You are at the back, so I can't see which clock you are looking at. I'm sorry. Thank you very much, hon House Chair.
We are meeting at a time when the ANC, the great movement of the people, celebrates its first centenary. I'm saying "first" because many more are still coming. This is an achievement of no minor proportion. The achievement signifies 100 years of relentless struggle and commitment to freedom and democracy for our people in South Africa.
Today marks 18 memorable years since we made the fervent commitment to provide 100% access to basic water and adequate sanitation to all our people. Such provision is a constitutional imperative.
Bagaetsho, a ke tseye t?hono eno go le gopotsa ka Mme Matsheko Pine yo o ileng a nna segatlhamela masisi mo go itsiseng Presidente ka mathata a metsi kwa Ngobi. Matsheko bagaetsho, o nnile sekai se sentle go Maafrika Borwa ka go nna karolo ya puso mo go iseng ditirelo kwa bathong, go na le go tlhagisa maikutlo a gagwe ka go thiba ditsela, le go fisa dikago, ka gonne seo se tsenya matshelo a Maafrika Borwa a mangwe mo kotsing. (Translation of Setswana paragraph follows.)
[Let me take this opportunity to remind you of Ms Matsheko Pine, who informed the President about water problems at Ngobi. Matsheko is a great example to South Africans by being part of government in delivering service to our people; she did not express her frustration by blocking roads and burning buildings, because it puts people's lives in danger.]
Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that in 1994 only 59% of our people had access to clean and safe drinking water. Eighteen years later we have progressed to a national average of 94,7% access to basic water services for all South Africans. This is an increase of 35,7%. The backlog now stands at 5,3%, or some 710 000 households, compared to 3,9 million households in 1994. This trend illustrates the fact that government's performance is on an upward trend.
Despite all this, there are still many rural areas and informal settlements close to our urban areas and cities that are without water. Even more worrying is the fact that there are areas where post-1994 infrastructural deficiencies are still characterised by taps that run dry due to poor maintenance or operational problems. Such an unacceptable state of affairs dictates that functional water infrastructure and quality services to the remaining 5,3% of the population should be a task to be undertaken with a sense of urgency.
It is critical that our water policies should support and act in unison with the goals of a democratic developmental state. We are conducting a policy review during this financial year, in parallel with a review of the three pieces of legislation that fall under our jurisdiction, namely the National Water Act, Act 36 of 1998, the Water Services Act, Act 108 of 1997, and the Water Research Act, Act 34 of 1971. The streamlining of these three pieces of legislation will ensure that they, too, effectively serve the purposes of the developmental state and enable us to meet the needs of our people in relation to water services, economic growth and development.
Flowing from this review, the effective involvement of all stakeholders, particularly the poor and the marginalised, in decision-making processes is one of the indispensable and critical components that will ensure that we manage our water in a way that supports the purposes of a developmental state. To this end, we are finding innovative ways to incorporate inclusive, consultative and participatory mechanisms in the law. For that reason I reiterate the clarion call to all the Matshekos out there to speak out about their needs, expectations and challenges. Together, we owe it to future generations of our country to find viable ways of ensuring water security.
Water remains a critical resource for life and prosperity. This principle is especially true and applicable when responding to and addressing the overarching national growth and development strategies of South Africa.
What must be well understood is the fact that South Africa's fresh water resource is at its limit in many areas and it needs to be responded to very urgently. Therefore, we will require a dramatic change in the approach towards water governance. This new approach is reflected in our National Water Resource Strategy. We are revising it and it will be released for public comment, input and involvement in July this year.
Furthermore, a significant consultation and listening process will be put in place for public participation on how we should manage this important resource.
Our department has identified the need to support and enhance the capacity of local government in the water delivery chain. We are required to provide more effective leadership in the entire water sector. It is in this context that we recognise that a lot of work still needs to be done to strengthen our capacity.
In June last year we brought together 13 professionals to form a Business Process Re-engineering Committee, BPRC. This team has experience and a variety of skills in a range of fields, including law, finance, policy, organisational design, information and communication technology and human resource management. Their mandate is to investigate the challenges we face in the department in their respective professional fields.
Since its inception, the BPRC has been working closely with the management team of the department and implementing strategic changes where they are required. I will highlight a few of those interventions, which are based on the challenges and solutions that have been identified.
Highly significant progress has already been made in re-engineering the financial management systems and addressing the issues that were raised by the Auditor-General. Among other things, the mandate of the BPRC is to deal with the following: human resources; information technology; governance; outsourcing arrangements; review of the mandate of the strategy; policy and legislative review; institutional realignment; asset and infrastructure re- evaluation; and audit preparations.
We are well on our way to achieving a clean audit in 2014 and not 2013. In pursuit of the 2014 clean audit target, and together with management, remedial action plans were compiled. These plans critically analysed the Auditor-General's findings, to determine and address the root causes. Progress is being registered and the implementation of remedial action plans is being monitored on a monthly basis. Other interventions include procurement, governance, and capacity enhancement to ensure that we meet the growing demands of my department.
In the previous financial year our department spent 91% of its allocated R9,028 billion budget. The current budget allocation is R8,8 billion, of which R2,5 billion is earmarked for the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Programme and R2,2 billion for water resources infrastructure development and rehabilitation projects.
Although the overall spending was low - which we acknowledge and regret - the expenditure per programme was positive in the core areas of the department's mandate. The Water Infrastructure Management Programme spent 100% of its R2,4 billion allocation, as did the RBI programme, with its R1,8 billion allocation. This will ensure a reliable supply of bulk water. However, in areas of weak performance - we have identified them - we are improving financial spending and financial management in the department.
We are also pleased with the sterling work being done regarding the thorny issue of water use authorisations. To address the backlog, during the past financial year alone we finalised 1 049 applications by means of our backlog eradication project. We are confident that strategic industries will no longer be held back on the grounds of their noncompletion of licence applications. Currently the department prioritises applications from historically disadvantaged individuals and is finalising compulsory licensing projects in pilot areas like Tosca, Jan Dissel and uMhlathuze.
Together with Environmental Affairs we are looking at an integrated authorisation process, which we reported on here when we were dealing with the Environmental Affairs Budget Vote. That process will cover water use licences, environmental impact assessment authorisations and waste licences. This is being done with a view to later integrating further permits to streamline the regulatory process.
As the custodian of water resources, the department has to ensure water security for the citizens of this country. We have to ensure that water is placed at the heart of all planning decisions taken in the country. We must also ensure that any decision that relies on the steady supply of water, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, adequately factors in water availability. We are currently increasing the exploitation of our groundwater resources and intensifying projects on water recycling and desalination, particularly in the coastal areas.
I now wish to turn to the very important issue of skills in the water sector. While there is an enormous challenge in this area, especially with regard to the scarcity of artisanal, engineering and technical skills, as well as the misalignment of skills, our department is making sure that the gap is reduced significantly.
I am pleased to announce that we have partnered with the Department of Public Works to tap into their database of retired engineers. As I speak, four of these retired engineers are mentors and coaches for young, prospective engineers in our department. Additionally, our graduate recruitment programme has played its part. Since its inception it has recruited a total of 240 graduate trainees, 35 of whom have been placed as candidates in various engineering positions. The Deputy Minister will elaborate on this issue, because she is dealing with those areas.
While we recognise the need to expand our national infrastructure, I must stress that water conservation and demand management have been identified as the most critical steps to be implemented in order to give effect to our reconciliation strategies. Therefore all users and sectors, including local government, have to implement the necessary measures. Funds have been allocated for this activity and there have been some good examples of success.
The department is supporting certain municipalities, with a target of 10 municipalities this year and a targeted saving of 720 million cubic metres of water. We are engaging local government to also allocate additional resources to this activity. We have been working with several municipalities on water conservation programmes in order to minimise water losses. The Deputy Minister will elaborate on these programmes. We are currently also working closely with the agriculture, industry and mining sectors to set targets for water-use efficiency for their sectors.
The department is very mindful of negative water use behaviour, which impacts on the resource both quantitatively and qualitatively. We are currently exploring a potential mix of mechanisms to change this behaviour. These will include regulatory frameworks, market-based instruments, self- regulation, and water awareness and education. These will be matched by appropriate mechanisms to mitigate offenders' behaviour.
One of the issues that I can see very clearly is that the challenges in the water sector are such that if we do not work together across the public and private sectors, we will not achieve our goals. Therefore the following three areas have been highlighted as areas of collaboration.
The first one is the private sector partnership. We have entered into a partnership arrangement with the World Economic Forum - a well-known fact by now - and established an SA Strategic Water Partners Network, focusing on water efficiency in the supply chain, with a focus on agriculture and water quality.
We firstly have to bring in the private sector as a partner in the planning, management and implementation processes. There is much that the private sector can contribute to our water delivery agenda, whether it is the financing of infrastructure, the design and construction of infrastructure, or supporting the improved management of sustainable service delivery.
During this financial year we will investigate how best to structure the process of economic regulation, not only for the delivery of water services but water resources as well. The correct pricing of water is an important element, recognising the real cost of delivering water in a water-scarce country. This year we will also be revising the raw water pricing strategy and I assure you that we will consult broadly with all the stakeholders.
We have conducted a review of the institutional arrangements in the water sector to see how public institutions are best configured to deliver on our mandate. This is the second area that we are addressing in the partnership. As a result, I have decided that we will forge ahead with the establishment of nine catchment management agencies, as opposed to the 19 that was declared in the, National Water Resource Strategy, NWRS.
I am also investigating the restructuring of the water boards to ensure that they are able to fund and develop the necessary bulk water service infrastructure and also to support municipalities, particularly those that require immediate intervention. One aspect of the expanded footprint of the restructured water boards is that they should make possible the cross- subsidisation of service delivery in poor rural areas in particular.
Our department has reviewed the status of asset management in the water trading entity. This is to ensure not only compliance with the Government Infrastructure Asset Management Act, but also the identification of critical areas where improved management will enhance the efficiency, reliability and sustainability of the infrastructure.
In support of our New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan 2, Ipap 2, and in partnership with the sector partners and the Department of Science and Technology, we are developing a robust water research strategy to find technological innovations for the water sector to improve our production capabilities. These will address the current research challenges and gaps, including technology needs that will contribute to a cleaner technology approach.
One of the greatest challenges we face in the water sector is the delivery by municipalities of water services and sanitation to all our people. It is for this reason that the department is strategically positioning itself to ensure that the whole value chain of water, from source-to-tap and waste-to- source, functions effectively. The key principle guiding this approach is that we are one government and the success or failure of municipalities is the success or failure of this government. We have to be on the ground and get our hands dirty for optimum service delivery.
We are pleased to announce that for the current financial year the regional bulk programme has been allocated R2,6 billion. This increase illustrates the infrastructure need, as well as the ability and capacity of my department and our entities to spend and deliver on these projects. In the previous financial year, 173 625 people benefited from completed projects. In this current year we expect about 550 000 people to benefit. This will go a long way in addressing the 2014 water targets.
Furthermore, skills development will continue to be an integral part of this programme, focusing on the training of plant operators to ensure efficient operation and maintenance of the infrastructure when it is completed.
While we have surpassed our Millennium Development Goals in water and sanitation, we are continuously working hard to provide good quality water.
We are concerned about the decaying state of the current water and sanitation infrastructure in certain areas and this is proving to be a threat to the gains we have made since 1994. If left unattended, dysfunctional infrastructure will lead to the creation of new backlogs.
In response to this challenge we are implementing a National Water Sector Transfers Programme, which is meant to refurbish and provide funds for operations and maintenance to support municipalities in administering and managing our transferred water and waste water services schemes. Under this programme R542,4 million was transferred in the previous financial year. A total of R714 million has been made available in the current financial year, of which R370 million will be for refurbishment, R147 million for operations and maintenance, and R187 million for human resources.
As a caring government, we cannot ignore the pleas of communities who are faced with unreliable water service provision, nor can we ignore those communities in rural areas that do not have any form of infrastructure at all. In some cases, those rural communities still share water sources with their animals. To those communities who often suffer in silence - unlike Matsheko - democracy and freedom have no meaning. We will implement innovative ways to serve those communities through the provision of interim infrastructure while we are waiting for more funds. Such interim infrastructure might be below our current standards.
We are sourcing technical support in the private sector. Cuba has also expressed a willingness to make these specialists available to our country. The memorandum of understanding between South Africa and Cuba in the field of water resources is at the final stage and ready for signing. We will extend the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme, ACIP, as part of funding these interventions. Among other sources, we will use the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, MIG, and our Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant, RBIG, to fund this innovation. An amount of R221 million was allocated in the previous financial year and a further R225 million is allocated for the current financial year.
Through the ACIP, 69 waste water treatment plant refurbishment projects were implemented in the previous financial year. This demonstrates that a small capital injection can have a major impact on bringing a plant back to working order and on serving communities to the same standard as that of a new plant at four to 10 times the cost.
To enhance operations at municipal level and prevent a reoccurrence of service failures, we have developed a specialised unit called the Rapid Response Unit. This unit comprises a team of water experts ready and available to be deployed to any municipality to support and intervene when there is a crisis. Given the success of the rapid response approach, the department has decided to decentralise this unit to each of our nine provincial offices.
We have also increased our efforts to assist all municipalities with poor Blue Drop and Green Drop results, particularly those with scores below 30%, and the results have improved. Our fourth Blue Drop certification audit cycle has just been completed and we are still on the incline of improvement regarding the management of drinking water quality. The department assessed 931 water supply systems and we can announce that 98 systems qualified for the Blue Drop. I thought you would applaud us! This is an improvement from the 66 certified systems of the previous cycle. The National Blue Drop Water Quality Assessment Report, which was released on 7 May 2012, indicates good performance by various municipalities and water boards, but also makes our challenge very clear.
The number of systems where water safety planning is under way has increased from 154 last year to 579 this year. Of these risk management processes, 269 compare well with the expectations of the World Health Organisation. Water safety planning is a means of ensuring that municipalities are geared for all risks posed to drinking water quality. It ensures that protocols are in place for operations and to deal with any incident that could be a threat to public health.
We once again applaud those municipal and water board officials who are so dedicated to the cause and responded warmly to the clarion call of the Blue Drop programme to adhere to the stringent criteria set. Our department has commenced support to those municipalities where water is not safe to drink - there are such municipalities - through the deployment of our Rapid Response Unit teams. They have already been in action in Kou-Kamma and Ikwezi Municipalities, which are the weakest municipalities.
The department was honoured to receive international recognition for environmental engineering excellence from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers for the Blue Drop and Green Drop Certification Programmes. [Applause.] This academy is affiliated to the International Water Association. The award was confirmation that our quest for excellence is known, not only domestically but also internationally.
The infrastructure plan announced by hon President Zuma sets out a number of Strategic Integrated Projects, Sips. Water infrastructure is critical for these Sips and also for developing industrial sectors as identified in the New Growth Path and Ipap. The following are just some of the Sips that our department will be supporting.
The area around Lephalale in the Waterberg District is richly endowed with coal reserves, providing opportunities for coal power stations to provide national security for our electricity supply, such as the existing Matimba and Medupi power stations, which are currently under construction. This is clean technology.
I am pleased to report that the construction of the first phase of the Mokolo-Crocodile River Water Augmentation project, at an estimated capital cost of R2,1 billion, has commenced. Its purpose is to provide a portion of the water required for these developments. A further augmentation is planned as a scheme to transfer surplus return flows available from the Crocodile West River to the Lephalale environment at a cost provisionally estimated at R10,5 billion. Optimisation of the transfer scheme is subject to further investigation.
The construction of the De Hoop Dam and its associated distribution systems to deliver water for domestic and mining use in the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn District Municipalities remains a focus. Over the past three years government has invested approximately R2,7 billion in the construction of the De Hoop Dam and its reticulation programme. R374 million will be spent in the current financial year. Impoundment of water in the De Hoop Dam is starting in August this year - "impoundment" means the storing of water. A total of 2,3 million people in the domestic sector will benefit from this project. The construction of a bulk water distribution system will follow and we support that whole programme.
We are also focusing on the South Eastern node and corridor development in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. We will be focusing on Umzimvubu in the Eastern Cape and the Tugela River in KwaZulu-Natal. In the same area, the Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme is also on course. There has been mention of shortages experienced by consumers and we are looking at the raising of the Hazelmere Dam in KwaZulu-Natal. I spoke about the Umzimvubu Dam - the plan will be starting seriously this year - and the Zalu Dam in Lusikisiki. That is the node the President spoke about.
The Foxwood Dam in Adelaide and the Nooitgedagt Scheme in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality are in place. All these dams and water bulk storage systems go together and are supported by the RBIG and their concomitant reticulation processes. [Time expired.] [Applause.]