Committee Induction

Water and Sanitation

09 August 2004
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 August 2004
COMMITTEE INDUCTION

This is a PMG edited version of a report produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust:
www.contacttrust.org.za

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Transfer of skills
Programmes of presentation
The demographics of the Department:
http://www.contacttrust.org.za/parldocs/20040810dwaf_representivity.pp
Forestry vision
Budget Briefing

SUMMARY:
The Committee heard an overview of the Department of it's Strategic Plan and Budget. The presentation focused on the different components of the Department such as Corporate Services, Water Services, Water Resource Management and Forestry.

MINUTES

Department overview
A large Department delegation led by Director-General, Mr Mike Muller, provided an overview of their work.

Discussion
The Chairperson urged the Department to clarify where the Committee fitted into the Department's strategic framework. The D-G acknowledged that the Committee was an important partner and said the Department was more than willing to spend some time soon with the Committee.

The Chairperson expressed concern that in some areas, Ventilated Improved Pit (VIPs) were still used. She asked the Department if 300 000 houses would to benefit from sanitation. She suspected that people on farms were not benefiting from this.

The Department answered that in some instances, delivering any kind of toilet was the most important thing. VIPs were still used in cases of severe budgetary constraints. The minister had asked for figures as she wanted to look into sanitation costs

Members asked the Department for clarity on Free Basic Services as this was causing confusion in many circles. Mr I Mogase (ANC) added that if information did not reach the public, government discussions would be a fruitless exercise.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) asked the Department to explain what was meant by 'cheap' water. She had personal experiences of paying exorbitant prices for water services.

The D-G emphasised that they should instead talk about the cost of bringing water to the people. When it came to the provision of free basic services, the Department had to verify the information on implementation, as municipalities might have different interpretations of the policy. It was the responsibility of Water Service Authorities (WSA) and municipalities to ensure that people on farms received services. It was the Department's responsibility to capacitate the municipalities.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) noted that the Department had planned to transfer staff to municipalities. He asked for progress on this.

The D-G said about 8 000 Department staff would be transferred to municipalities. The staff would be transferred with their salaries and operational costs to enable them to perform their duties. This process would take some time as the Department was negotiating with individuals.

The Chairperson asked how water levies were collected to fund the Water Research Council. The Department explained that a small percentage of water service charges enable the Council to operate.

The Chairperson asked the Department how they monitored if water was used responsibly. The Department said this was one of their biggest challenges. They encouraged communities to start their own systems of monitoring abuse of water. The National Water Act offered guidelines on this. The Department was looking at different measures - former Minister Asmal's "Eye in the sky" (satellite monitoring) was an option.

Mr Simmons asked the Department what was done to people found to be abusing water services. The Department answered that where such cases resulted in prosecutions, they would make this known to the public through the media. This indicated the seriousness of their attitude to water abusers.

The Chairperson expressed concern that irrigation water was not being made available to poor farmers. The DG replied that the Department was making water available to such farmers, but acknowledged that shortcomings would exist for some time. He assured Members that this matter was of high priority.

Members asked for an indication of levels of demographic representivity within the Department. The Department acknowledged this as a challenge. People from disadvantaged backgrounds often resigned for better prospects within other institutions. They had recently started an intern programme that would take time to yield results.

Referring to the budget, Ms M Ngwenya (ANC) asked the Department what was included in the restructuring for indigenous forests. She also asked what the Department meant by community empowerment.

Mr Mabuyakhulu (ANC) indicated that people were not aware of the Department's programmes and were being exploited by companies. This had resulted in people losing interest in forestry.

The D-G said that community empowerment included the costs of supporting development in forestry. It was important to build relationships between companies and communities, so that it was not only the responsibility of government to empower people. Equity was crucial. The Department reserved the right to intervene if it was felt that standards were not being upheld.

Ms MN Manana (ANC) asked why Mpumalanga and Northern Cape had not been reflected on the Trading Account Scheme.

The D-G answered that Gauteng covered Mpumalanga, while the Northern Cape was covered by Bloemfontein (Free State). This was a legacy of the past where some areas did not have infrastructure. The DG finally promised to follow up on the issues raised in this meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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