ATC200727: Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources on the Adjusted Budget Vote and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – Budget Vote No 32, dated 21 July 2020.
Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources on the Adjusted Budget Vote and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – Budget Vote No 32, dated 21 July 2020.
The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources having considered Budget Vote: 32 and Annual Performance Plan 2020/2021 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, reports that the committee jointly met with the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on 10 July 2020 and was briefed by the department on the matter.
During discussion emphases was placed on the budget adjustments made by the department, the programmes affected in terms of reduced financial capacity, risk of job losses at departmental entities, the reduction in operations in Expanded Public Works projects, departmental rationale in prioritising specific entities and where the department is pursuing external funds for capital projects.
A total of R1.93 Billion of suspension in funds related to the Covid-19 response were proposed, but also vehement and re-allocations of R1.16 Billion to specific programmes, resulting in a total special adjustments appropriation of –R766 Million. The final adjusted appropriation of the department is R8.18 Billion. This is a 9% reduction in Vote allocation. Programme 6 - Environmental Programmes, is the hardest hit in terms of budget reprioritisation in the department. R961 million was transferred from Programme 6, Environmental Programmes, to South African National Parks as the conversion of capex funds to opex did not address the budget deficit.
The following reductions/additions to specific programmes in the department’s national allocation occurred:
- Administration: 3,86% decrease
- Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring: 1,92% decrease
- Oceans and Coasts: 2,79% decrease
- Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development: 27,74% increase
- Biodiversity and Conservation: 129,64% increase
- Environmental Programmes: 48,29% decrease
- Chemicals and Waste Management: 5,23% increase
- Forestry Management: 5,50% decrease
- Fisheries Management: 16,91% decrease
As a result of the adjusted budget, the department is following the strategy outline below in order to perform its functions as efficiently as possible:
- Prioritise our statutory functions as per our mandate and applicable legislation;
- Prioritise implementation of international obligations in terms of international agreements;
- Consideration of alternative sources of financing for key programmes (Local and bilateral partnerships and collaborations, and international “green” donor funding);
- Laying the basis for our departments contribution to a post Covid-19 economic recovery plan which includes the blue and green economies as new sectors for innovation inclusion and job creation; and
- Cut spending on international travel and public gatherings.
The following bulleted list highlighted the most important vehement and re-allocations that the department received after National Treasury initially required a 20% reduction in the voted allocation of the department:
- South African Weather Services, South African National Parks, South African National Biodiversity Institute and iSimangaliso Wetland Park: To augment the operational budget and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on operational activities and obligatory costs such as compensation of employees: After the downward revision of R1, 8 billion a re-allocation of R1. 3 billion resulted in the final allocation for the financial year reaching R1.12 billion. Further conversion of CAPEX to OPEX in critical budget allocations allowed for the retention of all funded positions within departmental entities. The overall budget of SANBI, does, however, not match the original allocation even after re-allocated funds were received. The department stated that it is working towards resolving the challenge but that at present, 1017 jobs, 11 botanical gardens and three herbaria spread across eight provinces are secure.
- Expanded Public Works Programme capital infrastructure grant: Reprioritised funds to augment the operational budget of various public entities: A reduction of R411.7 million in allocated budget resulted in the downscaling of the number of work opportunities and training opportunities that the department will be able to offer.
- Operational expenditure: Suspension of allocations to general operational spending items such as travel and subsistence, communications, inventory and consumables, and venues and training facilities. Reprioritisation towards COVID-19 related activities: This area of departmental funding was significantly impacted. R 1.75 billion was withdrawn from the departmental allocation, with only R273 million re-allocated. This is a downward adjustment of R 1.48 billion. The department, through the Minister, reported that the reduction will impact on the operational capacity of the Department.
- Public corporations and private enterprises: To provide short-term relief to waste pickers and reclaimers during the COVID-19 lockdown: R65 million was re-allocated to the relevant programmes to provide some financial security to the most vulnerable members of the community involved in waste recycling.
In order for the department to be able to acquire additional funds to further mitigate the impact of budget reductions, the following two avenues were identified:
- The department is actively seeking alternative sources of green financing for key programmes through local and bilateral partnerships and collaborations, and international donor funding.
- The department has furthermore submitted 29 projects for alternative funding to the Presidential Sustainable Infrastructure Development Programme (SIDS) and is actively working to secure alternative funding through the Economic Stimulus Package.
Members’ questions to the department covered a number of clarity seeking questions regarding the impact of its budget being reduced. Questions were related to the impact on employment in the programmes of the department such as the EPWP, the current application of the Marine Living Resources Fund and alternative funding being sourced by the DEFF. The department was also asked to provide detailed breakdown of the 29 projects of the department submitted to the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Programme
The department assured the committee that SANBI is and will be well protected by the department and that solutions for the SANBI funding shortages are being sought. The department further explained that the reductions in programmes such as the EPWP was also influenced by lockdown rules, adhering to rules of social distancing and only allowing a certain number of people in any specific space or work environment.
In response to when SANPARKS will be fully operational again, the department stated that management activity (such as anti-poaching, veterinary services, etc) at all National Parks never stopped, but took place guided by lockdown regulations. Public access to parks were restricted in line with Covid-19 requirements, and will continue to be guided by it.
Responding to questions relating to impact of skills programmes and the absorption of interns into the department, the committee was informed that all interns are eventually absorbed by the department or into private companies that have partnered with the department on various projects. The department estimated that it employed roughly 60% of all interns.
Regarding the department’s role in the forestry industry, it informed the committee that discussions are underway to release certain plantations to local communities but that the department cannot fully abdicate its responsibility as custodian of the country’s green economy. The department explained that forestry management goes beyond the growing of trees but overlaps with programmes such as working for water and fire as well as the management and protection of the countries forests and greening projects which cannot be done by local communities.
The minister also explained that the budget cuts to the compliance and monitoring programme not only affected enforcement officials of the department, but approximately 3400 officials spread across the department, provincial and local governments as well as municipalities.
Due to connectivity challenges, the Minister requested that certain questions posed during the meeting, together with any other questions sent to the department will be answered in writing. The questions raised in the meeting which the department will still respond to in writing are;
- Questions pertaining to the budget of the department, its entities and programmes, such as the green economy, oceans and coast programme and the MRLF;
- The request for a detailed report on the 29 projects of the department mentioned in the presentation.
The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Minerals & Energy having considered the Adjusted Budget Vote: 32 and Annual Performance Plan 2020/2021 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, reports that the Committee has concluded its deliberations thereon.
Report to be considered.
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