Nodes: Department briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

11 June 2007
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 June 2007
NODES: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Tsenoli

Documents handed out:
Briefing on Nodes by Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG)

Audio Recording of the Meeting

SUMMARY
The briefing on Nodes explained national and provincial sector support to the nodes. The bulk of the briefing looked at the findings of research conducted in two rural and two urban nodes. The research entailed a preliminary impact assessment of each of the nodes; economic profiling research and lessons learnt about the implementation of the Urban Renewal Programme and the dentification of key issues for intervention by the Department, the Portfolio Committee and the Minister. A breakdown of the Urban and Rural Development Branch budget was also provided. Members were concerned about the lack of co-ordination and integration in nodes, especially given the challenges faced in rural nodes.

MINUTES
Briefing by Department
Ms Bernadette Leon, Acting Deputy Director General: Urban and Rural Development, conducted the briefing with Ms Busi Mdaka, Chief Director: Integrated Rural Development Program, assisting.

Ms Leon commenced the briefing with a breakdown of national and provincial sector support for the nodes. At national level there was co-ordination through an inter departmental task team consisting of representatives from the three spheres of government. At provincial level there was varying degrees of support. A breakdown of support in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State and Kwazulu Natal was provided.

The second leg of the briefing looked at research done in four nodes: Alfred Nzo, Motherwell, Maluti-a-Phofung and Alexandra. The research took the form of a preliminary impact assessment in two rural and two urban nodes. Delivery of basic services, housing, economic development, justice crime prevention and safety and co-operative governance were assessed.

There was generally an improvement in the delivery of basic services across all four nodes. Communities were however concerned about quality and affordability of service delivery. Lack of land, eligibility of communities and the need for relocations resulted in the slowing down of the entire housing developmental process. Housing was communicated as the key deliverable, but in most cases it was not deliverable at the scale and pace as promised.

Economic development plans were varied and no clear distinctions were made. Communities in the nodes had high expectations to obtain jobs through development programmes. It was almost impossible to meet such expectations. Economic development strategies for the nodes needed strengthening and more focus was needed on skills development and business growth.

There was no consistent downward trend in crime in urban areas and safety was still seen as a high priority concern for nodal residents. Upgrading of policing and justice infrastructure had made some impact but had not made significant impact on community perceptions of safety.

Co-operative governance also had its shortfalls, as national and provincial line functions co-ordination within nodal priorities remained weak. It was suggested that the performance contracts of officials should be used as a tool in order to ensure that commitments with nodes were made and were met.

Ms Leon outlined some of the lessons learnt in implementation of the Urban Renewal Programme (URP). She noted that a study was currently underway on lessons learnt and that it would be finalized by July 2007. Lessons learnt pertained to institutional processes, governance, service delivery, local economic development and financial viability.

Institutionalising the programme was crucial. The programme needed to be seated within institutional structures, contractual arrangements and clear lines of accountability. As far as governance was concerned sound and active leadership at political and administrative level was critical for the success of integrated nodal development.

Service delivery was not only about housing. A balance was needed between infrastructure development and human development related activities. Unrealistic service standards such as in housing could cause a slow-down in delivery, compromise quality and result in stalled projects. Local economic development was to be encouraged and resources needed to be committed for adequate supervision, training and support for emerging contractors.

The financial viability of the URP was important. Preparation funding was critical during the first 24 months of the URP, to establish Project Management Units (PMUs), undertake essential planning and to source /lever delivery budgets from line functions.

Ms Leon gave a brief overview of the nodal economic development problem. Economic information was insufficient and unreliable. There were deficiencies of economic inputs into Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and nodal business plans. In addition there was limited economic productive capacity in the nodes.

In response to these problems a Programme of Action for Building Productive and Sustainable Nodal Economies had been developed. The programme intended to provide an understanding of the economic potential in the nodes and to identify opportunities for public and private investment. The Department also undertook nodal economic profiling so that investment opportunities could be identified. Key projects were thus selected to form the basis for kick starting the nodal economy. A profile of each project was provided. For the thirteen rural nodes, 88 investment opportunities had been identified and profiled. Ms Leon provided detail on the actions that specific departments were tasked with in this regard. The profiles were intended to act as a decision support tool for government and other stakeholders who wished to understand and act on the economic character and potential for each node.

Ms Leon elaborated on the work to be done in the period 2007/8 – 2009/10. Amongst the activities highlighted was the holding of a Cabinet lekgotla, design of an institutional support mechanism and the compilation of a "state of the nodal economies" report. Ms Leon concluded the briefing by identifying issues for intervention amongst departments, the Committee and the Minister as well as providing a breakdown of the Urban and Rural Development Branch budget.

Discussion
Mr M Nonkonyana (ANC) said that there should be a bias towards the rural areas as basic services like water and electricity were lacking.

Mr S Mashudulu (ANC) commented that challenges were faced at grassroots level and that preparations for the 2010 World Cup could assist with the department’s efforts. He felt that where municipalities form part of a node there was a tendency for them to put aside normal municipal responsibilities.

Ms Mdaka stated that most of the World Cup host cities were in areas where there were urban nodes. Some of the areas around stadiums situated in nodes, were earmarked for use as fan parks during 2010.

Mr P Smith (IFP) pointed out that the presentation covered the performance of only four nodes. He asked for information on the performance of all the nodes. He referred to the nodal approach undertaken by government and asked about its successes. There were also areas in which integrated service delivery was taking place and could these serve as role models for nodes. Service delivery on housing in rural areas was not up to scratch. What was the department doing in this regard? Much had been said about a lack of co-ordination of efforts in nodal areas. Why had this not been a priority up until now? Lastly, he asked to what extent had the department been pressurised by municipalities to place housing delivery with municipalities.

Ms Mdaka responded that as far as performance of nodes was concerned there was a general reduction in poverty by 2.2% across all nodes. The issue of placing housing within the responsibility of municipalities depended on the capacity of the municipality to perform the function, that is, accreditation.

Mr W Doman (DA) said that he was positive about the approach on nodes. He was however concerned about rural areas. It would seem that a grand plan was needed for rural economic development. The Department was asked to make suggestions. He referred to Planning and Implementation Management Support Centres (PIMS Centres) and stated that many persons were not skilled enough and that the finances were lacking.

Ms Leon replied that the Department was aware of the attention that was needed for rural nodes. She felt that the Department could use its partners better to the benefit of rural nodes. She noted that PIMS were the foundations of a shared model. The intention was for them to be absorbed into districts.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) referred to the Department’s assertion that role clarification was in some cases needed for community development workers, ward committees etc and asked what then was the function of the centres.

Ms Leon said that teething problems associated with community development workers had been sorted out. The Department had also prioritised the issue of ward committee allowances. Some municipalities and districts had come up with their own funding models. Ms Mdaka added that a policy was being considered to synchronise the work of community development workers with that of other community workers. She felt that community development workers should be employed by municipalities rather than by provinces.

Mr M Likotsi (IFP) was concerned that there were no timeframes for the formation of forums and structures in terms of the IGR Act. The Department also needed to look into non-conformance of municipalities to government policies such as the Expanded Public Works Programme. He asked for clarity on the meeting of basic service delivery targets such as the bucket system being eradicated by December 2007. "Fronting" in rural areas was seen as an obstacle for economic development. He asked what the Department was doing about it.

Ms Leon responded that the Department had not focussed its efforts much on fronting in the nodes. She said that additional funding had been allocated to municipalities in order to encourage compliance with government policies.

A female ANC member suggested that there should be a skills transfer to train emerging contractors in nodal areas. In many instances houses that were built in nodal areas were not up to scratch.

Mr M Swathe (DA) commented that most of the problems of infrastructure were water or electricity related. If basic services were not available how was economic development to take place.

Ms Mdaka conceded that the provision of basic services in rural nodes was a challenge. Most rural nodes had implemented alternatives to overcome water challenges such as the use of water tanks.

The Chair asked who had conducted the Department’s research. The Department's presentation had made no distinction between national and provincial champions. He felt that if housing was decentralized to municipalities it could fast-track the process. He asked the Department to try to sell the idea even though the provinces might not be to keen on it. The Department was also asked to prepare a briefing on the Joint Framework. Municipal and provincial spending accounted for much of the business in the private sector. He felt that this leverage should be used to encourage businesses to invest in rural areas. Greater effort was also needed to improve integration and co-ordination in nodal areas.

The Chair suggested that Section 57 management contracts should be put in place. Firmness was needed in enforcing implementation. He asked for detail on knowledge sharing initiatives in districts. Inputs by local government on the Annual Learning Academy were also considered to be weak. He asked why the Department had not said much about the role of Government Communication Information System (GCIS) in its efforts. Dialogue should be integral to intergovernmental communications.

Ms Leon responded that there was a close relationship between the Department and GCIS. GCIS had been actively involved in the Department’s initiatives. As regards the powers and functions of municipalities, the Department had implemented policies on the ground. The policies were in the process of being refined. It was a challenge to the Department as the research that had been done was not as vigorous as it should be. The research was not good enough to back up the idea of metros being placed in charge of housing. She was not aware of metros that had obtained accreditation to take over the responsibility of housing. The Department’s research had been done by an international organisation called the Monitoring Group. The organisation had suggested that the Department focuses on the basics and once this was right, economic development would follow.

Ms Mdaka proceeded to give the Committee a breakdown of champion involvement provincially and nationally.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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