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Notice for consultation: intention to appoint EAPASA as single registration authority

             
Introduction
 
Background information
 
Consultative process
 
Readiness to be sole registration authority
 
Concluding motivation
 
Related documents / resources
   

Introduction

 

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Bamo Edith Edna Molewa, hereby consults on her intention to appoint the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa as a registration authority in terms section 24H{3){a) of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 {Act No. 107 of 1998) for a period of 5 years, while she considers options for the long term regulation of environmental assessment practitioners.

The minister intends to limit, in terms of section 24H(6) of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998), the appointment of registration authorities to the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa as the only registration authority for a 5 year period.

Members of the public are invited to submit to the minister, within 30 (thirty) days from the date of the publication of this notice in the Gazette, written comments or objections to the following addresses:

 

By post to: The Director-General
Department of Environmental Affairs
Attention: Ms Hanlie Schoeman
Private Bag X477
Pretoria
0001

By hand to: Reception,
Environment House,
473 Steve Biko Road,
Arcadia,
Pretoria,
0083

By e-mail: hschoeman@environment.gov.za

Any inquiries in connection with the notice and application can be directed to:

 Ms Hanlie Schoeman
Tel: 012 399-9891/0.

Comments received after the closing date may not be considered.

 

The Board of Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA) put an application to be appointed as the sole registration authority for environmental assessment practitioners (EAPs) in South Africa, to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Honourable Bomo Edith Edna Molewa. The application has been made in terms of the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations No. 849 of 22 July 2016, under sections 24(5)(e), 24H and 44 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 1998 (Act No.107 of 1998), as amended.

The application conforms to the requirements of the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations in that it contains the following:

  • An introduction and motivation to be appointed as the sole Registration Authority for EAPs in South Africa;
  • the Constitution of EAPASA (Annexure 1);
  • the Rule Book of EAPASA (Annexure 2);
  • a list of the Board members of EAPASA (Annexure 3);
  • a description of the procedure and criteria to be used to register environmental assessment practitioners (Annexure 2, Rule Book, Section 2);
  • a list of the qualifications of the members of the association responsible for the assessment of applicants for registration (Annexure 4);
  • a code of conduct regulating the ethical and professional conduct of members of the association (Annexure 2, Rule Book, Section 1); and
  • the proposed structure of the association (Annexure 5).

 

Background to the application

 

Since 1994, South Africa’s sustainable development governance systems have been advanced substantially with major improvements to the legal mechanisms for environmental protection and environmental justice. The establishment of equitable systems for access to educational, economic and professional opportunities has also enabled key national government transformation and empowerment strategies in South Africa.

One of the key legal mechanisms available to enable decision-making that promotes sustainable development is the environmental authorisation requirement in terms of the National Environmental Management Act. In December 2014 a revised set of regulations for Environmental Impact Assessment were published in terms of NEMA. The implementation of these and previous versions of the regulations led to the identification of a range of legal, institutional, capacity and professional challenges in the system.

The effective implementation of the environmental authorisation systems in South Africa rely directly on the competence and ethics of environmental assessment practitioners (EAPs) in government, parastatals and private consulting practice. These practitioners play pivotal roles within the decision-making process which is aimed at promoting more sustainable development. Quality assurance and ethics in environmental assessment practice is thus a recognised prerequisite for effective governance towards sustainable development in South Africa.

This application is the culmination of a Consultative Process initiated in 2005 when the Interim Certification Board for EAPs (ICB) was appointed by the then Minister to “initiate a systematic and inclusive process, which would deliver on the identified needs and legal requirements for the establishment of a registration authority for EAPs in South Africa”.

This process had three main objectives and outcomes:

  • The establishment of a representative and recognised association that would develop an agreed registration system that is legally competent in terms of sections 24(5)(e), 24H and 44 of NEMA, and ultimately be appointed as the Registration Authority for EAPs in South Africa;
  • The development of a Qualification Standard for Environmental Assessment Practice, and
  • The conclusion of relevant enabling legal mechanisms making it compulsory for EAPs to be registered, to be implemented when the Minister appoints a registration authority for EAPs in terms of the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations.

To this end, a voluntary certification system for EAPs, supported by 17 associations, was provided by the Interim Certification Board (ICB), starting in 2001; to date certifying more than 190 practitioners. In November 2005, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA&T) and the Interim Certification Board (ICB) for Environmental Assessment Practitioners of South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU). This MoU and associated budget has enabled a broad

Consultative Process for the establishment of an Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association which is proposed to act as the Registration Authority for Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAPs) in South Africa.

In planning to be the successional body to replace the ICB, as envisaged in the Consultative Process towards the establishment of a Registration Authority, the following key challenges were addressed by EAPASA:

  • Firstly, there have been enormous historical inequities in access to opportunities in education, training and professional work in South Africa. To assist in addressing these inequities, the working group tasked with compiling the EAPASA Constitution had a major focus on ensuring a representative Board and an equitable registration system.
  • Secondly, the lack of registered qualification standards in terms of South Africa’s National Qualifications Framework has meant that, until now, there has been no accepted equitable basis for the establishment and assessment of professional competencies for environmental assessment practice. The formulation and registration of a qualification standard for environmental assessment practice has taken place1.
  • Thirdly, government officials who play an important regulatory role in reviewing environmental impact assessments have been accommodated within the proposed registration system. This requirement has been given special attention through developing guidelines that provide information on the evidence that such officials need to submit with their application for registration, which will be used to evaluate their competencies and facilitate their registration.
  • Finally, the proposed registration system makes it possible to register a range of professionals who are currently practicing as EAPs, such as city and regional planners, environmental scientists and managers, engineers, and landscape architects. To this end, EAPASA assessors have been trained in the use of the process and principles of ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL), in order to determine if applicants have the required exit level outcomes (core competencies), and register them accordingly.

EAPASA was launched on 7 April 2011, supported by 802 EAPs, and its Board was nominated and announced in November 2011. The Board’s initial and founding meeting was held in February 2012. A number of years have passed since EAPASA was formed. During this time, the Minister of Environmental Affairs was informed that regulations were necessary in order to implement Section 24H of NEMA. In the period during which the regulations were being formulated and promulgated, EAPASA has ensured its readiness to become the Registration Authority. Indeed, EAPASA contributed to the refinement of the draft Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations, and has made sure that this application complies with these regulations.

EAPASA’s proposed system for advancing the quality of environmental assessment practice in South Africa is in direct support of the priorities contained in the National Strategy on Sustainable Development, and will contribute specifically and directly to achieving the outputs for Outcome 10 Delivery Agreement and the goal: Environmental assets conserved, valued, sustainably used, protected and continually enhanced. Furthermore, the system will specifically support the achievement of the Strategic Objective of Programme 2: Environmental Quality and Protection, in the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) Strategic Plan (2012 to 2017): Conduct an effective environmental impact assessment and management process which ensures that the possible negative impacts of significant development activities and/or development patterns are minimized, mitigated or managed in line with government policy, legislation, goals and strategies.

 

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The Consultative Process implemented for the establishment of the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa

 

The purpose of the Consultative Process has been to strive for broad agreement on the purpose, function and structure of the proposed Registration Authority; its Constitution; Code of Ethical Conduct and Practice; the registration criteria and process; structures to process complaints and implement sanctions in cases of proven professional misconduct, and a draft 3-year business plan for the association. These are the key elements which have been addressed and are included in this application to the Minister, which requests that EAPASA be appointed as the sole Registration Authority (RA) for Environmental Assessment Practitioners in terms of Section 24H of NEMA.

The process has focused on engaging professionals active in the field of environmental assessment practice in order to develop the proposal which forms the basis for this application. The consultative process involved the circulation of a first draft proposal setting out the abovementioned key elements (January 2006), provincial workshops (February and March 2006) and the first national stakeholder conference (March 2006).

A working group was mandated at this conference to revise the proposal. Draft two of the proposal was circulated in October 2007 for comment and a second national stakeholder conference was held in November 2007 to discuss this draft. On the basis of comments received on Draft Two and an extension of the Working Group’s mandate, a Final Draft Proposal was compiled in November 2008 and reviewed by the Department of Environmental Affairs’ legal department. This final draft proposal was advertised for a final round of stakeholder comment in February 2009.

The working group held six work sessions to conclude the Final Draft Proposal and proposed that EAPs move forward to establish the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa. The EAPASA launch event was held on 7 April 2011. A Board was nominated and selected in November 2011 and formally founded in terms of its constitution in February 2012. In total, eighteen Board meetings have been held to date.

In the period since 2012, the board has prepared itself to be the Registration Authority, in a number of ways. One key aspect that has informed this preparation is a Feasibility and Sustainability Study that was commissioned by EAPASA and undertaken by the CSIR2. One of the key findings of the study was that there would be an overwhelming response from applicants in the first six months after registration commences.

The recommendation was to use an integrated approach which suggested that approximately 20 to 25 Registered EAPs be selected to become assessors, along with the Registration Committee of EAPASA, to manage the flood of initial applications. It was also noted in the study that meeting the 120 days specified for processing each application, as per the draft (and now, final) Section 24H Regulations, will be a challenge. EAPASA is ready to meet this challenge and has identified further assessors as recommended in the CSIR study.

In terms of finance the study notes that, if more assessors are utilised as noted above, there is a possibility that EAPASA could start making a profit in year three of its operation as the Registration Authority. However, this achievement of financial viability assumes that all of the estimated 1700 EAPs become registered during this period. The fees that have been suggested in this feasibility study are R2500 for registered EAPs and R1500 for candidate EAPs, with a professional annual subscription of motivation for EAPASA to be appointed as a representative registration authority.

The constitution of a Registration Authority must, amongst others, indicate the governance and management matters and measures to ensure that the structure of the association, its committees and its membership progressively achieve an association that is representative of the demographics of the country. EAPASA meets these requirements for transformation and the further requirements expected of a registration authority as set out in Section 6 of the 24H Registration Authority Regulations in the following manner:

  • EAPASA has a constitution and rule book (attached in annexures 1 and 2, respectively) that stipulates transformation imperatives throughout all aspects of its role as the registration authority, in order to be representative of the demographics of the country. Key aspects in this regard are as follows:
    • Clause 8.8 of the constitution (annexure 1 of this application) stipulates the transformation requirements for the membership of the board;
    • Clause 8.11 states that a transformation charter must be in place, which is attached to this application in annexure 6; see also clause 8.12 of the EAPASA Constitution;
    • The registration committee composition is representative, as per Clause 10.6.3 of the EAPASA constitution;
    • The use of ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) principles and practice when undertaking assessment is a reasoned approach to registration which is more inclusive of previously disadvantaged individuals; and
    • Encouraging professional development and skills transfer, which is the responsibility of the Professional Development Committee of EAPASA; section 2.4.3 of the rule book prescribes that points for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) will be given when mentoring black entrants in the field of environmental assessment.

EAPASA meets further requirements of a Registration Authority as set out in Section 6 of the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations in the following manner:

  • By assessing candidates against a fixed set of core competencies and insisting on a relevant body of evidence and years of experience to prove the competencies (see section 2 of the rule book);
  • By having a standards and criteria committee and a professional conduct committee to promote quality assurance in environmental assessment practice; and
  • By upholding the code of ethical conduct and practice (in section 1 of the rule book) as required by the section 24H regulations.

 

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Readiness of EAPASA to be the Sole Registration Authority

 

EAPASA is in an advanced stage of readiness in line with the Section 24H Registration Authority Regulations. The points below elaborate on a few significant activities that have been completed and/or are in the process of being completed:

  • The exit level outcomes (ELOs) of the qualification standard for environmental assessment practice, against which applicants are to be assessed for competency, have been grouped in some instances to reduce the repetition of criteria in the standard, so that applicants are not confronted with having to reply to the same requirements in two or three places in the application form; the competencies have also been reworded in places to allow candidates to acquire a better understanding of the competency required and respond accordingly.
  • A Guideline Manual has been compiled to assist applicants in completing the application form for the registration process.
  • A guideline document to assist officials on how to reply to the core competencies with the required body of evidence has been formulated and is being tested.
  • A web-based application system has been developed and is ready for use. It is currently undergoing advanced testing by 30 test applicants. While small changes can and will be made to improve the system, it is ready to receive applications.
  • The Registrar and Secretariat functions are in place, ensuring that EAPASA will be administratively and logistically ready to accept applications.
  • In line with the recommendations made in the Feasibility and Sustainability Study mentioned above, a call for Expressions of Interest to become an EAPASA assessor was made to the public.

The response was excellent and currently 30 selected candidates are testing the web-based application system by applying to be registered. The intention is to use this opportunity to prepare a group of people that can be easily registered when EAPASA is appointed as the registration authority.

The successful members of this group will thereafter be trained as RPL assessors by EAPASA, so that they will be ready to be used as additional assessors should the expected large number of initial applications be received. This training of further assessors will allow EAPASA to uphold the 120 days set for assessment and decision, as required in the section 24H regulations.

  • All the necessary EAPASA committees are active and ready to play their role in advising and assessing applicants.
  • With reference to finance, EAPASA has an accountant commissioned to assist with the necessary financial requirements. EAPASA will be able to submit the specified financial reports to the minister as required.
  • Finance activities and budgeting are undertaken regularly. It is to be noted that while EAPASA is currently receiving funds from the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), the amount of this funding was provided on the assumption that EAPASA would commence with registering approximately two year ago. As such, this budget is being stretched to accommodate the additional years of meetings and preparations, and it may not be sufficient to fulfil all the tasks as intended.
  • EAPASA has a website that is current and accessible.

 

Concluding motivation for EAPASA to be appointed as the Sole Registration Authority for EAPs in South Africa

 

The above history and motivation of readiness is provided to demonstrate that EAPASA has developed out of a national Consultative Process primarily to meet the need of providing registered environmental assessment practitioners working in the private sector and in government to undertake work of a high quality and to uphold the principles of sustainable development in the field of environmental impact assessment.

The Board of the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa hereby requests the minister to appoint EAPASA as the sole registration authority under the Section 24H registration authority regulations. The EAPASA Board has been preparing diligently since its inception to take on this role, as was acknowledged in Pillar 5 of the 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy for South Africa, which seeks to ensure that “Environmental practitioners and specialists are professional, ethical, objective and independent”.

There is no other association in South Africa that can match EAPASA’s knowledge of, and activities towards, the professionalisation of environmental assessment practice in South Africa. The EAPASA Board is not aware of any other association that has been working to implement the requirements of the qualification standard for environmental assessment practice. In this regard, EAPASA has been actively engaging with the South African Qualifications Authority and the Council on Higher Education.

EAPASA Board members have developed a set of core competencies for the registration of practitioners, which competencies are soundly based on the exit level outcomes of the qualification standard. EAPASA Board members have been trained in the use of the principles and procedures of recognition of prior learning, which will be applied in the process of registering practitioners.

EAPASA has spent significant sums of money undertaking the research and development that underpins this application, through commissioning the feasibility and sustainability study prepared by the CSIR, and commissioning an information technology company to develop a sophisticated online registration system. These achievements are unmatched. A single registration authority would, inter alia, make it possible to uphold consistency of standards in the evaluation and registration of applicants; have better management of the profession in controlling, and communicating with, all registered EAPs and registered candidate EAPs; and apply uniformity in stipulating the requirements of continuing professional development.

EAPASA’s founding purpose is to advance the practice and quality of environmental assessment in South Africa in the public interest and in the interest of the environment, through establishing and maintaining a registration authority for environmental assessment practitioners. EAPASA is ready and willing to be appointed as the sole Registration Authority for EAPs in South Africa, to ensure consistency in the application of standards across all the professions involved in this field, and throughout the country. In submitting this application to the minister, the members of the EAPASA Board express a deeply held commitment to provide relevant authorities, development proponents and the public with quality assurance of the education and practice of environmental assessment, thereby contributing to sustainable development in South Africa through environmental assessment.

 

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Related documents / resources

 

 

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