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ENVIROMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 October 2006
DEPARTMENT’S & NATIONAL ENVIROMENTAL ADVISORY FORUM ANNUAL REPORTS 2006/7: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Overview of DEAT’s Performance for the 2006/7 Financial Years
The National Environmental Advisory Forum (NEAF) Presentation 2006/07
National Environmental Advisory Forum (NEAF): Annual Report 2006/07
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism 2006/2007 Annual Report[available at www.environment.gov.za]
Audio recording of meeting
The Committee was firstly briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on their annual report. This focused on six programmes, highlighting the achievements and challenges of each. Tourism had shown increased international visitors and a change in the profiles of local tourists. Officials at immigration points had been trained. New agreements were in place in the lead up to 2010 in regard to accommodation and grading. Visa requirements had also been made more efficient. The tourism second economy would be implemented in the next year. Marine Coastal Management was on track, with legislation in the system, and a new monitoring system. Other policy would be finalised at the end of the year. The Environmental Impact Assessments were receiving ongoing attention, and 890 Green Scorpions had been trained, and monitoring systems set up. The Department was also engaging in international cooperation.
The National Environmental Advisory Forum, comprising 14 part-time members, briefed the Committee on its work, and indicated that in the past year it had established four sub-committees with work plans. The first Annual Report was tabled, and the Forum had participated in a workshop on Accelerated Shared Growth Initiatives and mainstreaming of environmental issues, and on pollution. Key challenges were lack of understanding of the role of the Forum and its relationship with the Department. The success of the Forum would depend on effective relationships with the Department and Ministry.
Members raised questions on the apparent tension between this Department and the Department of Agriculture, the Antarctica programme, safety and security at entry points, NEAF’s key focus areas, and made suggestions for better monitoring in known poaching spots. The spending of the funds from the European Union and the naming of funding administrators by the donors were discussed, and the Department was asked to detail the matter in writing. Further issues included the training of judicial officers in environmental issues, fishing quotas, the problems of poachers hiring under-age children to carry out the poaching, renewable energy sources, genetically modified organisms, the loss of senior managerial staff, programmes at school level, problems with permits and levies were raised. The Department undertook to answer outstanding questions in writing.
Presentation by Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Ms Pamela Yako, Director General: DEAT, noted that DEAT was running six Programmes, dealing with Administration, Environmental Quality and Protection, Marine and Coastal Management, Tourism, Biodiversity and Conservation and Social Responsibility and Projects. She highlighted that Programme 6 now included two new portfolios of Business Performance and International Relations.
In terms of tourism, Ms Yako reported that DEAT’s achievements in 2006/07 included an increase in the number of international visitors into South Africa, with over 8 million visiting. There had also been significant change in the number of local tourists. The focus of tourism was in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western Cape, and Kwazulu Natal. The Department would like to increase the geographic spread of tourism. DEAT had improved the services of immigration officials at entry points in terms of welcome training. The Department had signed an agreement, which would create a partnership with people interested in accommodating tourists for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, who would have to be graded and meet the required standards. A challenge was that many Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) had tended to allow their graded status to lapse after one year, mainly because of insufficient knowledge.
The Department of Home Affairs(DHA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had been recruited by DEAT to reduce the number of days to acquire a visa especially for visitors from India and China. There was still a challenge in balancing out the security requirements with the increased number of tourists. In terms of Tourism Skills the Department would be implementing its amended skills plans. It planned to increase the number of graded establishments, but the problem was that the grading was voluntary, and not all businesses wanted to be graded. The Department had also developed a tourism second-class economy, which will be implemented in the next financial year.
Ms Yako then presented on Marine Coastal Management (MCM). The Integrated Coastal Management Bill was in the Parliamentary system. The Department had also developed subsistence plans for small-scale fisheries, but this had yet to be gazetted, and would be discussed during a summit in November. DEAT had also developed a new monitoring system, which was not linked to the Green Scorpions, the environmental policing unit. The Vessel Monitoring System was set up to create more jobs for the youth. This programme ran in collaboration with the National Youth Service, and the Green Scorpions. Other aspects of the Department’s policy and legislation, including the Elephant Management Policy, would be finalised at the end of the year. The Protected Areas Act Register had been finalised.
The processing of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) applications was ongoing work. The Department had appointed service providers to aid in EIA backlogs. In order to do a better job in environmental quality and protection DEAT had trained 890 Green Scorpions. DEAT had also done an audit on Municipal backlogs, to observe what had been done in terms of waste management and other issues. Six monitoring stations were placed in the Vaal.
In terms of international cooperation, the Department hosted a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Assembly last year, as well as hosting a Ministerial Indaba, based on the issue of climate change. Ms Yako told the Committee that the staff in the Department were doing community work that included donating food to a Hospice in Atteridgeville.
National Environmental Advisory Forum (NEAF): Annual Report Briefing
Dr John Ledger, Deputy Chairperson: NEAF, reported to the Committee that NEAF was comprised of 14 forum members that worked part-time. The stakeholders were diverse and include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the youth, and organised labour.
NEAF’s progress was evident in its formation of four sub-committees, and a fifth project in conjunction with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA). The sub-committees addressed Biodiversity and Bio safety, Coastal and Marine Management, Energy and Climate Change and Pollution and Waste Management. These sub-committees had work plans, and Dr Ledger stated that recommendations would be made to the Minister.
NEAF had tabled its first Annual Report and Work Plan to Parliament, taking part in a workshop on AsgiSA and Mainstreaming of the Environment, as well as a workshop on pollution. In terms of mainstreaming of environmental issues into AsgiSA, the general recommendations included the need for dialogue between the environmental and scientific communities to assist with knowledge and technology for sustainable solutions and the need to conduct environmental/economic risk analysis for AsgiSA’s development projects. Some of the key challenges included the lack of understanding of the role of NEAF at various levels, and lack of clarity on sharing of roles and responsibility DEAT. Dr Ledger told the Committee that 2005/2006 was dedicated to setting up and establishing NEAF. The success of NEAF depended on its relationship with DEAT and the Minister, who should use NEAF effectively.
The Chairperson commended the Director General and her delegation on good work, especially in regard to the dialogue between the Committee and the Department.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) stated that she had been on an oversight visit, and there seemed to be tension between the Department of Agriculture and DEAT as to which was the controlling body over marine aquaculture.
Ms Yako replied that the distinction between the aquaculture was that it is divided into fresh water and marine aquaculture. The Department of Agriculture as responsible for the former and DEAT for the latter.
Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General: Marine and Coastal Management, DEAT, added that problem was that farmers believe that DEAT was responsible for the delays that occurred in a particular community, but it was actually the Department of Agriculture’s responsibility. The issue actually went further than marine aquaculture.
Ms Chalmers enquired if the Antarctica program was on track, and if any changes had taken place.
Ms Yako advised that the Department had been requesting a budget for the Antarctica programme, but that it was still ongoing.
Ms Chalmers said that this programme was an important one, especially when it came to the issue of climate change
Mr D Maluleka (ANC) said that he was concerned about the situation of ports and entry points. He noted that crime syndicates were now following visitors from the airport, and preying upon them. He asked if there was some way to ensure that none of the officials were involved in these crimes.
Ms Yako stated that the border control coordinating committee was involved in the process that examined security
Mr G Morgan (DA) asked whether NEAF took requests from their stakeholders
Dr Ledger responded that most of the members on the forum were from NGO communities and that they did focus on key areas.
Mr Morgan asked about the findings for the state of the environment report, and also asked for more information on Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs)
Ms Joanne Yawitch, Deputy Director General; Environmental Quality and Protection, DEAT said the SEAs set out a process for looking at long-term vision for the Department, and a set of guidelines for assistance had just been published.
Mr A Mokoena (ANC) said that he had encountered a problem of absence of MECs from important functions, such as tourism conferences. He asked whether the Department was aware of this.
Ms Yako told the Committee that DEAT was trying to make sure that Provincial officers attended meetings. Many officials did have large portfolios, and sometimes it was just impossible for them to attend the conferences
Mr Mokoena asked if it was not best to have monitoring systems in poaching hot-spots, by rallying communities and getting them involved in the protection of the environment.
Mr Mokoena asked about the R11 million donation made by the European Union and asked the Department to account for those funds, as communities were asking how the money was being spent.
Ms Yako replied that the Department was trying to manage the EU funds well, but that problems had occurred with the R11 million since NGOs were used as implementing agents. In some areas things had gone awry, yet the Department could not account for the funds, as it was not handling them. She stated that an investigation had taken place on the mismanagement of the funds, but nothing specific had been isolated. Most of the money had gone into processes, workshops and training, which were not tangible factors, so the Department could not point to specific items to detail where the money had been spent.
Mr Mokoena suggested the Department put this in writing, as a matter of accountability, so that this issue did not arise again in the People’s Parliament.
The Chairperson said that funds should not just disappear without being accounted for.
Ms Yako stated that there were strings attached with these donations, but agreed that the Department should not have allowed the donors to have a final say in choosing the consultants who would handle the funds. She did not have problem with NGOs, but the problem was that they were not working together in monitoring the funds
Ms R Ndzanaga (ANC) asked if there were magistrates trained specifically in environmental matters, or if the judicial officers trying environmental offences were also used in criminal courts. She asked if tertiary institutions had specialist courses in the field of environmental crimes.
Ms Yawitch said that that there was a module covering environmental crimes in the Justice College, so judicial officers were being trained to sit at these hearings.
A member of the Committee asked what DEAT was doing about the problem of poachers.
A Member asked why people were being swindled out of their quotas, especially by lawyers, and if there was not some form of protection.
Ms Yako said that the Department would have to look at individual cases when it came to quotas, and asked if the Member could pass her a few names, so the Department could begin investigating.
Mr Mayekiso replied that the Department had been trying to deal with the problem, which was ongoing. Poachers used under-age children because they know that these children could not be prosecuted.
Mr Morgan asked how many ideas the Department was instituting when it comes to Abalone poaching, as there were policemen being bribed by poachers.
Ms Yako agreed on the issue of poaching that more work needed to be done, with more stringent measures. Speaking on behalf of the Department officials, she wanted to clarify DEAT’s commitment to reduce poaching.
The Chairperson spoke about the issue of coal as renewable energy. He stated that the Department needed to be more active in terms of the global climate change. He added that perhaps this was a topic warranting a Private Members Bill, as it was a lucrative industry that could create jobs.
Ms Yawitch said that there was a new technology that related to the effects of coal renewables on climate change.
The Chairperson asked about the advantages and disadvantages of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), as DEAT was the custodian of sustainable development in the country.
Mr Cachalia enquired about the relationship between the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs and DEAT in regard to GMOs.
The Chairperson also wanted to know if the hospitality sector was present in the DEAT skills development. The Tourism Enterprise Programme needed to broaden the mandate of the role of the state, and create participation, and the same applied also to Marine Coastal Management.
The Chairperson asked for an explanation on why so many senior managers were leaving, noting that it took a long time to develop their skills, and the Department should not have such a high attrition rate.
Mr I Cachalia (ANC) asked if there was an active environmental programme reaching school children, and if there were enough resources for their HIV/AIDS.
Mr Cachalia asked what could DEAT do to contain the loss of some animal species.
Ms Chalmers stated that in regard to SMMEs, there was a two year term, and enquired if there was likely to be any danger of them leaving at the same time.
Ms Chalmers asked for an explanation on bio-control engines.
Mr Maluleka said that in Mbizana there were 12 officials sitting with permits, and he asked if there was a way of locating people who have applied for permits. There is also a problem with fishing levies
Ms Yako noted that provision was made in Section 28 of the Marine Living Resources Funds (MLRF) to issue non-compliance certificates. In terms of levies further action would be taken, such suspension of fishing permits
Ms Ndzanaga asked how a funding agent could tell the Department whom they should use as consultants and how to use them.
Mr Alfred Wills, Deputy Director: International, DEAT, said that in the past donors negotiated with National Treasury about the conditions of their donations. This was why they were in a position to tell DEAT who would be responsible for the funds
Ms Yako said that the Department would review some of their Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies to address the issues on which the Committee had expressed concern.
The Chairperson asked DEAT to provide the answers to the remaining questions in writing.
Ms Yako confirmed that this would be done.
The meeting was adjourned.
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