In July 2019, the Centre of Environmental Rights (CER) released a report: Full Disclosure. The Truth about Mpumalanga Coal Mines Failure to Comply with their Water Use Licences (can be found on the CER’s website by following the link). The report outlines the dismal picture of environmental compliance to Authorisations (specifically Water Use Licences in this case), inadequate compliance reporting by consultancy companies, the lack of monitoring compliance by the Competent Authority and the absence of accountability to non-compliances reported.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 2014 as promulgated in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act no. 107 of 1998) (NEMA) defines an environmental audit report as: “a report contemplated in regulation 34”. Regulation 34 of the EIA Regulations in turn requires an environmental audit report to be completed by an independent person with the relevant environmental auditing expertise to provide verifiable findings in a structured and systematic manner. This requirement places the responsibility on the Holder of the Environmental Authorisation (i.e. Environmental Management Programme, Environmental Authorisation, Record of Decision, Water Use Licence, Waste Management Licence or Atmospheric Emissions Licence) to evaluate the independence and expertise of the auditing consultant to ensure compliance with Regulation 34 of the EIA Regulations.
The importance of this aspect is highlighted by the fact that the compliance audit report must be made available to potential interested and affected parties on submission of the report to the Competent Authority. In the absence of Governmental Authorities’ ability to hold Holders of Environmental Authorisations liable for compliance due to capacity and resource aspects, non-governmental authorisations now have the platform to demand answers for non-compliances to- and poor assessments of these authorisations. It is expected that proof of compliance and explanations for non-compliances will be requested in either event. Not only will Holders of Environmental Authorisations be held accountable, auditing consultancies will be held liable for unsubstantiated findings of “compliance” or “non-applicability”.
Considering the legal requirements for audits, it is of paramount importance to substantiate positive and negative findings in an audit report supported by verifiable documented or photographic evidence.
ENVASS is in a position to provide Holders of Environmental Authorisations with the support required during the Regulation 34 compliance audit process with our established environmental auditing division.
ENVASS is registered with the South African Auditor & Training Certification Authority (SAATCA). In addition to SAATCA, ENVASS strongly relates and adheres to the mandate set out by the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) and the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA) in providing independent and objective works in accordance with South African Acts and Regulations.
The ENVASS environmental auditing division is serviced by highly qualified and experienced auditors with a reputable track record of providing auditing services to various industries in South Africa. Recent Audit processes undertaken are available on our website www.envass.co.za and includes various blue-chip, local and international mining houses.