World Summit on Sustainable Development: Department briefing; Committee Annual Report: adoption

Water and Sanitation

08 November 2005
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
9 November 2005
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING; COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT: ADOPTION
 


Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation Targets: PowerPoint presentation

SUMMARY
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presented an overview of the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The United Nations had set eight goals for development in its 2000 Millennium Declaration. These goals had set an agenda for improving human conditions by 2015.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development had agreed on the Johannesburg targets in 2002. South Africa had produced a master plan for achieving the goals more than a year before the deadline by adopting its National Water Resources Strategy in September 2005. Most countries had not met their targets.

Rich countries had committed themselves to spending 0.75% of their Gross Domestic Product on development in developing countries. Only Japan had honoured its commitment. Africa is the only continent not on track to meet the goals and targets by 2015.

Members asked questions about the conditions attached to donor funding; the reasons for the sharp decrease in international donor aid and the failure of rich, developed countries to meet their aid and development commitments.

The Committee adopted its annual report with minor technical changes. The focus areas of the report were: the Department and its finances, administration, and human resources, the entities (water user associations and water boards), and the SA Local Government Association.

MINUTES

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) briefing

Mr F Ngoatje, Director: International Development Co-operation, said the Department had focused their efforts around Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Seven: to ensure environmental sustainability. Without water and sanitation, there could be no environmental sustainability, nor donor funding support from richer countries. The point was made that ‘water cross cuts on all eight goals’.

One of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) targets was to halve the proportion of people who were unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by 2015. South Africa had reached this target through its National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS). Most African countries relied on donor funding for development. They found themselves in a catch-22 situation at times of decision-making at international conferences/summits. Global partnerships and support were important and achievable to reach the MDGs and targets.

Discussion
Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked whether South Africa could do without donor funding as its tax revenue had increased. Mr Ngoatje replied that South Africa received less than 1% of its budget in donor funding. South Africa could do without donor funding, but needed the relationships with other countries. The amount of donor funding required had decreased.

Mr Arendse argued that South Africa was an ‘agent of the donor funder’. Was South Africa accountable for the distribution of funds to neighbouring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region? Mr Ngoatje responded that the concerns raised were valid. He would take the concern back to the Department. The situation is tenuous and should be treated with caution. South Africa would rather play a supportive role. He cited an example where Japan had given money for the management of forests in the Congo Basin. South Africa had called a meeting of Congo Basin states and withdrew once the project got off the ground.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) wanted reasons why developed countries were failing to honour their commitments. Mr Ngoatje answered that South Africa had wanted rich countries to spend resources in developing countries. The rich countries did not want that, because they got their raw materials from developing countries. A meeting had been called in New York to assess progress on the MDGs. The meeting had been attended by the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The meeting had turned ‘ugly’, because the United States (US) had wanted to discuss targets and the need to change them. However, targets had been agreed upon and evaluated at the Johannesburg summit. The rich countries were thus disrespectful of the commitments.

Ms M Manana (ANC) enquired about the shortage of water and whether the Congo river could alleviate this problem. Were there plans to assist Africa with its shortage of water? Mr Ngoatje said that the Congo river had sufficient water to satisfy the needs of Africa. A South African company, Eskom, assisted with hydro power generation in the region and contributed to the development of Africa. South Africa should be cautious. If water were shared in Africa, there would be less pressure on the Limpopo and the Orange rivers. South Africa would benefit as it would be able to use the water internally.

Mr Ditshetelo asked whether there were any plans to develop the economic wealth of Africa. There were natural resources in Africa, but development of resources was needed. Mr Ngoatje replied that there were plans to accelerate wealth creation in Africa through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme. Water was the agent of development. Hydro electricity changed people’s lives. The debts of eight countries in Africa had been written off. The money was ploughed into development projects. The next step was wealth generation. The impact on South Africa was a decrease in the number of people coming to the country from other African countries.

Ms J Semple (DA) commented that Japan had been the only country to commit 0.75% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to developing countries. Who were the countries that had not committed themselves? Mr Ngoatje responded that he was unable to give the names of the relevant countries. The US had an Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and its purpose was to assist countries in Africa. The conditions that had been set were problematic and made the Act complex, especially for countries like South Africa. The war in Iraq had cut support to developing countries.

The Chairperson asked how South Africa had been able to meet its targets before their deadlines. Mr Ngoatje agreed that South Africa was ahead of the MDGs for reaching its goals by 2008 as opposed to 2015. Eleven million people had been served with water. But there were still huge challenges ahead.

Mr Mosala (ANC) observed that the US had adopted an ‘attitude’ towards the MDGs. What impact would this attitude have on South Africa’s plans? Mr Ngoatje answered that it would have a negative impact. If donor support was not forthcoming, it could create problems.

Ms S Maine (ANC) enquired what the impact would be should countries not reach their targets in time. Mr Ngoatje replied that there would be a negative impact. But the quality of life would improve and fewer people would come to South Africa should countries meet their targets. This would be seen as a positive spin off.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) remarked that R2.9 billion had been unspent by various provinces. Should a special development fund not be created to meet targets in 2008? Rich countries controlled the economies and governments of the world. Mr Ngoatje responded that there were regulations, which needed to be adhered to. Funds not used would be rolled over and returned to Treasury. A development fund could not be created.

Ms Semple asked whether it was ‘feasible, fair or reasonable’ for countries in Africa to commit to goals if they relied on funding from rich donor countries. She found this difficult to understand. Mr Ngoatje agreed that these countries found themselves in a catch-22 situation. The Public Management Finance Act (PMFA) gave clear guidelines to South Africa on how to accept donor funding.

Mr Moonsamy said that more money was spent on wars than development. Mr Ngoatje agreed that more money was spent on wars (R3 trillion) than development. There were resources to eradicate poverty, but the allocation was skewed. The poor would thus remain poor.

The Chairperson asked how the Department had managed the other targets apart from goal number seven. Mr Ngoatje assured her that they had been looking at other programmes as water cross-cut all other goals. The Department would prepare a document, which would show their commitment to the other goals

The Chairperson warned that South Africa must be cautious not to be viewed as the ‘Big Brother of Africa’. The continent must be developed equally. Countries must receive and account for monies in their own right. It was not the first time that the international community had adopted that view. Mr Ngoatje replied that an important requirement of partnerships was respect.

The Chairperson commented that some issues should be placed before the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). They could do oversight visits. Mr Ngoatje agreed that the PAP had specialised committees, which could deal with these issues.

 


The Chairperson asked whether South Africa’s implementation plan would be hampered by underspending. What was South Africa doing to uphold its commitments? Mr Ngoatje responded that it would have a negative impact on meeting World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) targets if not all the money was spent.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) asked what steps were in place to make global warming targets a reality. The Chairperson replied that global warming had been dealt with the previous Friday and that information had been made available.

Mr T Ramphele (ANC) commented that the essence of the MDGs was not new, but the failure was in implementation. Historically, the implementation strategies of governments reached some communities but not all. What could be done so that implementation benefited everyone? Mr Ngoatje admitted that implementation had proved to be a problem. The only thing the Department could do was to ‘jack’ up performance to reach the targets through policies.

Mr Sibuyana asked whether there were any penalties attached to agreements. If not, the agreements would not be effective. Mr Ngoatje replied that agreements were reached through consensus in the global arena. A multi-lateral approach was used. Punitive measures would be used as a last resort. Good faith had to be shown in international relations.

Mr Moonsamy noted that the Orange river had never been dry, because its water came from the Okavango swamps in Botswana. These swamps had 6 000 square miles of water. The North West area was dry. Could they not build canals and dams to harness this water? Mr Ngoatje answered that the demand for water outweighed the supply. The Nkomati river became dry. The Limpopo river could become dry should the demand exceed the supply.

Mr Arendse enquired whether the NWRS included all the functional areas in the Department. Mr Ngoatje said that the strategy included the water part of the Department. Attempts had been made to link forestry and water. The strategy indirectly affected forestry. The linkage was specific to South Africa. Forests used lots of water.

The Chairperson and Ms Maine complained about the lack of water at Committee meetings.

Ms S Sigcau (UDM) asked what the reason was for the decrease in donor funding. Mr Ngoatje replied that the priorities of donor countries had changed. He cited the war in Iraq as an example.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Ngoatje for a detailed and comprehensive report.

Adoption of Annual Report of Committee
The Committee recommended that the Department report to the Committee on a quarterly basis.

The Committee was dissatisfied that the Department had received a qualified audit from the Auditor-General. They welcomed the fact that the Department had suspended the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as it showed responsibility on their part. The Committee would form a sub-committee on finance, which would follow up on a month-to-month basis. This sub-committee would interact with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), deliver quarterly reports and use internal auditors.

The Department’s finances had an impact on its human resources. The Committee recommended that Department should increase its capacity in the finance section.

The Committee was not satisfied with internal transformation in the water user associations. The water user associations and water boards had huge financial challenges like incurring outside debt. The Committee also had a problem with the delivery chain of water in these entities.

The Committee was concerned about the role of municipalities in achieving their targets. The municipalities needed more capacity. They needed to improve their water quality, water services and management. The Committee also had not heard the SA Local Government Association’s (SALGA) answers to questions posed to them during a previous hearing.

The structure of the report could be more readable and free flowing. Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked that the typographical errors be fixed. Mr Arendse concurred.

Mr Arendse moved that the annual report be adopted. The DA seconded and the report was adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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