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PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY (NATIONAL ASSEMBLY)
17 May 2006
REVIEW OF PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE’S OVERSIGHT AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO RELEVANT DEPARTMENTS IN 2005 & ADOPTION OF HEARINGS ON WATER BOARDS
Chairperson: Ms C C September (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Project Consolidate Report
Report to the Portfolio Committee on Provincial visits to Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape & Western Cape
Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Provincial Visits
A Joint National Sector Support Strategy For Water Services: Part 1, 2, 3 & 4
Estimates of National Expenditure (2006) (available at www.treasury.gov.za)
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on the Review of Portfolio Committee’s Oversight and recommendations to relevant departments in 2005. Members raised questions on the capacity (the issue of the by- laws and bad management in government departments) and what is the way forward for the oversight visits of different provinces.
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) Presentation
Mrs T Mbassa (DWAF) began by apologising that this is the work that was prepared last night and therefore if there are any errors can she please be excused. Mrs Mbassa notified the committee that she has made a summary of the recommendations and indicated what actions have been done. She highlighted that even though she’s tried to make this summary, various provinces have approached these issues differently and she will be highlighting these examples where possible and indicates how the Province has approached it.
Going back to the key issues raised by the Committee was the quality of the WSDP’S and linkages with the IDP’s (quality of WSDP’S are strategic documents that are supposed to guide water services within Municipalities). Different funding is put into municipalities for them to appoint consultants who will draw up the WSDP’s. This is a process that is supposed to be consultative and driven by the municipalities. However there’s a lack of capacity in municipalities and in most cases it has been a consultative driven process, the Department has plans in some cases that municipalities can not relate to, and therefore cannot use them as a strategic document that are guiding water services planning within the Municipality. Mrs Mbassa highlighted that DWAF is one department that has been praised for trying to ensure that there is integration between the IDP & WSDP, as it is known that the WSDP is a chapter of IDP and therefore if the quality of the IDP is not good enough there will be limitations.
There has been funding channelled through Department of Local Government (DPLG) in other provinces eg. KZN (provided funding in the Department of Local Government) to support this. The Departments regional managers have been involved in the IDP process making sure water issues are adequately addressed, but is has been noticed that the DPLG also has to play a role and DWAF can only support municipalities up to a certain extent. A point of a lack of funding especially in the KZN was raised. The DWAF Regional offices then assist the municipalities by putting a comprehensive plan where they can motivate to DPLG (nationally and provincially) to get more funding.
(A short interruption and a joke about the availability of jugs in parliament was made).
Mrs Mbassa explained that the WSA’s long-term decisions regarding water services is one area that they as a department are lacking behind, this is to do Section 78 process where municipalities are encouraged to put in place Water Services Provider Agreements. There is a national initiative focusing on Water Services Provider option, initially on the Authority function and picked up that they have neglected this function. Mrs Mbassa spoke about an Institution Reform, which is a process, that is aiming at coming up with Regional provider options for example have a municipality in an area that can provide water on a much more regional basis which will improve services, therefore the department is trying to speed up the Waters Services Provider support strategy. Issue in regard to feasibility, which relates to planning, this is an area threatening the targets. Municipalities are struggling with planning, there are projects that take up to a year and because they fail to do the planning they are not able to provide water because the bulk water provisioning has not been well planned for and the budget has not been requested. Initially there was a SMIF fund that was allocated to look at this, where the department was encouraged to drive and guide municipalities and identify areas where there will be need for huge Bulk infrastructure provisioning in order to provide water in a total locality, but there was problems with the funding and was not properly utilised because of improper planning, but has since been made available.
The strengthening of the indigent support register, this speaks about by-laws. Later on she will be talking about the initiatives & studies that the department has undertaken and what came out of those studies. One of the key weaknesses is that many municipalities don’t have by-laws and as a result they don’t have indigent policies, this is another area the DPLG has to play a leading role, the DWAF can assist in areas where the by-laws are talking about water affairs. This is affecting a free basic service; it’s an issue that the Minister also picked up and spoke about in great length at the Summit where she said, “there are municipalities that are failing to provide free basic water”.
DWAF has placed a special unit in every province, a Project Support Unit that is supposed to provide support to all the municipalities in the province. Assist them in developing models; guide them to on how to provide free basic water. Looking at the models there are financial implications and how they can use Equitable share, but depending on the ability of the municipality and how they have conceptualised water as a business.
In three of the areas visited there was a problem with the drought and funds have been made available to municipalities and it has been picked up that municipalities failed to spend on the drought fund and also that municipalities need training and support especially with managing the drought itself, as there were some municipalities relying on ground water only. There’s a programme where focus will be specifically on managing ground water management (Limpopo, North West & Free State).
Need for Water Conservation and Demand Management Strategies, as a department not enough has been done in this regard. The department is currently working on a strategy that will improve the understanding between the water linkages and water resources, up to now there has been a separation on how the department dealt with this, which has been to the department’s disadvantage because there has been a situation where the municipalities are just concerned with water provisioning without looking at issues of resource itself both in terms of quality and quantity. The project has started in Free State, Gauteng and KZN to some extent and the good example being Western Cape that strategies are being put in place to assist municipalities raising awareness that we need to conserve water. Commented that Ms September can monitor them as a department on the progress of the above.
Issues of poverty and the linkage to the Economic Development Plans, is a matter that came up in the Presidential Imbizo’s where the president picked up that many municipalities did not even have Local Economic Development Plans. Also speaking about IDPs and the ability of municipalities to plan and budget for development. This is an area that’s a little bit outside the department but it does affect it in the sense that all the plans cannot take off unless there’s water and that the DWAF has worked with the Municipalities to assist them with water availability in their plans, one of the driving forces behind the Ministers initiative around the Provincial and National Summit was to make sure that the department proactively supports the municipalities when it comes to Economic Development initiatives. Those summits are to see what measures have been put in place for those initiative and therefore DWAF will have to make sure that when the time comes water will be available.
Mrs Mbassa mentioned that although this is a free basic service some other provinces are saying there is not enough water, and that meetings have been held with the Majesty (KZN) where discussions where held. The issues were raised around the Water Allocation Reformed programme and around the dams. The water allocation reformed programme is lightly to take longer for communities to see the results. The Director General (D-G) (DWAF) has tasked the department to identify areas especially where there are dams where there is surplus water and see how it can be used for economic benefits for communities around those areas. It has been found that there has been under utilisation of those dams and there are communities who live around those dams that have no access to them and there is work that is being done.
There are policy developments that are looking at how DWAF can assist communities on how to utilise for benefits; there are good studies in Swaziland on economic developments where they have projects on cane and sugar, and would like to take some colleagues to learn from them. But must look at programmes that will be of value to the country for example the assistant of small farms and as a way forward, economists also need to be employed. DWAF is asking if there are correct structures to move this forward. In the presentation there is detailed information about findings from each province.
Apologises for not sending the report to members prior the meeting
Ms September (ANC) is welcoming the comments and questions on above presentation.
Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) comments that the issue of capacity is a problem as the question of proper planning, no bi-laws in respect of water failing to supply free basic water and the sense of not enough water which boils down to the question of capacity. In terms of proper planning what is the problem is there no bi-laws in municipalities govern water, the provisions & supplies, meaning that somewhere we are not carrying our task effectively. Mr Moonsamy also stated that the problem of not having enough water, which was said by Mrs Mbassa, was unclear to him as he passed the Orange River, which lies in the Northern Cape many times and has asked a few friends that come from the Northern Cape and they told him never because of the Okovongo the flows to Orange River. He also raised a question of how are dams under utilised and the rural areas are not getting water while the dams are full? There’s also a lot of rain in the country meaning that dams should be built, therefore this boils down to bad management in the government.
Ms September thanks Ms Mbassa for the way she approached the presentation and would like the finer details of the provinces where there was a shortage of water and see what is being done with that. People also told her that there was separation as to ANC sides and IFP sides therefore would like a progress on those areas especially at KZN. Proposes another meeting with the Majesty as they have partnership. Also in Mpumalanga there was a concern with contracts (sanitation contract) that members raised with the minister at that point and the broader issues will have to be worked through as a committee during the year (how are the water services plans together with the IDP, how the commitments made by the D-G at the Water Summit are going to be kept, the water services authority issues. During the year would like to conduct hearings on different provinces as these issues differ from province to province, municipality to municipality.
Ms September like DWAF to come back with more ideas on the bi-laws (to have a policy discussion on bi-laws in general in regard to water and sanitation). Ms September feels that DWAF will also need an economist and would like confirmation on water research commission and that the consultancy that was mentioned before must be done away with. Ms September would also like to know how is this going to approach this in the future? Ms September recommends involving the provinces to get the finer details.
Mr Khan (DWAF) comments that the problem with capacity is in understanding the water business first which he feels that most municipalities don’t. Mr Khan has a checklist book on details of what is going on in each municipality. Mr Khan feels that the funding issue is also a problem and notices that there is a gap in which he would like to know if its DWAFs job to teach/coach the municipalities; this is where the partnership with the DPLG lies. DWAF has also interrogated the infrastructure (is it a liability/asset and who is it used by). Whatever municipality does must lead to clean water, healthy people and environment.
Ms September proposes that the committee must come back again after August to view the progress made on oversight visits on provinces mentioned in report and put the schedule on the Agenda at least once a year. That would be the way forward on how they are going to approach things. How do we effect and oversight and accountability and that someone should keep and eye on the adaptability of these reports.
Mrs Mbassa raises an issue that there is a limit on what DWAF can do and that there is a concern on how the Department is going to develop/ support the municipalities therefore quarterly reports to show the challenges that are facing the department need to be produced and that the regional managers need to be present in such meetings.
Ms September would also have liked SALGA to be present in this meeting and that the committee should move with the DWAF services, targets and their strategic plan. And what must be available in this quarterly reports must be how are we making progress. Therefore further feedback on how the provinces are doing must be stated.
Last week the committee adopted a report of a visit to Pretoria and on DWAFs strategic plan and the budget.
Ms September reports on a report that was sent on the Water boards that appeared. Thanking DWAF for the oversight they did on the water boards. They DA agree with the recommendation ANC seconding it, IFP is not at the meeting. The committee has therefore agreed with the adoption of Hearings on Water Boards.
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