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SELECT COMMITTEE ON LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS
9 May 2006
DEPARTMENT OF WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY ANNUAL REPORT & FINANCIAL STATEMENTS 2004/05: BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West)
Documents handed out:
DWAF Water Services Presentation
DWAF Policy and Regulation Branch Presentation
DWAF State of Transfers Presentation: Part 1 & 2
DWAF Vote 34 Presentation
DWAF Corporate Services Presentation
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry on its 2004/05 Annual Report and Financial Statements. Members raised numerous questions about budget allocations, service delivery, strategic projects and the future plans of the Department.
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) presentation
Ms Barbara Schreiner (DWAF) outlined the DWAF’s policy and regulation strategy. She informed the Committee that the Department has published the 2005 State of Forests report. Also, the Department developed a national system for regulation of sustainable forest management.
The Committee was concerned because they had difficulties following the presentation in relation to the broader DWAF strategy plan. The Committee wondered if the DWAF’s policy and regulation strategy does, in fact, reflect DWAF’s broader strategy plan document.
Ms Schreiner informed the Committee that the Department had put in place regular and reliable reporting mechanisms on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) and service delivery. As one of its goals, the Department aims to promote the estalishment of water services forums in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
Members questioned the monitoring mechanisms for MIGs. They asked for a detailed account of the measures that are in place to monitor the MIGs. The Committee further asked who was responsible to make sure that the goals that were set for the MIGs are achieved.
As part of DWAF’s corporate services agenda, the Department aims to improve the status of women in decision making positions. Further, the Department aims to improve the public understanding and awareness around departmental programmes and projects.
The Committee asked whether the Department had a concrete plan to ensure that it retains and upgrade technical staff, either through learnership programmes or internships, so that at the end of the day the Department has the necessary technical skills it needs to carry out its objectives. Further, the Committee asked what measures had been put in place to assist small farmers and agricultural co-operatives.
Mr WS Croucamp (DWAF) informed the Committee that DWAF aims to establish the National Water Resource Ìnfrastructure Agency by March 2008. The DWAF’s water resources purpose is to ensure that the country’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner for the benefit of all people.
The Committee asked where in the strategic plan of DWAF was a budgeted process that aims to take forwad the Expanded Public Works Programme. The Committee felt there was no plan in the strategic plan that says in terms of the expanded public works programme, that this is what the Department would be doing and how much money has been allocated.
Ms T Mbassa (DWAF) explained to the Committee that the objectives of the DWAF water services programme were to ensure that about 30 percent of the South Africa population has access to sanitation, and that about 78 percent of the population has access to water.
The Committee questioned the Department’s capacity to obtain the goal it has set for itself to provide access to functioning basic water and the eradication of all bucket toilets by 2008.
Mr R Malhaba (DWAF) explained that the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) by DWAF is envisaged to take five years from this year on. He further explained that the Department wants to ensure that it retains and creates sufficient capacity to deliver on its new and long term goals.
The Committee questioned DWAF’s objective to eradicate the bucket system. Members felt that DWAF was sending out a contradictory message by saying that their objective is to eradicate the bucket system, but still informs the Committee that they do not have sufficient funds to see such a project through.
Mr Trevor Balzer (DWAF) explained that water affairs and forestry’s total expenditure decreased from R4.3 billion to R3.9 billion from 2003/04 to 2004/05 as a result of the transfer of expenditure on new water and sanitation projects to the municipal infrastructure grant. Expenditure started to rise again at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent in 2005/06. Mr Balzer explained that the increase in expenditure by R164 million between 2004/05 and 2005/06 was due to additional funds granted in 2005/06 for the transfer of functions, the once-off allocation for drought relief, and the devolution of funds from the Department of Public Works.
The Committee pointed out that in the last financial year DWAF rolled over about R66.5million, and so, the Committee wanted to know what measures were put in place to make sure that DWAF does not roll over funds, but instead spend them as required. Members explained that if DWAF under-spends, the quality of its business plan should be quesitoned. Further, the Committee pointed out that there was about R660 million set aside for projects for this financial year. The Committee asked where the funding for this came from.
Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) remarked that it would make Members’ job of oversight easier if they were informed of where the agencies and commissions were based.
Mr Sindane, Director-General: DWAF explained that the Department was faced with the problem of not always knowing how much detailed information to include in its strategic plan. In the end, the information had to be directly linked to the budget to satisfy National Treasury’s requirements.
Mr LJ Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) asked if the Department has the capacity to achieve the goal of providing access to functioning basic water and the eradication of all bucket toilets by 2008.
Mr Sindane replied that there were immediate, short-term targets relating to the bucket system that would be applied in established township areas. There are also informal settlements which have now been declared formal because they have been in existence for the past fifteen years. The goal was to eradicate the bucket system in these areas before 2008. He explained that the amount of money set aside to achieve this goal was R1.2 billion.
Mr Sindane added that municipalities make buckets available because of informal settlements in their areas of jurisdiction. In these areas, the bucket system serve as a temporary solution, and hence, these areas were not viewed as established areas. He explained that these were the bucket systems the Department believed would not be eradicated, because every time a community sets up informal settlements, something has to be done to assist that particular community with water and sanitation.
The Chairperson commented that there are black farmers in his constituency who use irrigation schemes and get charged for the sake of owning an irrigation scheme even if there is nothing happening on the farm. He explained that these farmers have approached him for an advice on how to deal with this issue.
Ms Schreiner explained that the issue of farmers who are being charged for water which they are not using needs to be dealt with by a regional office. She pointed out that the regional office should liaise with those farmers. She added that it should be possible to cancel the charges until such time that the water had been used. Also, she remarked that the Department would be interested to know why the water was not being used in the first place.
Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) asked if the dam safety regulations applied to farm dams also.
Ms Schreiner explained that the dam safety legislation applies to any dams that are over five metres high and have a reservoir volume of about 50 000 cubic metres.
Mr RJ Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) pointed out that DWAF needed to explain to the Committee in detail how they planned to meet their targets. The Department should detail what they have done so far. This would help the Committee do oversight. He added that, as things stand now, there was nothing to inform the Committee if they wanted to do oversight, nor does the Committee have the necessary tools to do an assessment of the Department’s projects.
Mr Sindane explained that the Department has to constantly consider whether it would reach its goals. He was confident that it was reaching goals and objectives. But, the Committee had to understand that the municipalities did the implementation of policies set by DWAF. The Department worked with the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and engaged municipalities constantly to check that they would reach the set targets.
The Chairperson asked what the Department was doing with the problem of landfill sites, as the landfill sites are harzadous to the general public.
Ms Schreiner explained that before 2006, the landfill sites were permitted and authorised by the department, and there has been a number of challenges. What the Department was looking at doing at the moment was how to integrate the whole waste management cycle so that recycling could be done.
Ms BN Dlulane (ANC, Eastern Cape) remarked she was concerned with DWAF’s decision to transfer its implementation role to local government structures. She explained that this could cause unnecessary retrenchment of staff. She further pointed out that in their strategic plan presentation DWAF had pointed out that they had excess staff. Why were these excess staff not deployed to local government structures that have shortages of technicians etc?
Mr Sindane explained that the transfer of the implementation role to local government structures also worries the Department because there should be no unnecessary retrenchment of staff in the process. Mr Sindane explained, however, that the Department’s concern is that the redundant staff were not highly educated and were mostly over 50 years of age, whereas the Department wanted to invest in young people for long term strategic purposes.
Mr Van Rooyen questioned the quality of drinking water of the 17 to 18 municipalities that did not have enough technicians. He asked how the quality of water could be assured if there was a lack of technical skills. What was the DWAF doing to rectify this situation?
Mr Sindane pointed out that one of the problems facing the municipalities at the moment is that there is a lack of capacity building. He remarked that the Department would first work with the 47 district municipalities and six metropolitan councils before engaging all 284 municipalities.
Mr Tau explained that the ANC has a programme to take Parliament to the people, and one of the standard items on that agenda is water affairs. He further explained that it is then disturbing to hear that the Department has underspent its allocation when there are many people who did not have access to water and sanitation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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