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LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
23 February 2007
ERADICATION OF THE BUCKET SYSTEM: HEARINGS
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC) [North West]
Documents handed out:
Eastern Cape presentation
Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) presentation
South African Local Government Association (SALGA) presentation
The Committee continued with its hearings on the bucket eradication programme with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), the Eastern Cape Department of Housing, Local Government and Traditional Affairs, the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and the South African Local Government Association present.
The total cost of eradicating the remaining buckets in
A large percentage of the funds for the eradication of bucket system went to the
SALGA was confident that municipalities would meet the deadline because it was receiving the necessary support from DPLG and DWAF. Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) fund allocations should be matched by increased municipal operating budgets (since waterborne sewage systems make use of water, which was a municipal operating “trading account”). Integrated planning within municipal Water Services Development Plans and Integrated Development Plans should be strengthened in line with provincial bucket eradication strategies and housing linkages. Bucket eradication project feasibility studies should precede the design and implementation of MIG bucket eradication projects so as to prevent poor investment in municipalities.
Members raised questions that included the following:
- Whether the province would meet the deadline.
- The reasons for the municipalities being unable to spend the money allocated to them.
- Whether SALGA was effectively monitoring municipalities.
-Whether the eradication of buckets was an unfunded mandate given to provinces. Who was supposed to fund it from the onset?
The Chairperson welcomed everybody to the meeting.
Eastern Cape Department of Housing, Local Government and Traditional Affairs
Mr Sam Kwelita (MEC) made the presentation (see document attached). He said that his Department had committed itself to meet the targets and deadlines. Communities could measure the Department's performance in this area because they knew about the targets and deadlines. The Department had been battling with the issue of definition as people wanted the definition to be expanded to include not only buckets but other inferior forms of sanitation such the Ventilated Improved Pit latrine. The initial backlog was estimated to be 48 417 buckets. The Department of Water and Forestry (DWAF) and municipalities indicated that it was in fact about 37 192 buckets. Approximately 75% of the buckets had been eradicated and 9 095 buckets were remaining. The total cost of eradicating the remaining buckets was R214 million (including associated bulk and additional water costs of R113 million). The Department had secured funding of R226, 3 million. There was a surplus of R12 million to allow for budget over-runs on projects. He was confident that the Department would be able to meet the December 2007 deadline.
Department of Provincial and Local Government presentation
Mr Muthotho Sigidi (Acting Deputy Director General) made the presentation (see document attached). He reminded the Committee that Cabinet had taken a decision to eradicate all the bucket sanitation systems throughout the country by December 2007. Census 2001 had estimated buckets latrines to number over 400 000 throughout the country. As of February 2005, the remaining backlog had been estimated to be 252 254 by DWAF. Thus far 119 583 buckets had been eradicated leaving a remainder of 132 671 buckets to be addressed by the end of the year. The funding required to eradicate backlogs was estimated at over R2, 5 billion in 2005 (at an average unit cost of R10 000). The National Treasury had made R1, 2 billion available over the 2005/06 MTEF plus additional an R400 million allocated for the 2007/08 financial year. A large percentage of the funds for the eradication of bucket system had gone to the Free State province because the province had about 67% of the buckets.
An additional R176 million (from MIG re-allocations) would be allocated to municipalities in Free State, North West, Western Cape and Northern Cape to accelerate delivery. Municipalities were being encouraged to prioritise MIG funding for bucket eradication to achieve the December 2007 deadline. Provinces should be encouraged to use their own funding to accelerate the eradication of buckets. Provinces had only been able to spend 47, 5% (R189 million) of the allocation. This begged the question whether they needed more financial resources or rather expertise.
South African Local Government Association presentation
Councillor Derrick Ndlovu made the presentation accompanied by Ms Lorraine Mudunungu, Mr William Moraka and Mr Armstrong Mphela (see document attached). He said that it was important for all spheres of government and all stakeholders to work together in a cooperative manner to eradicate the bucket systems. SALGA was committed to eradicating the buckets within the December 2007 deadline. It was confident that municipalities would meet the deadline because it was receiving the necessary support from DPLG and DWAF.
Approximately four million households without access to basic sanitation were still to be served by 2010. Of this amount, about 132 000 households in formalised areas were still using the bucket system and these were to be eradicated by December 2007. The largest concentration of buckets were in the Free State, Eastern Cape and North West provinces. Mpumalanga Province had already eradicated buckets in their formalised areas by the end of 2006. In the 2006/07 financial year up to January 2007, 57 377 buckets were removed.
He said that Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) fund allocations should be matched by increased municipal operating budgets (since waterborne sewage systems make use of water, which was a municipal operating “trading account”). Integrated planning within municipal Water Services Development Plans and Integrated Development Plans should be strengthened in line with provincial bucket eradication strategies and housing linkages. Bucket eradication project feasibility studies should precede the design and implementation of MIG bucket eradication projects so as to prevent poor investment in municipalities. Feasibility studies were key before any services could be delivered. SALGA was aware that some communities had rejected Ventilated Improved Pit (VIPs) latrines. They wanted waterborne systems. It was everybody's desire to have waterborne systems but this was not possible in some municipalities due to lack of water. Community participation should be encouraged so that communities know early on what kind of sanitation system they would get. They should be made to understand and given reasons why they could not have a waterborne system.
Ms B Dlulane (ANC) [Eastern Cape] said that the Eastern Cape had managed to eradicate about 8 000 buckets in January 2007. She was convinced that the province would be able to eradicate the remaining buckets by December 2007. The MEC had said that the Department had secured funding of about R226 million. The funds came from MIG, DWAF and the province itself. She asked for a clear breakdown of the funding. The province had indicated the shortage of funding in some municipalities and surplus in others as one of the challenges it was facing. She asked the MEC to name these municipalities. The Committee would go on provincial visits and would what to compare the situation on the ground to the information it had received during these hearings. The presentation did not say anything about the OR Tambo District Municipality. The municipality had received a very big budget but there was very little spending as indicated by DPLG.
She had hoped that SALGA would touch on different municipalities that were facing challenges. For instance, SALGA knew that Matjhabeng local municipality had problems in terms of bucket eradication. It had the second largest allocation in the Free State and had spent nothing to date. The presentation was lacking in details. The DPLG had indicated that about R80 million would be reallocated from the Nelson Mandela municipality. She wondered if there was communication between the Department and municipalities before any funds were taken away from municipalities.
Mr Kwelita replied that the presenters were there to provide information that would help everybody concerned. The needs of municipalities changed all the time. The amount required by the Chris Hani municipality was less than the proposed allocation.
With regard to expenditure in OR Tambo, the Department had a meeting with municipalities where it was established that a number of factors contributed to low expenditure. One factor was projects that were subject to court processes. Some bidders had challenged the bidding process and this led to delays in the implementation of projects. The Department had also discovered that there was low commitment of funds or of approved projects in municipalities. It had realised that it would be incorrect to say that the problem of lack of implementation lay with municipalities. He admitted that some municipalities had capacity problems. Environmental impact assessment processes caused some of the delays and the relevant department should assist with this.
Mr Sigidi replied that R87 million was supposed to go to Nelson Mandela municipality for bucket eradication. It was found that, in terms of the definition, the municipality did not have buckets. DPLG agreed with the definition of 'bucket' as presented by DWAF. The municipality defined bucket as "bucket as you see it". It was decided that the money should be reallocated to Free State where it was needed most. The municipality had said that it had already used R7 million out of the amount. The Department was still engaging with the municipality in relation to the reallocation.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) [Gauteng] said that people generally spoke about life and their health. Very little was said about toilets from which diseases could be transmitted. It seemed that the government was only concentrating on squatter camps and townships and did not ask traditional leaders if there were toilets in their areas. He wondered if the government had checked if there were toilets in farms. The presentation made by the Eastern Cape was good. The question was whether the province would hit the target.
He noted that the DPLG presentation had referred to the reallocation of funds in order to incentivise performance. He wondered what kind of incentive the Department was referring to. Was there a carrot dangling and how far would the Department go with the incentives. It had been reported that Mpumalanga had wiped out all buckets. However, there were lots of problems after that probably because people were just rushing to finish the job. The Department had pointed out that a number of municipalities had received large sums of money but spent little or nothing. One could not blame the Department for this. He asked what were the reasons for the municipalities unable to spend the money. The Committee could be able to assist the municipalities if it knew the nature of the problems. It had been reported that the MIG projects currently being implemented would eradicate approximately 91 090 buckets but there were no timeframes attached to this.
Mr Sigidi replied that the reallocation strategy was not used for buckets only. It was a strategy that was used for any municipality that did not spend an allocation. There was a principle that said that funding should not leave the province. Incentivising performance did not mean that a carrot had been dangled. It was a boost that could be given a municipality if it indicated that it had the capacity to spend an allocation. The boost came in the form of reallocating money from municipalities that were struggling to spend their monies. This would not be a ongoing process but would motivate municipalities that were not spending to spend more. There were processes put in place to assist those that were not spending.
Mr Richard Kruger (DPLG) said that there were 199 projects in the pipeline. All obstacles had been taken out of the way of those projects. They were implementable. The biggest thrust should be on projects under construction. The contractual obligations were that projects should be completed by December 2007.
Mr Mzizi said that SALGA had made a bold statement and said "we will meet the target". It recommended that feasibility studies should be conducted and that the monitoring of the implementation of municipal bucket eradication projects should be increased. Some communities did not want VIPs but wanted waterborne systems. This was understandable given that there were municipalities that were not spending their allocations. He wondered if SALGA was effectively monitoring municipalities. He asked if there was no water facilities available for the communities that did not want VIPs.
Mr C van Rooyen (ANC) [Free State] reflected on the presentations by the Eastern Cape and SALGA and wondered if the targets would be met by December 2007. The bucket eradication project was in its third year and departments were still faced with the same challenges. He asked why it had taken so long for people to realise that the challenges were still there. It seemed that the departments were now coming up with excuses seeing that they would not meet the target. The Eastern Cape had under spent by about 70% of their budget and yet it was still talking about pre-implementation timeframes. SALGA had said that it was positive that it would meet the deadline and he was positive that they would not meet it.
He said that the DPLG had confirmed that there was under budgeting. He asked if the eradication of buckets was an unfunded mandate given to provinces. Who was supposed to fund it from the onset? Looking at the presentations, it seemed that it was an unfunded mandate although it came from national government. If it were an unfunded mandate, it was unfair to expect provinces to look at its own funds for money to fund the project. The previous day, DWAF had said that the Eastern Cape had eradicated 8000 buckets in January. The Committee had thought that this was good and that people were doing their work. This morning SALGA had said that the figure was 6 812. He asked which figure was correct and who was trying to mislead the Committee. DWAF had said that an allocation of R1.2 billion in the MIG was ring fenced for bucket eradication over the MTEF period in February 2005. The figures for 2005/6, 2006/07 and 2007/08 were R200 million, R400 million and R600 million respectively. Yet DPLG said that it had given an amount of R1 billion for 2007/08. He asked which Department should be trusted. He suggested that DWAF should return and make a further presentation in order to clarify the issues.
Mr Sigidi replied that the Department did not mention the challenges in bold letters precisely because they had already been identified and were known to the Committee. The Department was doing something about them. There were issues of capacity and DPLG, provinces and sector departments were supposed to assist in project management and capital planning. There were also issues of personality where the interface between the administrator and the political head was not up to scratch. One could ask why cooperative relationships should be legislated. The Intergovernmental Framework legislation essentially legislated relationships. Reasons for not spending were varied. One could find that political office bearers also got involved in the appointment of contractors whilst legislation clearly forbade this.
Ms Tamie Mpotulo (Chief Director: DWAF) replied that the Department had R1, 2 billion. She commented that this was second time during these hearings that she had given this figure. During her speech on 21 February 2007, the Minister had provided R400 million. There was R200 million, R400 million and R600 million for three different years. These amounts added up to R1, 2 billion. There was no contradiction at all. The Department would have R1 billion (i.e. R600 million for 2007/08 and the R400 million provided by the Minister in his speech) for the next financial year. One could not say exactly how many buckets had been removed because buckets were being removed that very minute. The Department could not be held hostage to numbers. SALGA, DPLG and the provinces were all speaking the truth.
Mr Kruger explained that it had been brought to the Department's attention that only contractors of a certain size could tender for certain works. This was in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act and the qualification criteria of the Construction Industry Development Board. This only came to light late last year when the Department was looking for answers as to why projects were not moving. This issue was brought to the attention of Treasury.
Councillor Ndlovu replied that the figures he had given were similar to those given by DWAF on the previous day. South Africa had one government with different spheres. All spheres should work together and complement one another. They should have one goal. The President had set a deadline and it would be wrong for provinces to set another deadline. SALGA was affirming its commitment to meeting the deadline. There was nothing wrong with being positive that the deadline would be met. SALGA was encouraging municipalities to work in such a way that they would meet the deadline. The directive from the President was very clear. Municipalities had indeed identified challenges but they were still positive that they would meet the deadline. Perhaps there were people who knew that municipalities would not make it but they remained positive. He stressed the importance of cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations. He appealed for the country to work together. People should look at the successes and challenges and map the way forward. The most important thing was to talk about the way forward and how to meet the deadline.
Mr A Watson (DA) [Mpumalanga] supported the issues raised by Mr van Rooyen. It was a cause for concern that two departments could come before the Committee and give different figures. He wondered if Councillor Ndlovu was really up to date about developments in municipalities. SALGA represented the municipalities and Councillor Ndlovu was before the Committee to brief it on what was happening in the municipalities. There was a long input on Mpumalanga (specifically eMbalenhle, Amsterdam and Mkhondo municipalities). The problems in Mkhondo had been fixed up. The province had a party and spent the taxpayers' money before buckets were eradicated in Amsterdam. He asked SALGA to give a status report on what was happening in eMbalenhle. A fellow Member of Parliament had personally seen trucks running around collecting buckets there.
Councillor Ndlovu replied that he had attended the meeting of the previous day and had picked up Mr Watson's concerns. He said that he had called eMbalenhle to get an update on what was happening there. All buckets had been removed from the municipality.
Mr Kruger added that services were currently being rendered in eMbalenhle. The disposal of the waste into the sewerage works was not occurring at the moment. They were using tankers to transport the waste from tanks to the sewerage purification works elsewhere.
Mr van Rooyen said that Ms Mpotulo was disrespectful by saying that the Committee was holding the Department hostage to the numbers. The Committee was doing its oversight work and wanted answers. He asked her to withdraw her statement.
Ms Mpotulo withdrew her statement.
Mr Mzizi said that anybody who appeared before the Committee was not a prisoner. The Committee was not interrogating anyone but trying to get information so that it could improve the situation in communities. The Committee wanted to help the Department and was not targeting anyone in asking questions.
The Chair said that Ms Mpotulo was emotional when responding to questions and this was unfortunate. The Committee was interrogating the information and not the person. There was no disrespect on the part of members. The official should apologise to the Committee and the whole House because it was not appropriate to show such emotions to the Committee.
Ms Mpotulo again apologised to the Committee and the House at large.
Ms Thandeka Mbassa (DWAF: Deputy Director General) also apologised to the Committee. Without justifying the emotions, she said that the Department appreciated the comments no matter how robust they were. The input shaped the way the Department did its work. She accepted the request for the Department to return and make another presentation. The Department was emotional because it was working hard to meet the targets. The fact that the Department did not have an MEC for water affairs in provinces was at times a disadvantage. There was a need for such political support in provinces.
Mr Watson suggested that the Committee should accept the apology in humility and in respect for the cooperation ahead.
Ms Dlulane said that there were no "Big Brothers". There would be no National Council of Provinces without the departments, the provinces and SALGA. She appealed for people to tolerate each other.
The Chair accepted the request for an apology as it was human to be emotional.
The meeting was adjourned.
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