The EC’s environmental protection budget in perspective

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On 2 March 2017 the Eastern Cape MEC for Finance tabled a budget of R74.462 billion for the administration of the Provincial Government in the 2017/18 financial year. Of this amount, R1.070 billion, or 1.44%, was allocated to the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT).

As its name indicates, this Department carries, not without controversy, the dual mandate of promoting economic development in the Province and protecting the Province’s environment. Accordingly the Department’s operations are structured around three programmes, namely, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Administration, which received 49.7%, 28.3% and 22.0% respectively of the 2017/18 Departmental budget.

In terms of its budgetary dispensation, the Economic Development Programme therefore carries greater weight within DEDEAT than does the Environmental Affairs Programme, and this notwithstanding that on 31 March 2017 there were 161 officials attached to the latter Programme, and 97 to the former.

As an aside, it is also notable that on the same date 293 officials were attached to the Administration Programme, reflecting a situation where the number of officials providing support services to the Department’s core operations exceeds the combined number of officials carrying out these operations.

But this being as it may, in considering the provincial environmental governance budget it is crucial to be aware that of the R302.980 million assigned to Environmental Affairs, 64.7%, comprising R195.953 million, is channelled directly to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency for nature reserve-related utilisation, even though provincial nature reserves comprise only 2% of the Province’s land surface area, and already enjoy enhanced levels of environmental protection. This therefore means that the budget for environmental protection across the overwhelming bulk of the Province is in fact only R107.027 million, which constitutes a mere 0.144% of the budget of the Eastern Cape  Provincial Government as a whole. It also equates to just 10% of DEDEAT’s budget, 20.1% of the budget of DEDEAT’s Economic Development Programme, and 45.5% of the budget of the Department’s Administration Programme.

The Environmental Programme’s activities are clustered around five sub-programmes. The Environmental Policy, Planning and Coordination sub-programme embraces overall management of the Department’s Environmental Affairs Chief Directorate, while the functions of the Compliance and Enforcement and Biodiversity Management sub-programmes are self-explanatory, with the second of these also bearing DEDEAT’s coastal management responsibilities.

Environmental Quality Management spans the functional areas of environmental impact, air quality, waste and pollution management, while the Environmental Empowerment Services sub-programme seeks to empower stakeholders and communities in matters pertaining to the environment.

The 2017/18 budgets of the sub-programmes are respectively R24.528 million R42.940 million, R21.132 million, R202.423 million and R11.957 million, but since the transfer to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency occurs via the Biodiversity Management sub-programme, its operational budget is effectively R6.470 million after this amount has been rerouted.

Hence Environmental Affairs’ five sub-programmes have each attracted no more than between 0.6% and 4.01% of DEDEAT’s budget for fulfilling their respective functions  outside of provincial nature reserves in the 2017/18 budget year.

By the same token, the respective sub-programme budgets each account for no more than between 0.009% and 0.06% of the Province’s fiscal envelope, which appears to correlate with the fact that environmental protection has failed to receive mention in recent State of the Province Addresses and Provincial Budget Speeches.

Over the five preceding financial years the complexion of the Chief Directorate’s budget was consistently on a par with that of 2017/18.

It therefore seems that despite South Africa’s Constitution specifying that everyone has the right to have the environment protected, the elements of governance which have been put in place to expedite the achievement of this entitlement do not feature strongly in the Provincial Government’s outlook.

It is acknowledged that Environmental Affairs’ budget is not the sole determinant of its efficacy, and that in circumstances of significantly enhanced budgetary capacity the Programme would still need to be conducted with appropriate strategic acumen in order for it to be fully effective.

But it is surely indisputable that the Chief Directorate’s currently marginalised budget status is not conducive to it imposing itself, whether within or outside of the Provincial Government, in accordance with the gravity of the environmental challenges facing the Province.

  • Nicholas Scarr, Monitoring and Advocacy Programme, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Rhodes University

 

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