Milnerton Lagoon, which is part of the Diep River estuary in Cape Town, is recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich biodiversity that exists almost entirely within a metropolitan area. Picture: Armand Hough/ African News Agency (ANA)
Milnerton Lagoon, which is part of the Diep River estuary in Cape Town, is recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich biodiversity that exists almost entirely within a metropolitan area. Picture: Armand Hough/ African News Agency (ANA)

Governance concerns raised in discussion about Western Cape Biodiversity Bill

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Nov 12, 2021

Share this article:

Cape Town - Concerns about the proposed 3-year term for members of the Cape Nature board being too short to allow for good governance of the entity dominated the deliberations on the Western Cape Biodiversity Bill in the legislature.

Currently, board members serve a 5-year term with the option of a renewal for a further term but the draft legislation which proposes to strengthen accountability and checks-and-balances has cut this short by two years.

Standing committee on agriculture, environmental affairs and development planning chairperson Andricus van der Westhuizen raised the issue with the department and said he doubted that three years would be enough time for members to really fulfil their governance roles.

“My concern is that if members come and go at a such a fast rate, they are unable to really implement strategic direction and to fulfil their oversight role in the sense that just as you find your feet and start asking the difficult questions from the executives, you then find yourself at the end of your term and therefore unable to continue.

“We’ve seen this with many of the entities in South Africa where there has been damage caused by the lack of good governance.

“Let’s hope that the 3- year term you have proposed won’t hamper people and that people asking difficult questions won’t find themselves out in the cold after three years because they are not recommended for extension,” said Van der Westhuizen.

The legislature’s legal adviser, advocate Romeo Maasdorp, said that while five years is the norm, it is not irregular to appoint people for three years and that it was really at the discretion of the appointing authority.

“However, we do know that directors and board members have a fiduciary responsibility in relation to the entity that they serve in, and I agree that the period of three years is somewhat short.

“It may even impact on an entity’s continuity, because there may be a speedy turnover of directors which in turn impacts on an entity’s institutional memory, consistency, etc,” said Maasdorp.

The department’s biodiversity and coastal management director, Marlene Laros, said the shorter time frame had been adopted to enable the appointing authority to replace weak board members without having to look at alternative means of terminating membership.

“Unfortunately you sometimes get situations where you appoint individuals for five years and you find that their contribution is not as strong as you require.

“We found this to be a good balance in order to ensure that there is adequate opportunity to deal with non-performance without going through dismissal processes provided for in the act,” said Laros.

The committee will meet again on November 19 to allow members to move to the next stage in consideration of the bill, in the hope that the bill can be put before the full legislature before the end of the year.

[email protected]

Share this article: