications were done, proper research was done on what was required by the government, and what services were required. They had advertised, and at the time of evaluation versus the terms of reference that went out, no suitable bidders had supplied their tender documents. As a result, they went back and had to cancel because no one could be appointed. They had to do an introspective assessment to check whether their expectations were realistic or not. Could they break down the deliverables that they wanted so that they could get potential service providers that could assist them, unlike if they expanded the scope and expected that there would be someone that could deliver that service in one go? That was why she said different challenges were experienced in the SCM area. The same applied to the EPWP -- when the evaluation committee assessed the specifications, it highlighted areas of non-compliance. As a result, they could not proceed because of the challenges encountered in the entire supply chain. That was why they said they still had some issues to work on.
Mr Kekana said the Garden Route was the only locality identified for that project. The Department conducted a risk and vulnerability assessment of all district municipalities and then ranked them. Based on that, the Garden Route showed a high frequency of wildfires, which was why it was prioritised. However, the selection really came out of the risk and vulnerability assessments that they conducted.
Ms Nodada said she would support what they did in the nurseries with a detailed presentation on the work being done, the turnaround strategy they were implementing, and try and make sure that there was a bit of an improvement, as indicated. She agreed that the nurseries should play a huge role in the green space in terms of how many trees they were able to plant, but also the propagation of those trees. They would prepare a detailed presentation on what they had been able to do in the first six months of this financial year, including the SCM matters that the CFO had already alluded to.
Ms Winkler said that she wanted to ask about the viability of pursuing legislation on single-use plastics, because she agreed with the Minister that it required a multifaceted approach as there was also a demand side, and the source of single-use plastic was a massive issue. She wondered what research had been done to that end, given that there was not a very effective circular economy at the moment with regard to waste, and the fact that the South African local municipalities were struggling to deal with basic waste management. The level of plastic and other environmental pollution disproportionately affected the most vulnerable communities, so it was incumbent upon them to look at other holistic solutions. She did not see why industries that produce volumes of single-use plastics should not also be held accountable in terms of providing a solution to inadequate waste management and environmental waste pollution.
Minister Creecy said that Ms Winkler was correct when she said that in the approach to reuse and recycling, there must also be a reduction approach. She agreed that one did not want to reduce single-use plastics -- one wanted to eliminate them. If one went into the fast food and retail sectors, there had been significant progress in eliminating single-use plastics over the last four years. One would see that there had been significant replacement of single-use cutlery with paper cups, and so on. The difficulty was in the informal sector, where one would find a lot of use of polystyrene and plastic bags that were not compliant with the regulatory environment. There was only a point to banning the product if the ban was going to be effective, and there was no evidence that they would be able to implement that kind of ban in the informal sector effectively. She said to the producer responsibility schemes that they had made a lot of progress in the formal sector that utilised single-use plastics. Most of those were imported and were not really being manufactured in the country. Could they give attention to the informal sector, which means they had to do a lot of public education with informal traders, and also be able to offer them alternative products. One assumed that they were using those products because they perceived they were cheap and hygienic for their customers, and so on. This was a complicated matter, and she remained unconvinced that a ban could solve it. The country was struggling with law enforcement in general in society, and one may not find that law enforcement authorities could police the ban effectively. Her preference was that they needed to work on reduction, which meant they had to do a lot more work with the informal sector to reduce the use of these goods, as they had done in the formal sector.
Ms Musekene said that the Department had considered the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) research, reinforcing the policy position on the amended plastic bag regulations. They needed to look at the demand side, which was why they introduced amendments to ensure that they looked into increasing the recycled content in manufacturing the carrier bags. For now, some of the single-use items identified as a concern were part of the producer responsibility products. They were looking into their performance in that space, and if they saw no improvement, they would look into other measures to introduce to manage the situation.
The Chairperson said this was a lengthy debate, and everyone had a different view. For now, in his view, all the interventions they had come up with were temporary, and only when they found a long-term solution in the form of legislation would they be able to deal with that matter. It was a discussion that they would continue pursuing for as long as the Committee was there.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for their participation. They were also scheduled to have a presentation from iSimangaliso, but due to time constraints, they agreed to start with them at their next meeting later in the evening.
Mr Bryant suggested that they move the Simangaliso presentation be moved to their meeting the next day, alongside the A-list presentation.
Ms Wrinkler seconded this proposal.
The meeting was adjourned.
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