Redisa re­cy­cling plan probed

Depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs in­ves­ti­gates how R1.1 bil­lion in tyre levies was spent, and if the ini­tia­tive mis­led the state on job cre­ation

CityPress - - Front Page - SU­SAN COM­RIE in­ves­ti­ga­tions@city­press.co.za

Two years ago, gov­ern­ment launched a rev­o­lu­tion­ary tyre-re­cy­cling pro­gramme. But this week, the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs con­firmed it had launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how more than R1 bil­lion in tyre levies has been spent.

The plan, gazetted in 2012, es­tab­lished a manda­tory levy of R2.30/kg on any new tyre sold. The levy went to a not-for-profit com­pany called the Re­cy­cling and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive of SA (Redisa) with the man­date to col­lect and re­cy­cle mil­lions of waste tyres lit­ter­ing the coun­try. Redisa’s pitch to the de­part­ment was that it could turn “waste into worth”, and cre­ate 10 000 new jobs by 2018. But now the de­part­ment wants to know how Redisa has spent the R1.1 bil­lion in rev­enue it has re­ceived, and whether it mis­led gov­ern­ment about job cre­ation.

Depart­men­tal spokesper­son Albi Modise said on Tues­day: “The re­sult of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion the de­part­ment is un­der­tak­ing on Redisa’s op­er­a­tions and fi­nan­cial mat­ters would en­able the de­part­ment to have an opin­ion on whether any mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion has been pro­vided by Redisa re­lat­ing to job cre­ation.

“The de­part­ment is also un­der­tak­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that would en­able it to com­ment on whether the levies col­lected to date have been spent pru­dently,” said Modise. The de­part­ment said its in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be con­cluded by March. Its an­nounce­ment fol­lowed an ex­posé on the TV pro­gramme Carte Blanche last month, which ques­tioned, among other things, why Redisa had spent R18 mil­lion on a lux­ury prop­erty in Morn­ing­side, Jo­han­nes­burg, while its in­for­mal waste col­lec­tors were be­ing paid just R2 a tyre.

On Thurs­day, Redisa di­rec­tor Stacey David­son said they had not re­ceived of­fi­cial no­tice of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but added that they had no ob­jec­tion.

“Redisa has al­ways been trans­par­ent in its op­er­a­tions and, as such, re­ports to the de­part­ment on a monthly ba­sis.” Redisa boasted that it had cre­ated 3 023 jobs by the end of Septem­ber. A closer look at in­ter­nal records shows that, of the 3 023 jobs, 1 948 were made up of in­for­mal waste col­lec­tors, or “waste pick­ers” – and of the 1 948 waste col­lec­tors on its books, just 54 were work­ing and earn­ing an in­come.

A for­mer se­nior em­ployee told City Press: “They reg­is­ter these guys and they re­port those reg­is­tered fig­ures to the min­is­ter. Guys will bring their doc­u­ments, and they will reg­is­ter as waste pick­ers. Redisa will now take those fig­ures – ev­ery­one who has a [Redisa] card – and re­fer to them as ac­tive waste pick­ers … It’s a smoke­screen, to say to the min­is­ter: ‘Look, we’ve got an ID, we’ve got a job cre­ated.’”

Modise con­firmed that Redisa told the de­part­ment it had cre­ated 907 waste picker jobs by Jan­uary 2015. But in­ter­nal fig­ures show only 37 peo­ple were ac­tively work­ing (see graphic). Th­ese in­ter­nal fig­ures were not dis­closed to the de­part­ment, said Modise. David­son con­cedes that “job op­por­tu­ni­ties” would be a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion, but in­sists the de­part­ment was not mis­led.

“It’s an in­come-earn­ing op­por­tu­nity,” she said. “It de­pends on how you’re go­ing to de­fine a job … Our in­ter­nal de­sire is to have ev­ery­one on the sys­tem earn­ing. So al­though we’re re­port­ing ev­ery­one who has ac­cess to earn­ing, our vi­sion in­ter­nally is to make sure ev­ery­one is earn­ing.”

Another de­part­ment spokesper­son, Roopa Singh, said: “Redisa has not specif­i­cally ex­plained [the dis­tinc­tion be­tween job op­por­tu­ni­ties and ac­tual jobs] to the [de­part­ment] as it was con­sid­ered gen­eral knowl­edge based on the un­der­stand­ing of the sec­tor.”

Cur­rently, waste col­lec­tors are paid R2 for each tyre they find, but they’re lim­ited to a quota of 750 tyres a month, earn­ing them a max­i­mum of R1 500 a month. Mem­bers of co­op­er­a­tives can earn an ex­tra 15% in com­mis­sion.

“It’s a sys­tem that doesn’t work,” said the for­mer em­ployee. “They can’t ex­pect these peo­ple to pick up tyres at R2 a tyre and earn a liv­ing.”

A sec­ond Redisa em­ployee said: “The big­gest thing is the price per tyre they are be­ing paid. Peo­ple think it’s just too much ef­fort for noth­ing. And [they’re] ac­tu­ally re­al­is­ing they are be­ing used for re­port­ing pur­poses. So it’s not be­ing viewed as a gen­uine so­cial up­lift­ment project.”

David­son said Redisa was plan­ning to in­crease the price to R3 a tyre next year, but would drop the quota to 500 tyres a month – thus keep­ing the max­i­mum in­come for a picker at R1 500.

“What [peo­ple] are cur­rently do­ing [with­out Redisa’s pro­gramme] is burn­ing tyres [to ex­tract the metal] … for that, they get be­tween 80c and R1.20 per tyre – and this is why [Redisa] looked at R2 a tyre to start off with,” said David­son.

De­spite mak­ing up 64% of Redisa’s claimed job sta­tis­tics, in­for­mal waste col­lec­tors only re­ceived a 0.17% slice of the R328 mil­lion Redisa re­ceived from tyre-in­dus­try levies be­tween March and Septem­ber this year.

“The num­bers make them look good with the min­is­ter, but they are right at the bot­tom of the lad­der in terms of the re­ward that is given to them,” said the sec­ond Redisa em­ployee.

One en­tity that is ben­e­fit­ing is the for-profit man­age­ment com­pany Kusaga Taka, which earns a set fee of 18% of Redisa’s rev­enue – about R206.5 mil­lion since 2013. Both David­son and Redisa CEO Her­mann Erd­mann are share­hold­ers of Kusaga Taka, but said this had been dis­closed to all the rel­e­vant par­ties, in­clud­ing the de­part­ment.

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