DFFE, MLRF & SANBI 2022/23 Annual Reports; with Ministry

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

10 October 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment


Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF)

The Committee received briefings in a virtual meeting from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), on their annual performance reports for the year 2022/23.

The DFFE reported that it had achieved 57 of the 73 targets set for the year, and had managed to spend 98% of its allocated budget. They had received an unqualified audit outcome from the Auditor General. The Department assured the Committee that no fiscal dumping had taken place, and that what the report failed to show was work in progress on the non-achieved targets. They also assured the Committee that they were putting in place action plans to ensure that they implemented the recommendations of the Auditor-General following the audit findings that had been made.

The Committee expressed concern that there seemed to be fiscal dumping in some of the programmes, where a majority of the targets were not achieved yet almost the entire budget had been spent. However, it noted that most of the causes for delay revolved around supply chain management issues and Treasury regulations, and asked what could be done to improve the process.

The MLRF said the Fund had received a clean audit, and that they had spent 94% of their allocated budget. The Fund could operate normally for the foreseeable future, taking into account the projected income they were planning to receive. Irregular expenditure had been contained.

SANBI reported that they had received an unqualified audit outcome and had managed to achieve 94% of their targets. This represented a marginal improvement from the 93% of the previous year.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that for the fourth quarter, the Committee would be very busy with Budgetary Review and Recommendations Reports (BRRRs), and called for the adoption of the agenda. Ms N Gantsho (ANC) moved for its adoption, and Ms S Mbatha (ANC) seconded.

Mr D Bryant (DA) raised a concern about the presentations, saying that it was helpful for the Committee to be able to spend time going through them to analyse all the information they contained. However, he had received the bulk of the presentations only on the morning of the meeting, and this hampered the opportunity for Members to analyse them beforehand. He asked that going forward, the Committee be provided with the presentations in time where possible.

The Chairperson said problems such as getting the presentations late should not occur, as they had been operating well so far.

Committee Fourth quarter programme

The Chairperson said that the Committee shared the sentiments of Mr N Paulsen (EFF) that not all meetings for the fourth quarter should be held virtually -- some of them must be physical. He had requested the administrative team to explore possibly getting them boardrooms in Cape Town. He therefore asked the Committee to bear in mind that even as they adopted its programme, there might be amendments showing that some of the meetings might not be virtual, but rather physical.

Mr Bryant said that some items may have been left off. The first was the overview of the provincial game reserves, following the findings from the Rademeyer report. An overview of issues relating to the provincial game reserves would be necessary, as they did not fall within SANParks competency. It was an issue that was important to the Committee. The second was a follow-up briefing regarding the theft of rhino horns from the rhino horn stockpile in the North West. He requested if those issues could be included in the programme for the fourth term.

Ms Gantsho moved the adoption of the fourth quarter programme, with the amendments. Ms Mbatha seconded.

Minister's opening remarks

Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, said that the Department's presentation had been deposited with the secretary of the Committee on Friday the previous week. They had been mindful that the Members of the Committee would want to give it sufficient attention. There had been a delay in receiving the presentation from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as a result of the Department receiving the BRRR late on Friday themselves. They had then requested SANBI to include some documentation in that regard, but nevertheless they had submitted the same documentation early the previous afternoon. The Committee might therefore have to look into its own administration processes. The presentations of the different entities had been submitted late yesterday afternoon, but those matters were not on the agenda for this meeting.

She said there were Cabinet sub-committee meetings the next day where she had to make a presentation, so she would not be in attendance during the Auditor-General of South Africa's (AGSA's) presentation. However, the Department had produced a very comprehensive response to all the issues that the AG had raised for the attention of the Committee. The Committee would receive that presentation at the meeting the next day. They had also requested that as the Director General was still recovering from a medical procedure, she would listen to the proceedings, but would not speak or participate during the next day’s meeting.

On the outcomes of the previous financial year, the Minister said that they had gotten over the hill concerning the audit outcome and finally managed to receive an unqualified audit. This was no mean feat. It was something that required the collective work of the entire leadership and management of the Department. It really had been a difficult process but they were glad to have gotten there. The second thing that she wanted to highlight was that the Department had significantly improved spending which was a concern in the previous year regarding returning money back to treasury which had not happened this time. There had been excellent spending in all branches.

Regarding the performance of the Department of Forestry. Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), she said some of the branches had excellent performances, having achieved all their outcomes, while other branches still required a bit of a push which she was sure the Committee would give them. What was important about this performance review, and what was different from last year, was that this year, there were only two determinants -- that targets had either been achieved or not been achieved. There was no work in progress. While branches may not have achieved each and every one of the performance outcomes, this did not mean that considerable work had not been done. In many instances, there was a marginal difference between fully completing all of the outcomes. It was an important difference -- that the bar had been raised, and that branches did not get a "green" unless all the targets had been achieved.

Department's annual performance report 2022/23

Ms Mamogala Musekene, Acting Director-General, DFFE, said the Department had a total of 78 targets, and had managed to achieve 57. Three of their branches had managed to achieve 100% of their targets, while some were able to get over 80%. There was one branch that had gone below 50%, while others had hovered between 50% and 60%. Regarding the Department's financial performance, they have made improvements. They had been able to reach 98% because most of the branches were able to deliver. Programmes One and Two had met 100% of their targets, and she asked that the focus be on the branches that had failed to meet all of their targets.

Dr Lisolomzi Fikizolo, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Oceans and Coasts, said they had achieved nine out of the ten set targets. The target not achieved was on marine protected areas (MPAs), which constituted 10% of their total area of performance. They had spent 97.1% of their appropriated budget for the 2022/23 financial year. The reason for not achieving the MPA management plans was that the vetting of the draft plans had taken longer than anticipated. They have since managed to achieve the target. As they still had a number of MPA areas for which they needed to draft plans, they would try to keep it together with their funders, as the project was donor-funded.

Mr Maesela Kekana, DDG: Climate Change and Air Quality Management, indicated that they had a total of eight targets, but had achieved only five. They had spent 97.6% of their budget for the 2022/23financial year. Among the three targets not achieved was the failure to install the Garden Route early fire detection and management system. This had been because the bids for the advertised tender went above the set budget. The second was that the status of the National Air Quality Indicator needed to be at around 1.0, but had come in at 1.14. This was due to certain areas experiencing poor air quality due, among others, to industrial activity resulting in air quality being above ambient air quality standards. Similarly, four of the 15 stations that were supposed to be meeting the minimum data recovery of 75% had been unable to do so owing to power interruptions during load shedding. They were busy with procurement, looking at alternative power sources for the particular air quality stations.

Ms Mohlago Mokgohloa, DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation Management, said that they had set ten targets, of which they had managed to achieve six. The branch had spent 98.4% of its allocated budget, which mainly included the transfers to its three entities -- SANParks, SANBI and iSimangaliso. The first non-achieved target was the number of hectares of land added to the conservation estate, which had been set at 610 674 ha, but they had managed to add only 382 517 ha due to some of the identified parcels having pending land claims. The second target not achieved was the compilation of the protected areas management improvement plans of management authorities. They had been unable to compile the status report for all three entities, as the baseline data to determine which authorities needed to develop and implement was yet to be collected. The third was concerning securing strategic water sources, which was work they were doing with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), as well as SANBi. They were unable to achieve this target because securing the water sources was dependent on multiple stakeholders, while they facilitated the process as the DFFE. The last one was the number of biodiversity economy initiatives implemented, where they were unable to create the 800 jobs they had hoped to because of delays in the procurement of project managers. She said that they were ramping up the project and would be working with SANBi on implementing it.

Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize, DDG: Environmental Programmes, said that they had a total of 12 indicators, of which they had managed to achieve 42%. They had managed to spend 98.4 % of their allocated budget. Of the targets not achieved, she said that a lot of the environmental tenders had been cancelled, so they had to go through an alternative process to acquire permissions so that they could extend contracts where it was possible and have variation orders where it was appropriate. Even though they had not achieved all of their targets, they had managed to spend 98% of their budget. The targets that were not achieved related to the full time equivalent (FTE) jobs, where they had managed to create only 20 209 of the 30 507 targeted. This was due to delays in obtaining variation orders, which had caused work planned for August 2022 to commence only in November. Similarly, they were unable to create the set number of work opportunities due to the cancellation of tenders and delays in obtaining variation orders. The same issues also applied to the targets of the completion of accredited training programmes. The other targets were the initial clearing and follow-up on the clearing of invasive plant species which they were unable to meet due to the floods in the national parks that made them inaccessible, as well as the delays in obtaining variation orders for single source projects. They had therefore focused on the follow-ups, rather than the initial clearing. Another unachieved target was the number of constructed or renovated biodiversity infrastructure buildings, where they had managed to construct 21 and renovate one. The issue was that they had exceeded the number of buildings constructed, but had failed to meet the target of the number of buildings renovated. The last unachieved target was the number of buy-back centres constructed and renovated, where they managed to construct only one instead of the three they had planned. This was caused by delays in the procurement process.

Ms Musekene reported on the Chemicals and Waste Management department, and said that they had a total of 11 targets and had met nine of them, while spending 98.5% of the allocated budget. The first target they had not achieved related to waste diverted from landfill sites was due to the 2022 calendar year being their first year of implementation of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy. This required the producers of paper and packaging to register with the DFFE so that they were known to the Department, and were part of the South African market. There were a lot of non-compliant producers, who they were referring to as "free riders," because they were not part of the EPR schemes they had established. They were therefore working together with their compliance monitoring and enforcement colleagues to ensure that they facilitated compliance. The other reason was the delay in the payment of the waste picker collection fee, which led to the low collection of recyclables. The second non-achieved target related to the number of tons of lightning waste diverted from landfill sites, which was due to delays in concurrence for the EPR fees which had led to a late start from some of the producer responsibility organisations.

Ms Pumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, she said they had achieved four of their eight targets, and had spent 92.6% of their allocated budget. Among the non-achieved targets was the acreage of the temporary unplanted areas (TUPs), where they only managed to plant on 1 124 ha instead of the planned 1 800 ha due to the fact that the seedlings' delivery for the Eastern Cape had been delayed. In Kwazulu-Natal, service delivery protests prevented staff from accessing the plantations, and in Mpumalanga, the plantations were not conducive for forestry activities due to insecurity issues. All the contracts were in place for the seedlings, and they would be able to commence with their planting from quarter three. She said that they were led by the availability of water, which was mainly the rain. The other area was the number of nurseries that were to be refurbished, which was unachieved due to water and equipment challenges as well as non-responsiveness to bids. Another target was the number of plantations handed over to communities, where they had handed over only three of the four plantations. The reasons for the delay was that one community had withdrawn interest in the management of the plantation due to concerns over a lack of capacity, as well as their own internal conflicts regarding revenue collection. For the current year, they were working on strengthening their relationship with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in terms of providing assistance in dealing with conflicts in those communities. They had also strengthened their relationship with the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), who were assisting them with issues related to capacity building. They were also trying as much as possible to track the emerging issues that come out of the communities through consultation, just to ensure that they were able to pick up any challenges that might arise. The last target not achieved was the number of trees not planted outside of the forests, which was due to delays in procurement processes.

Ms Sue Middleton, DDG: Fisheries Management, said that the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) had managed to achieve nine of the ten set targets. The unachieved target was the number of FTE jobs created within the fisheries sector, which was due to the fact that they had started employing people late in the financial year, so they did not have time to achieve that target. In Programme 9, they had managed to achieve 100% of their targets.

Mr Wickness Rooifontein, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), MLRF, said the Fund had received a clean audit, and that they had spent 94% of their allocated budget. The Fund could operate normally for the foreseeable future taking into account the projected income they were planning to receive. Irregular expenditure had been contained. The internal audit governance structures were all functioning. The revenue collected for 2022/23 was at 90%.

Ms Andiswa Jass, CFO, DFFE, said that the Department had managed to spend 98% of its budget. Compared to the previous financial year, they had managed to spend 16% more of the allocated budget, which was an improvement. There was an overall improvement in the overall audit outcome which ended up with the AGSA giving the Department an unqualified audit opinion. Following the audit findings, they put an audit action plan in place to ensure that all areas of risk and other findings were addressed. They were also making sure that progress on remedial actions was monitored on a weekly basis, and branches were being engaged on a weekly basis for updates on the implementation of remedial actions, with sufficient portfolio evidence.

See attached for full presentation


Mr N Singh (IFP) congratulated the Minister on the audit outcomes. He had always raised the issue of targets, performance and money spent. It would not be logical to pat themselves on the back to say that 98% of the budget had been spent, yet half the targets had not been achieved. This seemed to be the case in some of the programmes. He wondered what the money had been spent on in cases where over 90% percent of the budget was spent, yet their targets were not achieved. These were targets which the Department had set for themselves. He was concerned that it was now six months since the end of the financial year, and it behoved the Committee to get progress reports from the programme managers who were unable to achieve their targets. He was worried that they would come back again next year, six months after the end of the financial year, to be told that they had not managed to hit their targets.

In the number of areas where targets were not met, they involved issues that were extremely important to the environment in general, such as climate change, air quality biodiversity and conservation. The issue of job creation, where the targets had not been met, was a cause for concern. On environmental programmes, the Department had stated that only 42% of their targets were achieved, yet 98 % of the budget had been spent. This was nothing to be proud of. He asked who was being referred to as "free riders" in the Chemicals and Waste Management report. He was pleased that Programme 8 indicated that the DFFE had started to plant the trees in the first two terms of the financial year.

Ms H Winkler (DA) also congratulated the Minister and the Department on the good audit outcomes. Referring to Programme 4, she asked what the general plan was to deal with the air quality issues, because many of the monitoring stations had interrupted data delivery because of the load-shedding. Outside of that, the Department did not seem to have a good handle on how they were going to manage air quality so that it was adequate for human existence. Regarding strategic water sources in Programme 5, she wondered whether any collaboration had taken place with the DWS. She said it was important to collaborate with other departments to ensure that they could protect the strategic water reserves. The delay in the appointment of a project manager and 800 people in jobs was a big cause for concern, and an explanation was necessary as to why that had occurred. In Programme 6, there had been 21 biodiversity infrastructure projects, and she asked where exactly these projects had been completed. She wanted to know what the Department’s plan was to ensure the success of the forestry management projects.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) referred to Programme 4, and asked what the Department was doing to the culprits that were responsible for pollution. He asked who the donors for environmental programmes were, and what conditions were attached to their donations. On the clearing of invasive species, he asked whether that did not justify employing permanent staff instead of spending time and effort on red tape to get approval for such programmes.

In Programme 9, there seemed to be a budget for money raised from confiscated fish products. He was concerned that someone else’s efforts were being taken away, and were going into the coffers of the Department. He considered it extremely amoral and unethical that people were not being allowed to fish, and when they did fish, the DFFE confiscated it, sold it off and made money from it. What were the chances that the Department would change that policy?

Mr Bryant said the sale of confiscated marine products was something that the Committee must address when it got to deal with the Marine Living Resources (MLR) Act and its potential amendments. In many ways, it was creating an industry, and although only a small portion of the overall revenue was gathered by the MLRF, it was still enough to create issues when it came to confiscation and sales, because the products were a valuable resource. As legislators, it was important for them to ensure that when those issues were properly debated and brought to the Committee for amendment, this was taken into consideration. In the same way that confiscated products in criminal activities were disposed of, perhaps the same thing should be done in terms of confiscated marine products. He agreed with Mr Singh that there could not be a situation where fiscal dumping was often taking place and targets were not being achieved, but funds were getting spent possibly in areas where they did not necessarily need that money to be allocated.

Ms A Weber (DA) said that she supported what Mr Singh had stated, and congratulated the Department on their improvement in audit outcomes. The failure to put in protection systems to warn the people of fires was a concern, and she asked what the issue was involving birds that the Department had said was the reason for the deviation. In her opinion, the protection of bird life was also important, and she wanted to know how the DFFE prioritised its problem resolution for such issues.

She said there was still much to be done on waste issues. She was concerned about the lateness of the stakeholders that the Department worked with. It was important that the Committee, as well as the Department, stuck to timelines. There were major consequences when they did not meet timelines. It was unacceptable for there to be lack of consequences -- for instance, in Programme 8 -- where the non-responsiveness to a bid had delayed the full refurbishment of nurseries. There should be consequences for matters like that. To her, that was not a reason for failing to meet a target, but merely an excuse.

Department's responses

Minister Creecy said fiscal dumping was a matter which they would not support as a Department. The reason that she had begun the meeting by saying that the DFFE was dealing with only two indicators was precisely to answer the concern regarding fiscal dumping -- that if 100% of targets had not been achieved, but there had been 98% spending, then what had the money been used for? The only way that they could rectify this was by going to the old situation, to show work in progress so that the Committee would be able to see that although 100% had not been achieved, they had nevertheless done considerable work towards the achievement of those targets, so the money was indeed used for the purpose for which it was intended. She suggested that when the DDGs were responding to the specific questions, they should reflect on the extent to which there had been work in progress and indicate that they were not just dealing with a target where nothing had been achieved and where there had been dumping.

She welcomed Mr Singh’s suggestion on the provision of progress reports. They were happy to share the first quarter performance with the Committee, where one could see there had been improvement. The fact that they were always running so far behind did not do justice to the current quarter. She saw that the first quarter performance was on the Committee's agenda for this term, and the Department looked forward to that presentation.

In response to Ms Weber on issues of delays in procurement, but also why the Department was going through the procurement for public works and also other programmes, she said she had raised the issue with National Treasury and also in the Cabinet. She explained that Treasury regulations required them to treat the creation of expanded public works as a procurement exercise. This meant that if one wanted to go to a remote village in the Eastern Cape to remove alien species, one must put out a tender in that area. One may find that in such areas, there were very few formal businesses, or that there had never been a business in that area that had responded to a tender, so what one got was what was called a non-responsive tender. This did not mean that nobody did any work -- it meant that one was bound by Treasury regulations that may be difficult to implement in areas where one needed to do work. That was where they faced consistent problems as a Department, and it was the problem that led to the delays in the appointment of contractors for the expanded public works programme (EPWP) for a period of three years. They had only managed to appoint all the contractors that they were required to appoint after three years. It had been an enormous undertaking by the environmental programmes, because they have had to go area by area and assist contractors to meet the terms and conditions that would allow them to tender. She had raised the issue and pointed out that the Treasury regulations were not appropriate. The reason they had an unqualified audit outcome was because they had stopped the process that had happened in the previous term of government, where EPWP participants were appointed on a basis that did not meet with Treasury regulations. It was important for Members to understand the linkages between the requirements of Treasury, the requirements for an unqualified audit, and the impact that this had had on performance and the difficulty that officials had had across programmes in making sure that they complied with the necessary processes. It was not an excuse, but a fact, and that was why they had experienced those difficulties. She was sure that there would be reforms to the public procurement process in due course, but she did think this was an area that required attention. Was it important when dealing with public procurement in rural communities to go through all of these processes? They wanted to root out corruption, but to her, the regulatory environment they were bound by did not assist them with the speedy implementation of their programmes, and she was not sure that it was appropriate for the communities for which they were trying to provide work. She felt it was important to explain it so that the Committee understood the balancing act they had had to perform for the last few years, and the requirements and other challenges to try and fulfil their procurement obligations under very difficult circumstances.

On the question of the underperformance of the air quality monitoring stations, she said that this was something that the Committee was going to encounter again when the South African Weather Service (SAWS) made its presentation. There was work in progress to procure equipment to upgrade those stations, to relocate them in safe environments, and to provide for backup power facilities. However, this was not something that could happen overnight because of both budget constraints and the complex procurement requirements. What the Department was doing on a weekly basis, together with the Director-General, was conducting oversight over this process so that they made sure that there were no delays and that they were moving speedily towards a conclusion of this particular matter.

She suggested that a written response be given to Ms Winkler’s question over the 21 projects, as she felt that the Department may not be able to give a response at the moment. In response to Mr Paulsen, she said that they had already given a list of the donors and donations and what they were for, to this Committee.

Ms Musekene said that in the chemicals and waste management programme, two targets were not met, which were related to the producer-related responsibility she was raising under the finance, because they had operationalised the 'polluter pay' principle. Therefore, they were not using the allocated funds from National Treasury concerning the producer responsibility project. This was an industry-managed model, where the producers or manufacturers themselves set up schemes prescribed by the regulations. There were funds that they collected for the sole purpose of setting up the collection of their waste, as well as the treatment/recycling of that waste. As the regulator, they needed to ensure that they provided oversight, evaluating whether the schemes were effective and that they met their targets. They had been unable to meet their targets because there were issues involved in setting the process up. The regulations required that all the producers of the regulated products -- meaning paper and packaging -- to register under the Department’s scheme. The "free riders" were those whose producers did not comply with the regulations, meaning that they did not register and were not contributing to managing their products when they reached the end of their lives. They were therefore working together with the unit responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement to facilitate compliance, where they were utilising different tactics and strategies to address the matter, as they did not want to see free riders because they undermined the system that they had set up.

Mr Kekana said they had made some progress on the air quality front. They had been able to relocate some of the previously non-functional stations to safer areas, and these were now fully functional. In terms of the overall plan, they shared the concerns of Ms Winkler, but they were in the final stages of coming up with regulations that would ensure that they could strictly measure the air quality monitoring management plans. The Department believed that that would go a long way in ensuring that there was compliance with those particular plans, and that this would get them closer to achieving their target.

He said that on the Garden Route fire warning issue, unfortunately, from the market analysis, they had budgeted R4 million, but the bids had come in at around R10 million. The R4m budget had been based on previous similar work that had been, but the bids had been higher than the set budget.

Ms Mokgohloa referred to the issue of strategic water areas. She said she had indicated that the Department would play a facilitation role and that the DWS was part of the team they had assembled and the SANBI to look at various measures that they used to secure the 22 strategic water source areas across the country. The objective of that particular programme was to ensure that the strategic water source areas that formed the backbone of South Africa’s economy had adequate mechanisms to protect them. The current situation was that there was no formal protection mechanism for these strategic water source areas. The DWS was also looking into amendments to the National Water Act so that they could include a provision for ensuring that the strategic water source areas were formally protected also. She was therefore confirming that the DFFE was collaborating with the DWS, as well as other relevant stakeholders in the team they had assembled regarding that matter.

Ms Middleton said that she did not doubt that when they got into the meat of the amendment to the Marine Life Resources Act, the sale of confiscated fish and fish products would be one of the very hot debate areas. They were not only talking about abalone, but also about fish and fishing equipment that got confiscated. They sometimes donated confiscated fish in an edible state to schools or charitable organisations, so there were various facets and aspects to the confiscation of fish products. They returned the fish to the sea or ocean, destroying rotten fish where possible. However, the policy did allow the Department to confiscate and to sell the proceeds of illegal activities, including abalone, as well other equipment such as boats or fishing gear. This was a topic for another day and would be one of the themes when they reviewed the amendment of the Marine Living Resources Act.

Ms Mkhize responded on the expenditure versus performance on environmental programmes. She said that even though they had not achieved certain targets, they had been able to do so on the following-up target, which was clearing invasive species. They had cleared 91% of the number of hectares that had been allocated. On training, they were at 81% in terms of the people who would have received accredited training. On work opportunities, they had achieved 88% of the number of work opportunities targeted. She emphasised that as a branch, they had been required to deliver 22 biodiversity infrastructures made up of ten that were constructed, and 12 renovated. Even though they had been able to deliver 22 infrastructures, it had been argued that this was not a full achievement because the 22 were not further desegregated in line with the ten constructed and the 12 renovated. The target had been exceeded in that regard would be the number of wetlands under rehabilitation. The annual target had been 100, but they were able to deliver 125. She was therefore assuring the Committee that work was definitely done in terms of the 91%, the follow-up of 88% on work opportunities, and also the targets that were exceeded.

The second part was also following up on what the Minister had highlighted in recognition of the challenges that they had had in concluding supply chain management (SCM) processes. In the last year, they initiated SCM processes for service providers for invasive alien plant clearing over a five-year period. The work would be on the ground from the month of October onwards. As a Department, they had also opted to use their own project management capacity towards the end of the financial year to implement projects as much as possible, so where it was practically and legally possible to do the work themselves, they had done so. That was the work that they were continuing to meet the work opportunities target and achieve their other environmental deliverables.

Ms Nodada said the community that had declined to sign the community forestry agreement, citing some issues of capacity, had strengthened their collaboration with the industry. This was to ensure that they were brought into discussions so they could identify areas where they could support the communities. Linked to this was that they had developed and approved a post-settlement support strategy in the previous year that they were now implementing. They had also started to consolidate some packages that looked at issues of capacity building, with technical and business support, and legislation-related mandates such as integrated fire management and clearing of aliens in their areas next to rivers. They were also looking at how they could link with the DALRRD on issues of blended finance, where they could see if the Department and the industry could come up with some funding and reduce the burden on these communities. They had identified some training needs and were also collaborating with the FP&M SETA, assisting them in training the communities so that they could understand the business of managing the plantations to get the technical support and training that took place at that level.

Acting DG Musekene said that they would submit the written responses, as indicated by the Minister.

SANBI's annual performance report 2022/23

Prof Edward Nesamvuni, Chairperson, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), said he was happy to report that the collective efforts of SANBI's management in terms of the implementation of identified targets had recorded an impressive overall performance of 94% for the 2022/23 financial year. This was a steady improvement from the previous year’s performance, which had been at 92%. There were many achievements to report on, but he would focus on a few areas that needed SANBI’s amplified attention to ensure that all planned performances reached the target of 100% going forward.

He said that SANBI had received an unqualified audit opinion for the 2022/23 financial year, and had successfully implemented 100% of the prior year’s activities in the external audit action plan. The board had already considered and approved a comprehensive audit improvement plan developed to address all the audit findings raised by the AGSA for the 2022/23 financial year. The management was also currently working closely with the AG to ensure that the areas requiring improvement were going to be effectively addressed and to minimise instances where differences in interpretation may arise in the future.

He said that the audit and risk committee of the board remained focused on its role of oversight on matters of audit risk and management finance compliance, and also organisational controls. Critical to these issues was SANBI's financial position. He said SANBI was solvent, with current liquid assets exceeding current liabilities. The board had also approved the implementation plan of the SANBI financial sustainability strategy for 2023/24, which would end in 2031/32, aimed at maximising its income-generating potential through exploring identified opportunities for income-generation resource mobilisation and other innovations. The board would continue to monitor the implementation of the strategy moving forward.

The board had also approved the repositioning strategy of the National Zoological Gardens (NZG), which was currently being implemented with the aim of enhancing the role of the NZG in conservation, environmental education and ecotourism. The focus during the reporting period was to implement the targeting infrastructure improvement programme, given the inherited alien infrastructure. Critical to SANBI’s role was its important leadership role in the implementation of the biodiversity human capital development strategy for the sector.

In 2022/23, a number of key milestones were achieved, which included the training of more than 1 050 graduates with government and non-government host organisations under the graduate skills development programme coordinated by SANBI, with the support of the Department. Another milestone was the support for black biodiversity professionals where SANBI, through its human capital programme, had developed internship and postgraduate study support, as well as work-integrated learning, which was experiential learning necessary to augment. Thirdly, SANBI continued to invest in the professional and leadership development of its staff members through continuous coaching and mentoring the talent pipeline, and by giving staff bursaries, career ladder programmes and other forms of professional exposure. This programme continued to bear fruit for the organisation.

He said SANBI was the leading authority on conservation restoration and the sustainable management of biodiversity assets and ecological infrastructure, and had contributed significantly to addressing the environmental crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation, whilst balancing the country’s developmental needs. It continued to participate in the process led by the DFFE in reviewing the policies, legislation and practices in the field of biodiversity and conservation that were aimed at fostering sustainable development whilst taking into consideration social and economic imperatives.

The Institute played a pivotal role in developing and revising the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity and the revised national biodiversity strategy and action plan. SANBI had completed a new institutional green energy and water conservation strategy and implementation plan in the 2022/23 financial year, and its plans to expand efforts in the green energy and water conservation projects across SANBI's campuses were ongoing. It also provided technical support to the DFFE in its efforts to secure the strategic water sources areas, which were national ecological infrastructure assets essential for water. SANBi also provided technical support to Statistics South Africa towards its publication on the accounts for the strategic water source areas from 1990 to 2020. These accounts profiled South Africa’s 22 strategic source areas, which constitute 10% of the land and deliver 50% of the country’s water. The information in these accounts assisted in guiding measures for securing these areas through better management, reducing negative impacts and restoring ecosystems.

He said SANBI noted with appreciation that after long and hard negotiations, it continued to participate in the process involved in domesticating global biodiversity through its critical role in providing the biodiversity science necessary for evidence-based policy and decision making. He also took the opportunity to thank SANBI's network of partners for their significant contributions.

Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SANBI, said they had achieved 46 of their 49 targets. The targets that had not been achieved included two new infrastructure projects completed at the Kwelera National Botanical Garden (NBG) Eastern Cape visitors' centre and gatehouse. They had managed to complete the gatehouse, and only partially complete the visitors' centre. The delay had been caused by delays in the appointment of contractors, a well as payments. However, this had been completed in the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year.

The second target had been the participation of 20 higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Biodiversity Careers Programme, where only 16 had managed to participate. An additional eight higher education institutions had participated in the biodiversity careers expo held in August 2022, but the evidence of participation had been inadequate for auditing purposes. They have since been in consultation with the AGSA to enhance clarity and interpretation of the output indicators, the means of verification and the technical indicator description.

The third target had been resource mobilisation, where they managed to raise only R85 817 240 against the target of R95 million. They were working on improving the internal coordination of resource mobilisation efforts among all role players.

Mr Alan Smith, Director: Financial Management and Reporting, said that the audit process had been completed on time before 31 July 2023, with SANBI receiving an unqualified audit outcome. Their 94% achievement represented a marginal improvement from the 93% in the previous year.

Following the audit, the AGSA had made two recommendations. These were a review of its financial statements to ensure compliance with Generally Recognised Accounting Principles (GRAP) requirements, and that the Institute put in place quality assurance controls on performance information. To address these recommendations, SANBI management was working with AGSA on potential areas of divergent interpretation of the reporting standards and alignment thereof in the annual financial statements. He added that SANBI was making improvements to performance information incorporated in line with AGSA's recommendations, and internal systems were being enhanced.

See attached for full presentation


The Chairperson invited the Members to engage with the presentation. None of the Members raised any questions or comments.

The Chairperson then invited the Minister to make closing remarks.

Minister's closing remarks

Minister Creecy said that the Department was still involved in the reporting process, and her colleagues would be with the Committee the following day, as well as on Thursday. She would not be attending the meeting on the following day due to the Cabinet sub-committees, but she thanked the Committee for the opportunities to engage with them.

The Chairperson indicated that the meeting on Thursday had been cancelled due to caucuses that would be taking place, so the Committee would be meeting only the following day.

The meeting was adjourned.


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