Appraising the value of independent EIA follow-up verifiers

12 September 2016

Independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) follow-up verifiers such as monitoring agencies, checkers, supervisors and control officers are active on various construction sites across the world. There are, however, differing views on the value that these verifiers add and very limited learning in EIA has been drawn from independent verifiers. This paper aims to appraise how and to what extent independent EIA follow-up verifiers add value in major construction projects in the developing country context of South Africa. A framework for appraising the role of independent verifiers was established and four South African case studies were examined through a mixture of site visits, project document analysis, and interviews. Appraisal results were documented in the performance areas of: planning, doing, checking, acting, public participating and integration with other programs. The results indicate that independent verifiers add most value to major construction projects when involved with screening EIA requirements of new projects, allocation of financial and human resources, checking legal compliance, influencing implementation, reporting conformance results, community and stakeholder engagement, integration with self-responsibility programs such as environmental management systems (EMS), and controlling records. It was apparent that verifiers could be more creatively utilized in pre-construction preparation, providing feedback of knowledge into assessment of new projects, giving input to the planning and design phase of projects, and performance evaluation. The study confirms the benefits of proponent and regulator follow-up, specifically in having independent verifiers that disclose information, facilitate discussion among stakeholders, are adaptable and proactive, aid in the integration of EIA with other programs, and instill trust in EIA enforcement by conformance evaluation. Overall, the study provides insight on how to harness the learning opportunities arising from EIA follow-up through the appointment of independent verifiers