Supply of Water and Sanitation to Schools: Briefing by Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

20 June 2007

Mr B Tolo (ANC - Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:
Water Services to Schools and Clinics Programme – DWAF presentation

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) briefed the Committee on its role in supplying water and sanitation services to schools.  Until April 2007, this was the responsibility of the Department of Education (DoE) but the target date of 2005 was not met and there was a significant backlog in providing these services to schools.  In April 2007, the responsibility was taken over by DWAF.  The funds allocated to DWAF in the MTEF allocations for 2007/08 to 2009/10 were for the provision of services in both clinics and schools.  It was decided to allocate 95% of the available funds for 2007/08 to complete the programme for the supply of services to clinics, leaving only R5 million for the programme for schools.  DWAF intended to apply these funds to providing services to schools with the most critical needs.

Initial data provided by the DoE was found to be inaccurate and DWAF had not yet received accurate and complete information on the extent and nature of the backlogs in schools from the DoE.  DWAF was in the process of determining what other projects and initiatives were being implemented by various other departments, municipalities and foreign donor bodies in order to incorporate these efforts in its own programme.  DWAF had formed steering committees with the Departments of Education, Health, Mineral and Energy and Provincial and Local Government at both the national and provincial levels.  An action plan and a performance framework for delivery were developed, objectives were set and challenges were identified.  DWAF was still in a largely planning phase and had not yet managed to implement any projects.  A revised target date of 2009 was requested.

Members of the Committee were very concerned by the extent of the backlogs and the severity of the negative impact on children as a result.  Members were disappointed that exact figures and more detailed reports were not provided for each province.  Members were concerned by an apparent lack of co-operation between the various Departments involved and asked for clarity on the roles played by the DoE, DWAF and municipalities.  Questions were asked about the rationale behind allocating the bulk of the 2007/08 funds to clinics when the Department was faced with a much bigger problem in schools.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presentation
In his opening remarks, the Chairperson explained that the Committee was advised by the DoE that DWAF was responsible for providing water and sanitation to schools.  Access to clean water was a basic right but there were still many schools in the country without water and toilets.  This meant that proper education could not take place and the health and safety of children were compromised.  The Committee had requested DWAF to present its programme for the provision of water and sanitation to schools.

Ms Tamie Mpotulo (Chief Director: Water and Sanitation Programme: DWAF) briefed the Committee on the Department’s programme to supply water services to schools and clinics (see attached document).  The original target date of 2005 for the delivery of adequate water and sanitation to schools was set in 2003 and the Provincial Departments of Education were responsible for implementation.  DWAF therefore had no mandate and no funds available.

In February 2007, Treasury made R950 million available for the provision of electricity, water and sanitation to schools and clinics during the period 2007/08 to 2009/10. It was agreed with the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) that 70% of the available funds was allocated for the provision of water and sanitation services to schools and clinics by DWAF.  For this purpose, a total of R105 million was available during 2007/08.  The bulk of the funds (R100 million) was earmarked for clinics, leaving only R5 million to address the backlogs in schools during 2007/08.  The Department intended to utilize the available funds for those schools with the most critical needs.

DWAF was in the process of determining the exact extent of the backlogs in schools and was awaiting confirmation from the DoE of the number of schools in each province with no or inadequate water and sanitation services.  Un-audited figures indicate a total of 2574 schools with no water supply, 2182 with no sanitation and 16477 with inadequate sanitation.  Most of these schools were situated in rural areas, with the worst-affected provinces being the Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo.

In order to carry out its responsibility, it was essential for DWAF to collaborate with the Departments of Education, Health, Mineral and Energy, Local Government and Public Works, at national, provincial and regional levels.  DWAF had established the various roles and responsibilities, formed a steering committee and appointed directors, some implementing agents and project managers who will be responsible for the implementation of the programme.  Existing initiatives needed to be integrated with the DWAF programme as well.

The Department had developed an action plan and performance framework for delivery.  The major challenges that were identified included inadequate funds to address the existing needs, the physical condition of existing infrastructure and the demand for waterborne sanitation systems.  Objectives were set for the approval of the new target date of 2009 by the Ministers of Education and Water Affairs and Forestry, the integration of the DWAF programme with existing infrastructure delivery programmes, the finalisation of provincial implementation plans and the finalisation of the appointment of implementing agents.

Mr Tolo explained that the Committee expected to be provided with the exact numbers of schools in each province that were provided with water and sanitation so far this year and what was planned for the rest of the year.  He asked if additional presentations were to be made by the DWAF provincial delegates.

Ms Mpotulo asked the delegate from KwaZulu Natal (KZN) to respond.  Ms Joyce Masilo (ANC – North West) requested reports from the other provinces as well.

Mr Vusi Kubheka (Chief Director – DWAF - KZN) explained that there were a number of existing programmes under way in KZN that were initiated by the DoE.  DWAF had decided to link up with these programmes rather than starting its own parallel programmes.  DWAF had received a report from the DoE three months ago that stated that there were no backlogs in water and sanitation services in schools in KZN but inspections found that this was not the case.  DWAF was in the process of confirming the figures and expected to complete this process by the end of July 2007.  He was not able to report on the status of the DoE projects.

Mr Tolo conceded that DWAF cannot be expected to report on the progress made by another department.  He commented that the DoE was in the process of rolling out while the DWAF was still in the planning stage and asked when the Department planned to implement its programme.

Ms Mpotulo replied that funds only became available on 1 April 2007.  DWAF had developed a framework but it was a consultative process and it was necessary to verify the extent and nature of the backlog.  This was a time-consuming process as engineers have to conduct physical examinations of the terrain and determine the existing infrastructure and the needs of each individual school.  A long lead time was necessary for planning before implementation can take place.  As most of the funds were allocated to clinics and only R5 million was available for schools, DWAF was unable to do much.

Mr Tolo remarked that the Committee was also concerned with health matters.  He said that plans had to be made years in advance to obtain funding through the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and that it was not possible that DWAF could only have commenced its planning in April 2007.  He understood that the Department was aware of its responsibilities and had completed its planning in order to be ready for roll-out when the funds became available.

Ms Mpotulo responded that the funds were previously allocated to the DoE and were only allocated to DWAF in 2007.

Mr Tolo said that the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry must have been aware beforehand as the process of applying for funds takes place well in advance of the actual allocation of funds.

Mr Kubheka agreed that if DWAF had the responsibility, it would have followed the normal process as outlined by the Chairperson.  However, in this case the DoE was the original responsible department.  In the case of KZN, the information provided by DoE was received very recently and as the Province already had a programme in place, the DWAF decided not to start a duplicate programme.  He explained that, because of a lack of capacity in some areas, implementing agencies were used, for example Umgeni Water in the Pietermaritzburg area.  There were projects in place in some municipalities as well and DWAF needed to determine what was being done across the province and what types of infrastructure was available in each area.  He said that DWAF did not have sufficient information on hand to conduct a proper planning exercise and found that the reality of the situation on the ground differed from the assumptions made during the planning exercise.

Mr Galelo Mbambisa (Acting Chief Director – DWAF – Eastern Cape) confirmed that the situation was similar in all provinces as the Department had to operate within the existing provincial and local government structures.

Mr Tolo asked what the relationship between DWAF and the municipalities was in implementing this programme.  The Department has a national mandate to provide bulk services while municipalities provided reticulation services but in this case it would appear that DWAF was providing both.

Ms Mpotulo explained that it was the responsibility of the Department and not that of municipalities to provide infrastructure.  There was however a lot of planning and consultation on connecting with the bulk services provided by municipalities and in some cases they are appointed as implementation agents and provided with funding as they have existing projects in place.

Mr S Matukane (Chief Director – DWAF – Limpopo) advised that a working committee was appointed two years ago with the DoE in this largely rural province to address the need for water and sanitation in schools.  There was a great need for these services in the area and a bigger budget was required.

Ms H Lamoela (DA – Western Cape) remarked that District Municipalities in the Western Cape were responsible for providing toilets and water to many schools in the rural areas.  She wanted to know if DWAF provided funding to these District Municipalities for the provision of toilets and water to schools.

Mr Mohammed Sulliman (ANC – Northern Cape) remarked that the Department of Public Works was responsible for building, DWAF was responsible for providing water and sanitation and the DoE was responsible for providing teachers.  He was concerned that the various departments were not working together to resolve the issues and that there appear to be a lack of co-operation.  He said that the present Government was elected thirteen years ago and apartheid could no longer be blamed for the lack of water and sanitation in schools.

Ms F Mazibuko (ANC – Gauteng) was aware of many schools in Gauteng where water and sanitation facilities were inadequate and asked if DWAF was able to provide a breakdown of all the affected schools to the Committee.  She suggested that use was made of volunteers, interns and youths to gather the necessary information.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the Department does have a breakdown of the type of services and the appropriate technology required to provide the necessary facilities per school.

Ms Mazibuko asked for clarity on the roles played by both the DWAF and the DoE in clearing the backlogs in providing schools with water and sanitation services.

Ms Mpotulo replied that although DWAF was relying on the DoE to clear the backlogs, it had its own regional coordinators to assist it as well.  As pointed out earlier in the discussion, the information provided by the DoE in KZN was inaccurate and DWAF was in the process of verifying the data in each province.

Ms Mazibuko wanted more details of cases where schools are reliant on boreholes and what was being done to prevent contamination of the ground water and other natural water sources.  Schools also did not have the funds for borehole pumps or to replace equipment that was stolen.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the Department had budgeted for boreholes where schools cannot be linked to existing bulk water supplies.  It was planned to connect schools that rely on rain water to nearby municipal water supplies.  Where sufficient water supplies were available, waterborne sewerage systems were preferable.

Ms Mazibuko asked whether there were guidelines in place to determine if facilities were adequate or not.  She asked if the Department had minimum and maximum standards for water supplies to schools, in place.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the Department had developed standards for water and sanitation services with the Departments of Health and Education and also agreed the minimum supply needed for schools with the local municipalities and / or water boards.

Ms Mazibuko asked whether DWAF conducted interventions when particularly critical situations in certain schools were brought to their attention.

Ms Mazibuko questioned the appointment of water boards as implementation agents as there was the perception that funds are swallowed up by overheads and administration costs rather than used to deliver services.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the number of toilets and the amount of water required per school were determined during the planning process and the relevant costs established.  In some cases (such as Umgeni Water) the water board had access to alternative funds but the Department agreed to the standards, scope and costs with the appropriate water board up front.

Ms Portia Makhanya (Director – DWAF) explained that the DoE was responsible for providing water and sanitation to schools but there were backlogs that were not going to be cleared unless new programmes were initiated to attend to them.  The funds provided by Treasury in 2007 were such an intervention and DWAF was given the task of implementing a programme to address the backlogs because it possessed the necessary skills and experience.  These funds were in addition to the MTEF allocation to the DoE for the provision of water and sanitation services in schools.  She said that obtaining accurate information was a problem as DWAF needed a clear understanding of the extent of the backlog in schools.  Certain schools had no services at all while others had some facilities that were inadequate.  The DoE had completed a survey during 2006 but the data was not released to the DWAF yet.  The information was expected by the end of June 2007 but it has to be signed off by the Minister of Education before it can be made available.  In the interim, DWAF was using un-audited figures for planning purposes and overlaying existing information on rainfall patterns, geology and water supply.  The Department was also determining the unit costs involved in installing toilets and sinking boreholes.

Ms Mpotulo said that the various departments involved were represented at the steering committees that were established at the national and at the provincial levels.  The Departments of Health, Education, Provincial and Local Government, Mineral and Energy and Public Works were therefore working together with DWAF.  In addition to the various departmental programmes, certain municipalities and district municipalities were providing water and toilet facilities to schools and there were also some foreign donor programmes under way.  It was essential for DWAF to determine and coordinate the various initiatives.

Ms Masilo asked if the figures quoted in the DWAF presentation included the schools in the cross-boundary areas.  She wanted to know when the DWAF-led programme started and expressed her disappointment that no report was made by DWAF on the situation in the North West province.

Ms Lamoela asked if any programme was in place to utilise the 5% of the 2007/08 budget that was available for providing schools with water and sanitation and which schools will be supplied with facilities.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the DWAF and the DoE were in the process of identifying those schools that were in dire straits and most urgently in need of water and sanitation services.

Mr Tolo wanted to know what the rationale was behind the decision to allocate 95% of the budget to providing services to clinics (which had a target date of 2007) and only 5% to schools (which had a target date of 2005).

Mr Tolo observed that the first quarter of the current financial year had passed but the Department was still only in the planning phase.  He asked if DWAF could guarantee that the current year’s allocation of R105 million would be spent prudently before the end of the year and that “fiscal dumping” would be avoided at the end of the year.

Ms Mpotulo explained that as the programme to provide clinics with water and sanitation was nearing completion and the backlog for clinics was relatively small, it was decided to finalise these projects by the end of 2007.  The remainder of the MTEF allocation for the following two years was available for the schools programme.  For this reason, a revised target date of 2009 was requested.

Mr Tolo reiterated that he failed to understand why the Department decided to concentrate on the relatively small backlog in clinics when there was a huge backlog in schools.

Ms Mpotulo replied that the programme to supply services to schools was a new programme for which funds were only made available at the beginning of this year.  The Department decided to finalise the clinic programme as this was the area of biggest impact.

Mr Tolo remarked that this was a populist approach.

Ms Mpotulo confirmed that water and sanitation services to clinics would be completed by the end of 2007 and that much work was being done by other departments to clear the backlogs in schools.

Mr Kubheka replied that the Chairperson’s concern was valid but the Department was delivering essential services to clinics as well.  He pointed out that the DoE was responsible for delivery when the target date of 2005 was set for providing services to schools.  DWAF was allocated an additional R40 million during 2006 for providing services to clinics and this programme was in the process of being completed in 2007.  With the bucket eradication programme, DWAF proved that it was able to successfully plan and implement such programmes.

Mr Tolo asked how many clinics were provided with water and sanitation services between April and June 2007.

Ms Makhanya replied that a number of construction projects were in progress and the Department would be able to provide a comprehensive report at the end of June 2007.

Mr Tolo said that the Department would be required to report back to the Committee at a later date.  He said that the claim made by DWAF that all buckets were eradicated in Mpumalanga province was misleading as only the buckets in formal settlements were eradicated and many still remained in the informal settlements.

Mr Tolo said it was essential that DWAF verify the figures and obtain accurate information so that the Department was able to plan properly.

Ms Mpotulo confirmed that the figures contained in the Department’s presentation were un-audited and that the finalised information was awaited from the DoE.

Mr Kubheka advised that DWAF and the Department of Public Works acted as implementation agents for the DoE for the provision of water and sanitation services to schools.  It was important to note that DWAF was not responsible for subsequent operation and maintenance of the facilities and that the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and the municipalities play a critical role in this regard.  It was therefore essential that proper service level agreements are drawn up and that adequate budgets were made available for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facilities.

Mr Tolo thanked the Department for its presentation and for the valuable first engagement with the Committee.  He wished the DWAF success in its ventures and suggested that the Department provide progress reports to the Committee on a quarterly basis.  He said that during 2007, the focus would be on providing services to clinics and the Committee would concentrate on schools during 2008.

The meeting was adjourned.


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