The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Environmental Association Assessment Practioners’ Association of South Africa (EAPASA) recently held its first general meeting. Speaking at the meeting, the department’s deputy minister, Makhotso Sotyu explained that 2020 marks three years since the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries appointed EAPASA as the sole registration authority in terms of Section 24H of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
She said that the appointment was aimed at advancing the practice and quality of environmental assessment in South Africa. The deputy minister further explained that the professional registration of Environmental Assessment Practitioners – or EAPs – ensures that environmental assessment processes are administered and managed by suitably experienced, qualified and credible individuals.
“The department has an important mandate to manage, protect and conserve South Africa’s environment and natural resources and promote sustainable development. I believe that professionalisation enforces our mandate as it calls for greater levels of performance monitoring, transparency in decision-making and most importantly, accountability in the private and government sector which is in line with our efforts in building a capable and developmental state,” said Sotyu.
According to the deputy minister, the establishment of EAPASA will attract a lot of talent from the previously disadvantaged. Sotyu said the association works with the department’s Special Needs and Skills Development Programme which, amongst others, provides assistance to people who cannot afford the costs of doing an environmental impact assessment as required in regulation 47 of EIA Regulations, 2014.
She explained that the Special Needs and Skills Development Programme is an initiative that contributes to job creation and skills development because it recruits and trains young graduates in order to help them gain essential work experience. She said this is done through a structured skills development programme which engages and exposes these graduates to various environmental assessment tools. Sotyu said the programme is inclusive growth, skills development, real investment in young people and above all, transformation in action.
According to Sotyu, EAPASA has committed to a number of tasks that forms part of its implementation plan that have been closely monitored by the DEFF. She said these tasks include; The rendering of a full package of registration services in terms of Section 24H of NEMA that also contributes towards the transformation of the environmental assessment profession, ensuring all applicable Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment legislative frameworks and requirements are complied with; and effective, efficient and transparent systems of operational, risk management and financial internal controls whilst cultivating a culture of ethical conduct and the setting of appropriate values.
She said being recognised by the Executive Committee of the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) as a statutory Professional Body and registered the professional designation Environmental Assessment Practitioner on the National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008, creating a transformation charter and strategy which aims to promote the transformation of environmental assessment practice in South Africa through the empowerment of black, female and disabled professionals, developing an online registration system aimed at making the registration process for all applicants easy and efficient and Collaborations with other recognised institutions that have been a benchmark for success for EAPASA with signed Memorandum of Agreements (MoAs) with institutions such as the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP), a Statutory Council in accordance with the National Scientific Professions Act, are some of the achievements the association has made to date.
The deputy minister said that EAPASA has an important role to ensure that there are enough Black Environmental Assessment Practitioners registered to enable the practical implementation of this principle. However, she explained that a CSIR study highlighted that EAPASA cannot be financially sustainable as a standalone entity and the fees that are charged will not be enough to sustain the entity financially in the long term.
“In order to ensure a suitable future for registrations, we encourage all EAPs to register with the relevant registration body whilst we as the Department go through the extension period for the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations amendment process,” she said.
Sotyu said the Department had to extend registration period by 24 months from February 2020, to allow for government to create clarity and to ready itself to comply with the law. She said the postponement has created serious consternations, but this was a responsible decision to take and that it was informed by a consultation process.