The Committee deliberated on the adoption of the Department of Water affairs and Forestry’s strategic plan and budget vote report. The Portfolio Committee had a program that was reviewed and the Annual reports of the water boards were discussed.
Committee Report on the Department Budget and Strategy for 2008/09
The Chairperson asked the Committee to indicate any changes they would like made to the Committee Report on the Department Budget and Strategy for 2008/09. Also they should suggest any recommendations they would like included.
Mr J Combrinck stated that the report was very thorough especially the observations and oversight section of the report. His only concern was what was actually being done or what would be done in the next two months to make sure the Department applied oversight because thus far there was no real indication that the Department did specific work on this from their side.
Mr K Moonsamy asked whether implementation did occur as outlined in the report and whether a discussion could take place to resolve the issue on implementation. He stated that the Portfolio Committee played a pivotal role and when matters were wrong and people were not satisfied, something had to be done about it. He asked why this situation had come to where it was now already. What had DWAF done to intervene because it played an important role and there were a lot of people who did not have access to water. Corporate governance was really lacking in certain areas.
Ms D van der Walt outlined the problems occurring in the Limpopo province where there was a clear indication that the local municipalities and local governments have very little cooperation amongst them. Provincial governments did not work correctly with municipalities and they walked free on this matter. She asked whether a joint sitting would not be possible to get these institutions together.
Mr M Smathe stated that there were loopholes where inputs should be made with regards to the report.
Mr M Sibuyana said that with what was stated in the report, the Committee should be more proactive.
Mr J Arendse indicated that the report was a true reflection of the situation in the Department and everything was outlined clearly. Once the Report was approved by Parliament, the Committee would be held accountable for what was mentioned in the report and what was not done.
The Chair suggested that under the recommendations there should be added matters of urgency in the report.
Committee Report on the Annual Reports of Water Boards
The Chair said that in most instances the work that was done was very good. She asked whether there were any reflections on the hearings held with the water boards.
Mr Combrinck asked if the report mentioned billing systems in the report.
Mr Moonsamy asked whether there should not be any other issues of concern which were not mentioned in the report.
Miss September stated that a report-back should occur in the next two months on the water strategy outlined in the report.
Mr Sibuyana referred to the matter of no implementation and the negative effects this had on communities.
Mr Swathe mentioned the case of St. Lucia where communities complained about forced removals which should be noted. He added that the communities of the Eastern Cape also complained about the lack of service delivery. He asked that the lack of service delivery of the Departments of Land Affairs and Agriculture should be added to the report and the relationship they have with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.
The Committee approved the inclusion of these departments as well as Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The recommendation was seconded that a joint meeting should take place with Provincial and Local Government to discuss their role and matters affecting their service delivery.
Mr Combrinck stated that there should be meetings between the relevant departments and the water boards. His observation was that the body language of certain departments at the meeting left him dissatisfied. However the water boards were doing very well and making a profit. The biggest problem was the municipalities not paying them. He would like to see a meeting with Provincial and Local Government and DWAF with their ministers present to discuss this issue.
Mr Swathe agreed with Mr Combrinck that certain water boards were doing good work because the infrastructure had improved and they must get the money that was due to them.
Mr Arendse stated the water boards were very cooperative. When producing surpluses, they put that money aside for developing infrastructure when they saw that an area needed improvement. The Committee had hammered them on certain pressing issues in the past and they had made progress on those. There was still the age old problem of the municipalities not paying the water boards as they should as they were doing a lot of good work and that situation was deteriorating. The departments should be empowered and work together where there was this breakdown between municipalities and water boards. More thorough work had to be done on these issues.
Mr Mosale stated that most water boards were doing good work and “had their act together “. The ones lagging behind were the ones that did not make an appearance at the hearings. Thanks to the demands of the Committee that certain things had to be done, the water boards had fulfilled their duties in most instances. Assistance had to be given to them.
The Chair noted that the Public Finance Management Act set out the responsibilities of public entities and there was a scheduled time when they were expected to table their Annual Reports. The water boards had complied in bringing proper reports as was expected of them.
Mr Swathe referred to the money taken from people living close to the Lebele Northern Water Board. The village complained because they had paid R1500 but the money was not properly used and the water board did not honor the agreement. He had enquired about the grievances the people had and could not be given a proper explanation. They stated that the money would be paid back but nothing had been done yet. He indicated that the district municipalities must give these services free to the people, instead money was taken from them.
The Chair indicated that Mr Swathe should contact her office and point out that this matter had not been responded to and that the issue should be followed up.
Mr Sibuyana said his observation was that there was a need for municipalities to come together with the departments. The departments must remember that if people were not enabled then their work could not be done. He raised his concern that water boards and municipalities were not supplying water to the people and this matter should be taken up.
Mr Arendse suggested a recommendation that DWAF investigate allowing a viable water board to take over the functions of another water board that could not fulfill its responsibilities. One of their reflections was that the water boards were in close proximity. If one board could not provide and another board was able to, then that board should take over the function. One must look at the possible dis-establishment of a board and who would take over their role.
The Chair said that before suggesting the route of dis-establishment, the legislation should be checked to see what the options were. There was the issue of section 78. In terms of the transformation of institutions, it was incumbent on the Committee to improve the lives of people and to commit to service delivery. It must be established whether entities were achieving this role.
The meeting was adjourned.
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