The Committee was briefed on the strategic plan and budget of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). The vision, goal and strategies were set out, and the main pillars of the tourism strategy, key performance areas and key performance indicators were highlighted during the presentation. Marine and Coastal Management’s funding difficulties were also highlighted. Ms Jezile also discussed the plans for the major public entities under DEAT’s management, including SANParks, the Biodiversity Institute, the Weather Service and iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority. The total budget allocation for the 2008/9 financial year was given as R3.01 billion, increasing to R3.4 billion by 2009/10.The scope for budget growth and spending on delivery was set out across the economic classification. The total budget allocation for public entities was R1, 2 billion, increasing to R1.4 billion in the following year. The issues raised during the discussion included a call for the creation of a competitive tourism model. BEE scorecard compliance proved a complex equation and the Department stressed that individual evaluation had to be used. Other questions related to aquaculture, with reference to a prawn farm in the Coega area, exploitation of local traders in artifacts by foreign firms and the need to educate traders. Members felt that the Department was not being taken seriously enough and questioned whether it had the potential to lead inter-departmental initiatives. Other issues included the integrated approach to transformation, when a greenhouse gas inventory would be available, grading of bed and breakfast establishments, improvement of grading and incentives, and the greening of Soweto and improvement of air quality.
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and entities: Joint Strategic Plan and Budget briefing
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and its entities gave a joint presentation to the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Nosipho Jezile, Acting Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, began by stating the mission of the Department was to achieve a prosperous and equitable society living in harmony with our natural resources. She noted that the key departmental programmes consisted of administration, quality and protection, marine and coastal management, SA tourism and biodiversity ( in the form of transfers to SANParks and the Biodiversity Institute). She also discussed the Cluster focus area that consisted of industrial policy action and an intense campaign for better air quality and against poaching.
Ms Jezile said that the goals and strategic objectives for 2008/9 – 2010/11 included delivery on the DEAT mandate, growing a learning organisation and becoming an employer of choice, operational efficiency, financial responsibility and enhancement of reputation and collective ownership of sectors.
She then moved on to discuss the various pillars of the Tourism strategy. These included product and Small Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) development, Quality assessment, incentive investment with Department of Trade and Industry and growth of land and air transport in conjunction with the Department of Transport were also focus areas. The highlighted Key Performance Areas (KPA) for 2008/9 were skills levels in the tourism sector, Tourism’s HR strategy to meet skills demands with language and tertiary training. Grading of establishments also fell into this category and she highlighted that there had been a plan and remained challenges to review the grading system so that it was consistent with international standards..
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) were discussed. Here a global competitiveness study was mentioned to improve the product offering, and greening and sustainable growth were named as another focus. She said that SA Tourism aimed to increase the total numbers of visitors to South Africa (SA) by 2010. The integrated SA Tourism Portfolio was discussed next and a focus on core markets and investment markets in line with available resources.
South African National Parks' (SAN Parks) main role in the coming period would be constituency building , among others to increase the number of learners participating in the Environmental Education Programme, to reach 110 000 learners.
Marine and Coastal Management had an improved research presence as a target. A new vessel was to replace the SA Agulhas. Funding for research cruises is however insufficient and this matter will have to be taken up with the Treasury.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) would be stepping up research work in areas such as biodiversity and the assessment of species utilisation .
iSimangaliso ( formerly the Great St Lucia Wetland Park) was to be rebranded and the park’s programmes were to be scaled up. Tourism training would also play a significant role
Integrated coastal management was to be passed into law and its main goal would be to manage negative impact to the coastlines.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) were to focus on air quality information system, quality management, greater involvement in climate change and improvements in forecasting as part of the 2010 business plan in the coming year.
Total budget allocation for the 2008/9 period was given as R3,06 billion, with a projected increase to R R3,4billion in the 2009/10 period. On budget allocations per economic classification, she noted the scope for budget growth and subsequent spending on delivery. Total budget allocation for public entities was R1,2 billion with an increase to R1,4 billion by 2009/10
Mr A Mokoena (ANC) commented on how fragmented the Department's foreign counterparts appeared to be abroad. He congratulated the DEAT on its cohesiveness and specifically lauded their very comprehensive Transformation plan. He wanted to know the extent to which the tourism industry was transformed. He lamented the lack of funding in this regard and said the department must ensure proper funding in order to achieve its stated intentions.
Mr Mokoena suggested that a workshop on tourism be held in an effort to create a competitive tourism model. He questioned the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF). He suggested a meeting with the National Treasury in relation to this.
Ms Jezile responded to the question on the MLRF being absorbed. She said that there was no real resistance from the Treasury and this was more an issue of public good versus commercial gain. Funds were simply inefficient within the department. Certain functions could be taken over by other departments to improve the fund's flow to the MLRF.
Mr Mokoena, in relation to grading councils, noted that this kind of grading was voluntary throughout the world. He then asked why certain businesses were allowed to override the BEE scorecard. They managed to gain benefits by compliance to only certain criteria. He said that only those who were fully compliant should benefit.
Ms Jezile pointed out, in relation to the BEE scorecard issue, that BEE did not always go hand in hand with transformation. Because the scorecard had various elements, achievement of compliance depended on the applicant's resources, so it was an individual process needing to be evaluated case by case.
Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo, Deputy Director General: Tourism, DEAT, acknowledged that transformation was moving at a snail’s pace. The BEE Act required the transformation to be broad based and this resulted in a very complex equation. There were many level of requirements based on the earnings of the businesses. This meant that if a sector consisted mainly of small businesses it would prove difficult to transform as only the higher earning business needed to be close to fully compliant. The Department was now trying to promote a business case for transformation by highlighting the long term benefits as other sectors were transformed. This was a challenge when preferential procurement, which advocated the cheapest option, clashed with the BEE Act where transformation deals could be very costly to the business.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) raised the topic of aquaculture. She cited an indoor prawn farm in the Coega region. She noted that this had created thousands of jobs, including the employment of scientists. They produced an export quality product as well as being a skills development opportunity. She wanted to know if such endeavour fell under DEAT and if they benefit from DEAT funding.
Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General: Marine and Coastal Management, DEAT said that this was a pilot project and that it was not yet fully fledged. The application by the farm was yet to be processed. There were questions about it going into full production, and these included the biological impact and possible risk factors. There would be public hearings and performance review in the next few months. This happened to all such companies who applied for quotas as they must be very carefully scrutinised.
Ms Ndzanga also mentioned the buying and resale of locally produced artefacts by tourism firms. She wanted to know if these firms were open to previously disadvantaged individuals and whether they were controlled by the DEAT.
Ms Nhlumayo said that the most important intervention in this potentially exploitative practice was to educate people on the running of a business and the value of their products so that they would not be selling at a loss. She added that the process must be driven by industry to stop this exploitation.
Ms Ndzanga concluded with a question pertaining to the 2 010 World Cup and asked if it would it be possible to have a viewing of the Johannesburg stadium.
The Chairperson responded that such a visit would be happening soon.
Mr G Morgan (DA) congratulated DEAT on a very well run department. He said that despite this, the Department was still not being taken seriously enough. There was not enough integration and the required budget was just not available. Investment in DEAT initiatives by other departments and stakeholders must be seen as investment in human health. He asked if DEAT was able to lead interdepartmental initiatives.
Ms Jezile answered that DEAT was able to lead interdepartmental initiatives. She added that sister departments must take DEAT seriously. They would be investing in future jobs and there was scope for growth in the budget for this purpose.
Mr Morgan, in relation to the budget for foreign advertising, noted that due to current currency movements they would now get much less value for money and wanted if there were any plans to remedy this.
Mr Morgan, commenting on a remark made earlier by Mr Mokoena, said that perhaps transformation needed a more integrated philosophical approach.
Mr D Maluleke (ANC) asked about the status of the service improvement plan, performance agreements, annual reports and citizens' reports. He also wanted to know if the Department had a Deputy information officer and if not, why not.
Ms Jezile responded that in regard to human resources aspects, DEAT was compliant in all areas. All senior managers signed a performance contract and there was 98-99% compliance on that aspect.
Mr Ishaam Abader (DDG: Corporate Affairs) added that service delivery was very important. He confirmed that the Department had a high level of compliance with performance agreements. He reported that the DEAT had 6 Deputy Information Officers as all the DDGs also held this position. On the matter of the annual citizens' reports, he said that reports, as well as strategic plans, were on the website.
A Member had raised a question how the majority without access to computers and internet would access this content.
Ms Jezile said that the Human Sciences Research Council information was readily available to the public although she did not know, offhand, how it was distributed. Additionally public forums existed but were not legislated. Publications were also sent to various stakeholders by DEAT.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if competence on a national level filtered down to the provincial and local level. In this regard she asked about oversight and interaction arrangements. She also asked about green grading and an updated greenhouse gas inventory.
Ms Thembi Kunene, CEO: Tourism Grading Council, said a national steering committee was being established. This would take advice from technical key players. They were working with a number of groups including Greenstay SA who had developed standards. They would be comparing models and put together the best standard model for a responsible green rating system at national level.
Mr Peter Lukey, Chief Director: Air Quality Management, DEAT, responded that on the matter of greenhouse gas inventory, there was a need for information on a day to day basis. The current project under way was an institutional monitoring process. He noted that South Africa was the first country on the continent to comply with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) standards. The Department was busy developing the first draft and this would be available in September.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked if more stringent grading of Bed and Breakfasts (B&B's) could prove motivation for obtaining higher standards.
Ms Jezile replied that on a provincial basis, grading was often a disincentive toward achieving the provincial transformation targets, as provinces had their own unique challenges.
Ms Kunene spoke to the grading of B&Bs and said that various initiatives were in place. The focus now was on the training of assessors to ensure quality assessment. Service level agreements were in place with assessors. Achiever awards were also going to be held as recognition of excellent service from establishments and assessors, to act as an incentive. However, at this time the awards were purely in the nature of recognition.
Ms Nhlumayo added that it was important to educate owners of B7Bs to highlight the importance of standards.
Ms Zikalala wanted to know if there were any plans in place for the greening of townships.
Mr Lukey said that there was an initiative to green townships. It would be developed over the next three or four months to address air pollution and air quality in dense low-income areas. This was a joint initiative with the Department of Health, Department of Housing and the Department of Housing. He also said that a million large trees were being cultivated for planting in Soweto.
Ms Zikalala asked how much was earned by tour guides and if there was any basic salary as an incentive.
Ms Nhlumayo said that the bulk of tour guides acted on a freelance basis. They were paid on a tour by tour basis and negotiated this rate with tour operators directly. The DEAT was looking into ways to implement standards like basic salary requirements.
Ms Zikalala asked for more information on public hearings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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