Departmental Progress Report: Working for Water, Working on Fire

Water and Sanitation

28 August 2007
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 August 2007
DEPARTMENTAL PROGRESS REPORT: WORKING FOR WATER, WORKING ON FIRE

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee Minutes : 13 June 2007
Committee Minutes : 21 June 2007
Working for Water and Working on Fire Programmes: presentation
Working for Water: presentation
Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry: Budget Proposal for 2008/09

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Department presented on their Working for Water and Working on Fire Programmes. The presentation consisted of the Department’s strategic plan, socio-economic objectives, progress made, achievements, expenditure, challenges, and a way forward on these programmes. They were linked to the Poverty Alleviation programmes. Both aimed to enhance sustainable use and conservation of natural resources and address alien plants and their damaging effects. Youth and women and disabled were all participating in the programmes. Over 20 000 jobs had been created. There had been 100.5% expenditure in the last year for Working for Water, and 100.2% expenditure on Working on Fire. Challenges included insufficient funding, poor communication and understanding  with municipalities,  inadequate monitoring and evaluation tools and insufficient consistent use of research. Because of the strategic priority, plans to take the programmes to higher levels would be accelerated, including the setting up of partnerships.

Members asked questions on the exit strategy that did not appear to have been finalised, payment of employees on time, the possible solutions to eradication of alien plants, the use of alien plants for furniture and coffins, the number of people working in the programmes, the challenges with contractors, and filling of posts. Further questions related to the need to address the challenges urgently, plans for flooding of rivers and preventative measures against fires, the need for executive decisions on invasive plants, the need for more funding, and the reasons why Second Quarter training plans were only in place in some provinces. The Department was asked to respond to outstanding issues in writing.

MINUTES
Working for Water and Working on Fire programmes: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) Briefing

Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Deputy Director General: Regions, DWAF, highlighted the Department's strategic vision for these two programmes, which were linked to the Poverty alleviation programmes. The Working for Water (WfW) plan aimed to enhance sustainable use and conservation of natural resources, and promote socio economic development. It would do so by ensuring that WfW issues were adequately addressed and integrated in all stages of the cycle. The goals also included the management of resources and the creation of sustainable job opportunities. Both the WfW and Working on Fire (WoF) programmes had been submitted to the Presidency, and were of high priority. The youth was also encouraged to participate in these programmes. The jobs breakdown was given, showing that over 20 000 jobs had been created, with 10 126 going to women, 3 2177 to youth and 1 500 to disabled.

The progress of both programmes was examined, with the expenditure, the Department overspent by 0.5 percent for the WfW, and by 0.2 percent for the WoF.

Some of the challenges the Department faced with the programmes included inadequate funding (much of this was received from international donors), as well as poor skills development of both contractors and their employees. She also highlighted the fact that there was a weak collaboration between the different Departments and Municipalities, inadequate monitoring and evaluation tools and capacity to verify the impact of the programme, and research results not being employed across the entire programme. There needed to be roll out training for the Adult Basic Education and Training Plan (ABET) to support these programmes. An improved budget would enable DWAF to cover more hectares to create more job opportunities, and there should be better intergovernmental collaboration. .

Dr Guy Preston, National Programme Leader, WfW and WoF, DWAF, presented on the effects of the invasive alien plants in South Africa, as well as their repercussions. Some alien plants were spreading at an alarming rate, thus reducing the plants that animals survived on, leading to the death of species and the reduction in tourism, all of which affected job creation. He tabled photographs and graphs on the spread of alien plants over the country. Mr Preston went on to examine how the Department was using the cleared wood for the making of low-cost coffins.

The training matrix for the programme was tabled, and it was noted that the functional training courses covered a wide field. Key performance objectives, training plans and progress were described. It was noted that because of the strategic priority, plans to take the programmes to higher levels would be accelerated, including the setting up of partnerships.

Discussion
Ms M Manana (ANC) mentioned that the Portfolio Committee had been to visit Mpumalanga two years ago, and the issue of the Exit Strategy had been raised. After two years there still seemed to be a problem, and she was worried that there could be corruption. She asked if DWAF could examine this issue once and for all.

Ms Mbassa replied that the challenge of the Exit Strategy was that there was no real policy to guide the strategy. This meant that the challenges in Mpumalanga would continue, but there were interim measures put in place to solve the problem

Ms Manana asked what was this alien plant causing cancer, as had been suggested in the presentation.

Mr Preston responded that the word cancer in the presentation was used as analogy. Alien plants were not problematic in themselves, but when they became invasive they become a problem, and acted on other plants in a similar way to cancer cells taking over healthy cells in the body.

Ms E Lishiva (ANC) asked if the Department had any solutions on paying employees on time.

Ms Mbassa responded that delays in the payment of employees were system related, and had been fixed.

Ms Lishiva wanted to know why the second quarter Training Plans were not in place in other provinces

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) wanted more clarity on alien plants. There had been an effort to eradicate them, but he wondered what other suggestions the Department could come up with to alleviate the problem.

Mr Preston said that WfW programme was trying to find solutions, but the best would be prevention, as well as early detection and rapid response.

Mr Ditshetelo asked if there were challenges in coffin manufacturing, and asked whether undertakers were not challenging the Department as it was depriving them of their livelihood.

Mr Preston answered that the Department would be willing to work with ethical undertakers, but he did not want undertakers to use coffins as a way of making a profit.

A Member of the Committee asked if the figure of 1 700 was the total number of people working for the WfW Programme in the whole country.

Mr Preston replied that the number had increased from 1700, and this was a countrywide not provincial figure.

The Member also wanted to know about challenges in regards to the hiring of contractors, and whether there were guidelines as to the manner of training and remuneration by the same contractors.

Mr Preston said that were guidelines for the remuneration of workers, but there was a problem in the way in which contractors were selected, and the system needed to be tightened.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) noted that none of the posts that had been placed in the Department’s Way Forward Approach had been filled. He asked when would these posts be filled and what would they cover.

Mr Preston replied that the posts were being monitored, and they would soon be filled.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked if DWAF assisted in crafting plans with Municipalities, as strategies for both WfW and WoF related to local Municipalities. He asked if it was possible to unknowingly buy invasive alien plants, as some of them were quite attractive.

Mr Preston stated that there were indeed attractive invasive plants, but none of the nurseries sold any invasive alien plants.

Ms S Maine (ANC) said that when examining the Department's challenges, she was rather disappointed that so many still remained. She asked how DWAF wanted the Committee to help, and how Members could intervene.

Ms Mbassa stated that she would appreciate any solutions from the Committee, as policy development was an active process. This would help to keep the programme improving.

Mr M Sibuyane (IFP) said that every year in Cape Town, rivers would flood because of the rain. He asked specifically what the WfW programme doing to conserve water flowing into Mozambique. He also wanted to know what other preventative measures the Department had taken to prevent fires.

Ms Mbassa replied that the Department was currently working on a strategy that would answer the question about flooding. Building of dams was part of the initiative.

Mr Moonsamy asked if there was a plan to carry out the Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET).

Mr Moonsamy asked what would happen if drastic measures were not taken on invasive species and wondered if this was not a matter to be raised with the Executive, as this problem did not only relate to South Africa but the whole continent.

Mr Preston answered that it was necessary that the problem be presented to the Executive, but he believed that International Law had not yet been fully tested on this issue.

Ms Maine believed that the pamphlets the Department had handed out should be all-inclusive and be in different languages.

The Chairperson told the Department that it should be finding alternative ways to receive funding other than the international donors, as lack of funds seemed to be holding most of the projects back. She asked DWAF about its communication strategy, and when the public strategy would begin. She noted that certain questions had not been answered and a written answer should be forwarded to the Committee in respect of these, and the following questions:

Ms Lishiva wanted to know why the second quarter Training Plans were not in other provinces

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) wanted to know if there were any plans that DWAF had put in place to overcome their challenges. He also wanted more light shed on the hand over policy.

Mr Moonsamy stated that timber could also be used as a small-scale industry, in the production of chairs and tables. The examination of the cost effective coffins was also important, as it could be a good solution for those without the financial means for funerals.

Mr Mosala wanted to know the impact wild fires had on rare indigenous plants, and whether these plants could rehabilitate themselves.

Ms Maine asked if the Department had done any comparative studies to assess how other countries were dealing with invasive alien plants

The meeting was adjourned


 

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