Committee Upcoming Oversight Visits: discussion

Water and Sanitation

29 May 2007
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
30 May 2007
COMMITTEE'S GAUTENG OVERSIGHT REPORT ADOPTION & WATER BOARD TARIFFS: DISCUSSION

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents Handed Out
:
Committee Oversight Visit to Gauteng Province, 06 May - 11 May [available at Committee Reports once odopte]
Report to the Speaker
Water Board Tariffs [available here once adopted by the Committee]

SUMMARY
The Committee continued its discussions on tariff issues, and the Chairperson summarised that the main points to consider were the tariffs, the legislative framework for determining increases, the motivation and benchmarking behind the increases, the tabling of written reports and the roles and powers of Portfolio Committees. The legal advisors had suggested that the tabling of reports was not in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act as the documents were not tabled "in parliament". The Committee agreed that this was a matter needing to be followed up. Members were concerned tht the rate for Botshelo needed to be altered and that something needed to be done about the Mafikeng Board It was decided that a report be compiled asking the Minister be asked to look at these matters, and that it should be pointed out also that there should be a proper framework to guide the issue, including consideration of South African citizen rights. The role of Parliament in regard to increases must be considered. and that it should be noted that the Committee was concerned that the interests of South African citizens must be considered.  She also said it should be noted that, whilst the Act did not give the Committee power to amend tariff increases, nevertheless the role of Parliament in this regard must be considered.

The report on the oversight visit to Gauteng was tabled and a number of issue were idenitifed. Committee members then raised issues of particular concern. These included safety of people who lived on the Rand Water pipelines, comments on revenue, visits to pump stations that needed to be upgraded, and increase in budgets. Minimum wages, sinkholes and removal of pit latrines were further causes of concern. Further comments related to the fact that the document said nothing about municipalities meeting their targets, use of the new water-meter reading equipment in Soweto, the need to get a progress report on implementation of water quality improvements by ACSA and Harmony Mining, strengthening the legislation on water quality, water leakages, lack of management in municipalities, and the need, in the next meeting, to focus on bucket system eradication and problems in Free State. It was decided that the report stand over for adoption the following week.

MINUTES
Tariff Issues

The Chairperson noted that at the last meeting the Committee had begun to deal with tariff issues, but had not finished, and this meeting would continue with such matters. The document previously tabled looked at the Water Board tariffs, including the legislative framework to determine the increases; the motivation and benchmarking process for the increases; tabling of written reports in the legislatures; and role and powers of Portfolio Committees in respect of tabled reports. The conclusion by the legal advisors was that the tabling process was not in line with the procedure envisaged in Section 42(4) of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) which required tabling of documents in “Parliament”. These documents were not tabled at the National Assembly.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked Adv Z Adhikari, Law Advisor to Parliament, why she considered the tabling process as not in line with the procedure envisaged in the Municipal Finance Management Act.

Adv Adhikari said that this point was a note, and that she simply wanted to bring it to the attention of the Committee. She stated that her report noted that the tabling did not constitute one before the full Parliament..

The Chairperson asked how the Advocate had come to that decision.

Adv Adhikari replied that she had checked whether these reports had indeed come to the National Assembly

Ms M Manana (ANC) commented that, when the Department presented the reports to the Porffolio Committee it should surely be the responsibility of Parliament to take it to the National Assembly, not the Department’s.

Adv Adhikari stated that procedurally it should be sent to both houses, but the problem was that there was an insufficient checking mechanism to ensure that the reports reached the correct places.

Ms J Semple (DA) said that if this wass the case, then the whole process was invalid.

The Chairperson said that this is a matter that needed to be examined, and so the Committee should have a stronger relationship with the National Council of Provinces (NCOP)

Ms Semple said she wanted clarification on the point that “ the committee has a duty to ensure that matters referred to it are dealt with in a more detailed and investigative manner, which is not possible in plenary sessions.”

Adv Adhikari responded that the function of the Committee was to consider and debate this point.

The Chairperson said that she had conferred with the Chairperson of the Finance Portfolio COmmittee, who took the view that the Portfolio Committee had a right to go to the National Treasury and ask for an amendment.

Adv Adhikari asked that it be noted that the Committee could not replace decisions that had taken place in regard to the report.  The report had been brought before the Committee not to be accepted or declined, but merely to be tabled.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) asked what would happen if the concerns of the National Treasury were not addressed

Adv Adhikari replied that this was not explicit in the Act, but that whatever was referred to the Minister had to receive the concerns and comments of the National Treasury.

Ms M Maine (ANC) stated that Botshelo’s tariff rate needed to be altered; and she also said that Mafikeng had a high unemployment rate. The law stated that the Committee could not alter the rates, but clearly something needed to be done.

Ms Semple said that she was looking for a way forward, and asked if a report could be sent to the Minister of Water Affairs  who could examines price increases, and that she look at these issues as a matter of some urgency, especially in regard to Botshelo.

Ms Manana (ANC) asked if other tariffs could be adopted, and asked the Minister to take cognisance of the fact that the community needed to be consulted as soon as possible.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) stated that he supported the comments.

The Chairperson said that she wanted to make a few suggestions.  She said that the Committee should record that it had received the tariff increases from the Water Board, and that something should be said about the process.  She said that a proper framework must guide the issue, and that it should be noted that the Committee was concerned that the interests of South African citizens must be considered.  She also said it should be noted that, whilst the Act did not give the Committee power to amend tariff increases, nevertheless the role of Parliament in this regard must be considered.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) said that he agreed with the suggestions, but asked if it was not insensitive to the working relationship between the Department and the Committee.

The Chairperson responded that the matter had been raised with the Minister, and she had no problem with it.

Ms Semple stated that this way of communicating with the Department gave everybody authority, as well as emphasising the role of Parliament.  She said that Parliament needed to assert itself.  She asked if the report would be tabled or whether it would be in the form of a letter.

The Chairperson replied that it did not matter what format the report was in, so long as it reached the Minister.

Report on oversight visit to Gauteng
The Chairperson noted that the briefings had indicated that there needed to be more attention to water, sanitation and forestry policies in South Africa, which need to be implemented more stringently. She also noted that the Committee undertook oversight visits to Gauteng and North West Provinces.  This was in order to determine the manner in which the responsibility for water, sanitation and forestry issues were being addressed by different levels of the community, including industry, local government, and individual water users.

The report  was drafted under of the following topics: Water Quality Management, which looked at the Chamber of Mines and the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA); Water Boards, which examined Rand Water, and Magalies Water Board,  as well as the Committee’s findings and analysis  of those municipalities falling within Project Consolidate, a focus on the briefing by the Department (DWAF) and the MEC of Local Government and Housing, the Motsweding Area, Site Visit to Kameeldrift, a Visit to the Johannesburg Metro Area, the Presentation on Project Thonifho, the Bucket Eradication Progress in Westonaria, a Visit to the Sebokeng Sewage Treatment Plant and the Bapsfontein Sinkholes. The report also addressed the question of job creation, which had led to a Site Visit to Orange Farm, and the Winderveldt Sanitation Project, Working for Water and Working for Fire, which included an examination of the Working for the Water Project in Rietvlei as well as Working on Fire Group. Water Resources, and Water Quality Observations and Findings,  focused on a Site Visit to Pump Station No. 28, and the Presentation on Catchment Management and Water Quality. The oversight of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry Head Office focused on Registry, Finance, Water Services, Institutional Oversight, Policy and Regulation and Findings and Analysis.

Discussion
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee read through the report together.

Mr Mosala (ANC) suggested that perhaps Members could just highlight important notes.

Ms Semple highlighted her concerns about people who live on the Rand Water pipelines, and that Rand Water had requested that there be some legislation to keep the pipelines safe.  She said that under the sub-heading of Benefits of the Project, there should be a statement about the revenue.  Ms Semple said that when visiting Pump Station No. 8, she noticed that if one pump station did not work, then the rest also did not function.  She asked that there be noted a request for an increase in budget, so that pump line could be increased.  She corrected a sentence referring to Tembisa (which, incidentally was wrongly spelt) and Ekhuruleni, as being in the same area.

The Chairperson commented that she wanted to deal with matters of substance.

Ms Semple said that she was worried about the minimum wage paid. She was also concerned about the Sinkholes, which she believed resulted from the over-use of borehole water. She also wanted to know what time frames there were to removing old toilets such as pit-latrines.

The Chairperson replied that the issue of the removal of old toilets was highlighted in the presentation, and had therefore been acknowledged.

Ms Maine noted that the reason behind the resistance to getting rid of pit-latrines was the fact that some families rented out space in their back yards. "Landlords" did not want their tenants to use the toilets in the main house, so they left the pit-latrines or buckets.

Ms M Ngwenya (ANC) wanted to know who would be collecting these buckets, because if this was not addressed the pollution in the ground water would not be solved.

Mr Sibuyana said that he did not see anything in the document about the municipalities meeting targets.  He also mentioned that most municipalities claimed that they could not meet targets without a substantial budget.  Mr Sibuyana also said that in Bekkersdale one toilet served two to three families.

Ms Maine said that she was impressed with the new water meter-reading equipment.  She said that in Soweto it should be encouraged, as most of the water there was misused, but the meter reading would really help to identify the wastages.

The Chairperson said that ACSA had started to attend to water quality and a recommendation should be put forward that the Portfolio Committee should have a progress report on implementation and all the matters ACSA had brought up.  The Chairperson said that, whilst she applauded Harmony Mining, she urged the DWAF to include all mining sectors in the union.

Ms Semple wanted to know how to strengthen the legislation on water quality

Ms Ngwenya said she was worried about the leakages, which were covered up by Municipalities who always claiming lack of funds.  She wanted to know where the emergency funds were in connection with these small problems.

Mr Sibuyana mentioned that in another town the leak in the pipe was so small it could be covered with insulation tape, but the Municipality just left it althogether. In such a case they could not use lack of funds as an excuse.

Mr Mosala pointed towards lack of management being the main problem with these Municipalities.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) said that a recommendation should be made to increase the payment of workers, as well as paying workers on time.

Ms Maine noted that DWARF did respond about the dates of payment for workers.

Ms Manana stated that the management and politicians in Rietlief wanted to turn a blind eye to many of the problems that are taking place there.

Mr Ditshetelo said that he wanted to address the problem of the wages.  He said that it was not fair that the workers were classified as contractors.  The aim was to try and empower people and create jobs, but contractors had no say whatsoever.

The Chairperson stated that she would like more information on this issue.

Ms Semple pointed out that the Minister would be available for questions next week

The Chairperson said that at the next meeting, there should be more focus on bucket system eradication.  She asked if there were any problems about Free State.

Ms Semple made a comment about her concern on the consultation with Municipalities, as well as the inflation on tariff prices.

The Chairperson pointed that Ms Semple’s comment was separate to that of the Free State issue. 

The Chairperson agreed that the report should be adopted the following week, and that documents would be handed out to the committee on time.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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