Masibambane Annual Report; Free Basic Water: Progress/Challenges

Water and Sanitation

23 May 2006
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 May 2006
MASIBAMBANE ANNUAL REPORT; FREE BASIC WATER: PROGRESS/CHALLENGES

Chairperson:

Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Masibambane Water Services Sector Support Programme Annual Report:
Masibambane Website
The role of civil society in the Sector in Improving Sustainable Service Delivery
Learning through collaboration in the Water Services Sector
SALGA Presentation to Portfolio committee on Water Affairs and Forestry
SALGA: Memorandum of Understanding
The South African Benchmarking Initiative for Water Services
Development of Engineering Capacity: Part
1 & 2
Masibambane presentation to Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry

SUMMARY

Members of the committee were briefed by the various role-players in the Masibambane Programme. Presentations were heard from the Masibambane Programme, the Department of Provincial and Local Government, the South African Local Government Association, the Water Research Commission, and the Masibambane Civil Society Support Programme. The chair remarked that none of the presentations had focussed on the provision of free basic water services. The Committee was concerned about water pipes that had been provided by China, the acceptance of prepaid water meters, low morale in the Department, and the use of donor funding in water-based projects.

MINUTES
The chairperson said she was pleased that they had decided to ‘adopt’ a river. They would have to notify the department about this initiative so that they can assist Members where necessary. One of the problems experienced was that they did not have the names of all the rivers in the different provinces.

Masibambane Programme
[Masibambane is a water services sector support programme set up by the Department of Water Affairs and forestry (DWAF) in collaboration with it partners and supported by donors. The purpose of the R2.2 billion programmes is to support and strengthen the services sector as a whole and in particular local government in targeted provinces. (http://www.dwaf.gov.za/Masibambane)]

Mr F Ngoatje (DWAF: Chief Director) told members that their primary challenge was not to receive donor funding but to ensure that it was used optimally. While not all countries could account for donor funding, they could. Donors funded the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region through South Africa. For Masibambane to be successful all role players need to work together.

Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG)
Ms F Makhuba (DPLG Senior Manager) told members that the major challenge in the previous year had been with the roll out of infrastructure. This had been due to a lack of service delivery. More money had then been allocated to fast track service delivery. Thirty-nine engineers had been deployed. Projects that had been put on hold were now underway. One of the main challenges faced was a lack of experience, which led to slow service delivery. A mentorship programme had been established to deal with the lack of experience. Staff working in certain positions had lead to slow service delivery. Some municipalities had not reviewed their tariffs for a number of years, which had also been a challenge. There had been a lot sewerage spills in some areas, which was not healthy for the community. More civil engineers were needed in local government.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
Mr W Moroka (Manager: Water Services) told members that SALGA was a voluntary body representing all nine provinces. It was established in 1996 and had been recognized by the Minister as the body representing local government. Some of the changes in the water sector were the Free Basic Water Policy, the Strategic Framework for Water Services and the transferring of operations from national to local government. The Free State government had set up a drinking water quality monitoring programme, providing data on all towns in the province.

Water Research Commission
[The WRC operates in terms of the Water Research Act (Act 34 of 1971) and its mandate is to support water research and development as well as the building of a sustainable water research capacity in South Africa. (http://www.wrc.org.za)]

Ms N Duma (Programme Coordinator: Water Information Network) told members that their products were designed to improve service delivery and deliver tangible outcomes. Their biggest role was to provide sector support through knowledge and by building alliances with different networks. The Commission tried to build capacity and support through training and action learning workshops. Learning becomes possible when people realise that it is not rocket science but could happen through a normal cause of events.

Masibambane Civil Society Support Programme
Mr V Thoka (Rural Development Services Network:
Executive Director) told members that Civil Society was involved in research, capacity building, information dissemination, policy advocacy, lobbying and monitoring, and evaluation. Sustainability had improved through building trust in the communities. They tried to hold government accountable to the electorate. Citizens were key role players and should not be seen as only consumers. Black Economic Empowerment policies had not benefited civil society organisations.

Discussion
The chairperson commented that ‘free basic water service’ had not really been reflected in any of the presentations.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) enquired as to the projects that had been carried out using the donor funding received, and who benefited from those projects. He asked why staff moral was so low and commented that the Auditor General had been critical about SALGA in a recent media report. He asked for more detail on SADC and NEPAD (New Economic Partnership for African Development).

Ms T Lishivha (ANC) questioned why no one could account for the incomplete projects in some of the municipalities. Often municipalities did not know who was responsible for a project not being completed. She wanted to know if the municipalities were helping to educate people about the indigent policy. She asked how Civil Society and ward committees worked together.


Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) asked if would be possible for one department to deal with the Masibambane project. He wanted to know how the communities were benefiting from the knowledge sharing, and if the funding was sufficient.

Ms J Semple (DA) enquired whether Civil Society was receiving funding from SALGA. She wanted to know why South Africa had received pipes from China, and how the Department of Provincial and Local Government was dealing with prepaid meters, especially in situations where people did not want them installed.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) enquired as to the current status of the 3400 schemes that were taken over by DWAF. He asked if there were regulations in place for the pricing of certain services. He wanted more clarity on the issue of politicians sidelining officials in departments. He asked what the age group was of retired engineers placed in the department of local government, and if the remuneration that they received was an incentive for engineers to retire early so that they could then be brought back at a later stage.


The Chairperson wanted some of the remarks by the Auditor General on SALGA explained. She asked if the Masibamabane project could later be run on own without other funding, if the project met the goals set by government, and if the funding would be stopped. She commented that SALGA has said that there was no proper sanitation policy in place.

Ms Makhuba replied that low morale occurred when students were employed. Often the stipend they received was not enough to cover all their costs. More often young graduates did not have the necessary experience needed to do the job. There was not always an engineer available to mentor them. Some of the projects that were not completed were due to the fact that they had acting-managers who could not make all the decisions. For this to be eradicated, permanent managers and officials needed to be appointed. It was important for municipalities to raise awareness about who qualified for indigence. The prepaid water meters were a major challenge and they would make use of the ward committees to promote the system. A pricing guide had been developed. If a structure was going to cost more than the recommended price, a geophysical study would have to be done. With the limited resources available to them, they would like all South Africans to have basic services. Sometimes a politician was pressurised to meet the demands of the community that he or she lived in. Retired engineers that were employed were above retirement age and their salaries varied according to the needs of the different municipalities.

Mr V Thoka replied that there was a programme which linked other civil society organisations in the SADC region, but the programme had only just started. They did not really work with ward committees; however, they were trying to change this. The biggest challenge with the prepaid water meters was educating the community about them. Some communities felt that it was a ploy to take water away from them. Some of their donor funds were received from the EU. Apart from this, a lot of fundraising was done. The EU had managed to fund 60% of the conference which would be held later that year at Gallagher Estate. Fundraising was being done to cover the rest of the conference and SALGA was assisting them.

Mr Ngoatje said that the pipes which had been received from China were a donation to the value of R10 million, and had been sent to the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) for approval before being used. The pipes were used in municipalities experiencing backlogs.

Ms Duma remarked that South Africa was not an island and it was important for South Africa to work with other regions. It was important for them to look for funding beyond 2008.

Mr W Moroka said it was a fact that SALGA’s finances were not good and that they were dealing with this at management level. Water quality was a challenge for them as the person dealing with it may not know the amount of chemicals to put into the water.

Mr M Sibuyane (IFP) wanted to know what projects had been undertaken in the Limpopo. In 1984, donor funding had been received in a rural area, but to date no sanitation had been provided for the people.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) commented that it was important to interact with communities. He wanted to know why the Civil Society conference was being held in Gallagher Estate and if this was too far for some communities to travel to.

Mr J Arendse wanted to know if the Water Information Network networked with similar organisations in Africa and what resistance had been picked up on farms with the implementation of sanitisation.

The chairperson said that she noted that some of the questions had not been answered.

Ms N Duma replied that they were part of other networks in Africa. Streams Africa had not yet taken off. Sanitation had not yet taken place on farms. She hopes that they would not pick up any resistance to it.

Mr V Thoka said that transport arrangements had been made for those who lived far from Gallagher Estate. In future they would look for a suitable venue that was closer.

The meeting was adjourned.



 

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