The need for professional quality assurance and the need for Environmental Assessment Practitioners to undertake their work in an independent and objective manner have been the major drivers behind initiatives in
In parallel with the development process of legal mechanisms to enable effective Integrated Environmental Management, there have been initiatives to provide for certification/registration of EAPs, in
In 2005 a Consultative Process was initiated through a Memorandum of Understanding between the ICB and the Department of Environmental Affairs to achieve the establishment of a Registration Authority (RA) for EAPs as envisaged in Section 24H of NEMA (Amendment Act 8 of 2004). On the basis that the Consultative Process has achieved its three planned outcomes: agreement on the content of a proposal for the establishment of a registration authority (as set out in the Final Draft Proposal for the Establishment of a Registration Authority for EAPs in SA); registration of a qualification for Environmental Assessment Practice in terms of the NQF; and, providing for the legal enabling mechanisms for making registration compulsory, the Environmental Assessment Practitioners’ Association of South Africa will be launched on 7 April 2011. EAPASA will apply to the Minister to be recognised as a Registration Authority for EAPs. An important aspect of the proposed RA is that it caters for EAPs in private consulting, in government as regulatory review and those in parastatals managing environmental assessment processes.
These initiatives summarised above are presented in more detail in section 3.2 below (and will be reflected against examples viewed as good practice internationally in the completed analysis).
To a large degree, the successful implementation of Integrated Environmental Management in
It is important to note from the outset that one of the key factors to consider in EAP quality assurance and independence are a rapidly changing physical and social environment and policy context. An assumption in looking forward to implementation of an effective EIA&MS that enables quality assurance and independence mechanisms for EAPs is that an adaptive management approach will be adopted. This adaptive management approach must be based on a sound analysis, a logical strategy, evaluation and review in order to respond to a rapidly changing context.
The following key definitions provide an important basis for the analysis of the current trends, challenges and potential solutions in improved quality assurance and independence for EAPs in
The Final Draft Constitution for the EAPASA uses the following definition of “environmental assessment:
“Environmental assessment” means the process of identifying, analysing, assessing, evaluating and communicating the potential environmental risks and impacts of an activity in its area of influence, and finding ways of improving the environmental sustainability of the outcome by due consideration of feasible alternatives, appropriate mitigation of adverse impacts and enhancement of benefits, and the equitable distribution of these impacts and benefits, with the appropriate engagement of relevant stakeholders. It includes environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, sustainability assessment, environmental management plans, etc., and their implementation, and may involve the integration of a range of specialist findings.”
Environmental Assessment Practitioner
Section 1 of the NEMA Amendment Act, Act 8 of 2004 provides the following definition:
“‘environmental assessment practitioner’, when used in Chapter 5, means the individual responsible for the planning, management and coordination of environmental impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments, environmental management plans or any other appropriate environmental instruments introduced through regulations;”
“registered environmental assessment practitioner / registered EAP” means an environmental assessment practitioner registered with an appointed registration authority contemplated in section 24H of the Act;”
The Final Draft Constitution for the EAPASA uses the following definition:
“EAP means an environmental assessment practitioner, namely a person responsible for the planning, management, co-ordination and review of environmental impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments, environmental management plans or any other environmental assessment instruments introduced through legislation, either in the role of assessor or in the role of a reviewer of existing assessments.”
Environmental Assessment Practitioners of South Africa’s definition of an EAP:
“… someone who co-ordinates, manages and integrates the various components of environmental assessment throughout the planning process” (EAPSA, 2002)
In relation to the above definitions it is important to note the following:
- Quality assurance can only be attained when
ALLEAPs, regardless of where they are employed, fulfill competence and ethical practice criteria.
- The Proposed RA (EAPSA) provides for the registration of all EAPs.
- The Act envisages the role and competencies of EAPs beyond the narrow confines of project-level EIA as prescribed in the EIA Regulations and defines this role as all mechanisms and tools envisaged in Chapter 5: Integrated Environmental Management. It follows logically then, that any quality assurance mechanisms to be put in place for EAPs need to embrace the full spectrum of environmental assessment tools.
- While EIAs and EMFs are currently the key regulatory tools, the Advanced Certificate for Environmental Assessment Practice has included the core set of competencies that are required for a full spectrum of environmental assessment tools. The proposed registration authority’s proposes to register EAPs, regardless of which specific environmental assessment tools they apply.
The broad role envisaged for EAPs is further emphasised in the following NEMA amendments:
“24 (5)(bA) laying down the procedure to be followed for the preparation, evaluation and adoption of prescribed environmental management instruments, including—
(i) environmental management frameworks;
(ii) strategic environmental assessments;
(iii) environmental impact assessments;
(iv) environmental management programmes;
(v) environmental risk assessments;
(vi) environmental feasibility assessments;
(vii) norms or standards;
(viii) spatial development tools;
(ix) any other relevant environmental management instrument that may be developed in time;”
The South African Qualifications Authority’s directorate of Quality Assurance and Development provide the following generic definition for quality assurance:
“quality assurance means the process of ensuring that the degree of excellence specified is achieved” (SAQA 2002).
In environmental professional quality assurance systems reviewed in the process of establishing EAPSA, the following key dimensions are common to most systems of quality assurance in environmental assessment practice:
- Competence (including academic training, experience and core competencies)
- Ethical conduct
Mechanisms for professional quality assurance generally involve certification and/or registration for professionals by a professional registration or certification body. A subtle difference in meaning of these terms is that certification is often referred to as the process of assessment against a set of criteria, whereas registration is often referred to being admitted to the register of professionals.
The legislative framework provided in
The existing and proposed quality assurance mechanisms for EAPs in
The definition of professional independence is provided for in the EIA Regulations:
‘“independent”, in relation to an EAP or a person compiling a specialist report or undertaking a specialised process or appointed as a member of an appeal panel, means—
(a) that such EAP or person has no business, financial, personal or other interest in the activity, application or appeal in respect of which that EAP or person is appointed in terms of these Regulations other than fair remuneration for work performed in connection with that activity, application or appeal; or
(b) that there are no circumstances that may compromise the objectivity of that EAP or person in performing such work;’
Quality assurance and independence are inextricably linked. There are many views on the nature of independence and whether the above requirements and even signing a declaration of independence can achieve good quality and ethical practice. Many would argue that working within prescribed standards does not guarantee that values and individual judgement will not come into play. Further, regulations or registration do not absolve professionals of their responsibility to apply their professional judgment.
A key sector that is required to be professionally independent by law is that of chartered accountants and auditors. While different from substantive point of view, the professional roles in terms of the requirements for independence are quite similar. The following useful definition is used by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants:
‘“Professional” independence is a group of characteristic actions resulting from the duty of care that arises out of the social contract with the public who has granted the profession exclusive rights of title and/or practice in return for the obligation of self-regulation. This contract is one based on trust and confidence. It is demonstrated by an objective application of professional judgment and expert knowledge to a given set of circumstances. Objectivity is a state of mind, a quality that lends value to the member’s services. It is a distinguishing feature of the profession. The principle of objectivity imposes the obligation to be impartial and intellectually honest.’