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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 June 2000
AGREMENT SOUTH AFRICA: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Agrement South Africa: ACTMAP 3 Criteria and Test Methods for sanitation systems
Agrement South Africa: Guidelines for SMMEs
Agrement South Africa: Annual Report
Only available upon request
Mr Theuns Knoetze briefed the Committee on Agrement South Africa for the Members' information. Agrement South Africa "is an independent body, established and funded by government, whose main purpose is the protection of the consumer from unsuitable or inappropriate construction materials, products or techniques that are not fit for the purpose for which unscrupulous or unknowing builders might use them." (Annual Report) Agrement promotes innovation by allowing creators to have their products certified for use prior to standards being set by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). This presentation was relevant to the Committee because Agrement has recently expanded into the area of non-traditional sanitation systems certification (ACTMAP 3: Sanitation Systems).
Mr Knoetze gave a presentation on Agrement South Africa. He described the role of Agrement as follows:
"The word "Agrement" is French and it means consent or approval. The Board of Agrement South Africa was established in 1969 as an objective, independent agency which evaluates the fitness-for-purpose of non-standardised construction products.
Agrement South Africa serves the national interest by being the internationally acknowledged, independent South African centre serving the building and engineering communities by providing assurance to specifiers and users via technical approvals of fitness-for-purpose of non-standardised and/or unconventional products.
The need for basic services and housing have encouraged a flood of innovative ideas.
â€¢ Since 1969 more than 620 applications have been received by Agrement South Africa for evaluation
â€¢ Authorities often lack the capacity to assess
â€¢ Agrement South Africa relieves the government of this responsibility
â€¢ Agrement certificates are recognised in the NBRs and by the NHBRC
Innovative construction and sanitation products are best judged on the basis of fitness-for-purpose.
â€¢ Agrement South Africa assesses performance in use
â€¢ Agrement South Africa certification ensures fitness-for- purpose
â€¢ Agrement South Africa maintains ongoing surveillance to ensure quality is maintained
â€¢ Agrement South Africa draws on local and international expertise."
Mr Knoetze then explained the linkages between his organization, the South African Bureau of Standards and the CSIR. The CSIR is a research organization and the SABS is concerned with the development of performance criteria and test methods. Agrement concentrates more on technology development by way of the testing and certification of non-standard products and therefore finds itself between the two organization in terms of product innovation and development.
Mr Knoetze then led his presentation into the relevance of Agrement for the Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry. ACTMAP 3 for Sanitation Systems has recently been published. ACTMAP stands for Agrement Criteria and Test Methods Applicable to a Product and comprises the following in terms of sanitation systems:
" â€¢ Standardised means of evaluating sanitation products and systems
â€¢ Covers all aspects of the sanitation cycle - including the user and the environment
â€¢ Also community issues and cost
â€¢ Meet standards of National Building Regulations and Draft White Paper on National Sanitation Policy
The objectives of ACTMAP are to:
" â€¢ Protect consumers from products applied inappropriately
â€¢ Encourage innovation by setting criteria for assessment of products
â€¢ Ensure fairness by evaluating products on the same basis
ACTMAP is applicable to innovative non-standardised products and systems and does not replace any SABS standard specification or code of practice.
To conclude his presentation Mr Knoetze discussed the certificates that were issued by Agrement, their value and legitimacy.
Mr Mathebe (ANC) asked how Agrement makes itself known to the population, the average person on the street, especially in rural areas.
Mr Knoetze responded that Agrement is cogniscent of this problem and that the meeting with the Portfolio Committee is part of the drive for increasing awareness. Their awareness campaign has been running for 18 months with most of the communication targeting decision-makers such as building control officials (as one example). Agrement has also used journals and publications to enhance their profile in the communities they serve to represent. Their next step is to take Agrement to the public at large and Mr Knoetze stated that any suggestions by members on how this would most effectively be done would be most welcome.
Mr Simmons (NNP) asked if Agrement had of yet received any applications regarding non-standard sanitation products.
Mr Knoetze responded that Agrement had in fact received numerous applications regarding their new sanitation project and that more were coming in every week.
Mr Mathebe (ANC) commented that he was very disappointed that it was possible for an individual to be prevented from taking an idea to Agrement to have it certified because of the cost involved in the evaluation of a product. Mr Mathebe also asked how Agrement says it is encouraging innovation yet fails to include individual citizens in the process.
Mr Knoetze responded that Agrement did not have the funds available to target the entire population at once. It was decided that they would focus first on decision-makers and then once that had been completed move into the public realm. The provinces will be directly involved, answering a question placed by Mr Phala (ANC). Mr Knoetze also noted that while Agrement did not have the funding or the mandate to financially assist startup innovations, they were in constant contact with many funding organizations that have brought these products into the market.
Mr Mathebe ended the discussion with a question regarding the number of blacks and women on the Board of Agrement.
Mr Knoetze replied that 40% of the Board was black and 25% were women and that the Board was appointed by the Minister of Public Works.
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