The Committee content advisor and researcher gave an analysis of the department’s plans and budget, highlighting several points which needed attention and enquiry from Committee members. Among these were previous poor audit results, capacity challenges, the support of local government in service delivery and water use licensing. The previous budget had been partly unspent as a result of a skills shortage and some R570 billion would be invested in the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority.
Acting Director General of the Department, Trevor Balzer, briefed the Committee on the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan for the Department of Water Affairs. Expenditure on infrastructure programmes will total around R7 billion rand. Municipal Infrastructure Grants at R1 billion rand, water services operating subsidies are scheduled at R142 million, Accelerated Community Infrastructure Grants at R247 million and regional bulk infrastructure at R4.6 billion.
The presentation was very comprehensive but while providing much information, Members’ concerns and those listed by the content advisor were not fully addressed by the presentation. Time constraints and the sheer length and number of presentations, were not conducive to gaining an understanding of the capacity of the Department to address issues like water licensing, lack of adequate water supply and sanitation in certain areas of South Africa, water quality degradation by the mining industry, water pollution and lack of skills capacity. The only weakness which had been taken in hand by the Department in no uncertain terms was debt recovery and this had created a more healthy financial status.
Content advisor, Shereen Dawood, encouraged members to question the Department on the progress of the planned infrastructure projects and whether there would be sufficient funding for these massive undertakings. Service delivery, waste and water treatment, water pollution and how these issues would be dealt with at a local government and municipal level needed to be addressed by the members to the Department. In particular, the development, maintenance and refurbishment of water plants, as functions of local government, seemed in question. Apparent lack of technical expertise remained a challenge. She referred to the poor audit outcomes the Department had garnered in previous years. Municipal Infrastructure Grants seemed problematic in that they were not always applied in the manner intended. Water licensing presented a “huge problem” and the Department needed to address equitable distribution of water use licences as well as the backlogs in issuing them as this was having a possible impact on job creation. Water tariffs needed to be reviewed and it was her opinion that in comparison to rates for electricity, water tariffs were still low. The ongoing challenge would be getting the balance right between national and local government levels in fulfilling the responsibility of providing water services.
Mr Thomani Manungufala, Committee researcher, presented his findings on the Budget for the Department and its 16 entities. Bushbuckridge and Botshelo Water Boards had been discontinued and had been taken over by Rand Water. In 2012/2013 the Department had a budget of R9 billion rand of which R8.6 billion rand had been spent. The budget for 2013/2014 had been R10.4 billion rand of which R10.2 billion had been spent. These figures did not include income from businesses of the Department. Reasons given for unspent budget were unfilled vacancies and inability to source the necessary skills. The reason for a deficit in the regional bulk infrastructure project was a delay in the arrival of materials ordered. Main costs were on capital assets such as property and dams. The Department needed R570 billion rand for the Trans Caledon Tunnel and the Committee should be receiving periodic updates in this regard. Sanitation had moved from the Department of Human Settlements to the Department of Water Affairs and an inter-ministerial task team had been set up to manage the transfer.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked for clarity on which aspects of the Public Finance Management Act had a bearing on water and sanitation and the water use licensing process. It seemed to him that people in his local community were prohibited from access to water use licences. Block tariffs needed more explanation and how tariffs to municipalities were decided. Water schemes that had been launched in the first term of the President had become completely dysfunctional. He asked whether there were grants available for such schemes.
Ms H Kekana (ANC) asked how jobs and growth were being addressed in terms of water. She asked how the goals of the Department were in alignment with the National Development Plan. She asked when the linkage to sanitation would take place.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) spoke at length in Xhosa and was interrupted by Ms J Maluleke (ANC whip) who commented that her comments and questions should be directed to the Department and not the content advisor and researcher. The Chair agreed.
Mr M Galo (AIC) suggested a closed meeting with support staff in order to obtain more background information needed to understand all the information being presented as they were new members.
Mr L Basson (DA) commented that a translator should be present to translate the comments made by Ms Khawula and agreed relevant questions should be addressed to the Department and not the researcher.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked for summaries of the international agreements and treaties that had been referred to and for clarity around the powers vested in the water boards. He asked if these powers were superseded by parliament and how they worked. To this end he wanted more information about the relevant acts and policies.
Mr Johnson proposed that the Department answer questions where appropriate. Regarding the holding of a closed meeting, he said this was quite a cumbersome process and could only be done if really warranted. He also agreed with the request for content of the treaties and agreements.
The translator proceeded to translate the comments made by Ms Khawula: Since 1994 there had been no water services in her area in Kwa Zulu Natal. No toilets and no water were available in many of the places she had campaigned. Water quality was the equivalent of that consumed by cattle. Promises had been made but never fulfilled.
Director General on Strategic and Annual Performance Plans of Department of Water Affairs
Apologies were made on behalf of the Minister of Water Affairs, as well as the Deputy Minister. The Acting Director General, Trevor Balzer, presented the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans of the Department. The renaming of the Department was not yet formalized and this including the change in vision and mission, which would have to be amended to incorporate the change. On the question of how tariffs were determined by water boards, he said these fell under the Municipal Finance Management Act. The Division of Revenue Bill which would become the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) dealt with the grant finance programme. The Raw Water Pricing Strategy was under review and the Water Research Act was going through an amendment process. The National Water Act and the Water Services Act would be amalgamated into one, as there was overlap. A draft Bill would be tabled in the fourth quarter.
Looking at water sector institutions, two Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) had been established out of the intended nine. Two more were in the pipeline. A “proto” CMA of the Department was responsible until the actual CMA was established. The Water Research Commission coordinated water resource activities and was benchmarked internationally because of its excellent work. There were ten water boards, of which the biggest was the Rand Water Board.
The medium term budget indicated a total of R43.5 billion rand, divided into R17.2 for the Department, R12.2 for the Water Trading Entity, R10.7 billion for the water boards and R3.4 billion for the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority.
Looking at how shared water courses affected water distribution and management, some 60% of South African land mass area is covered by shared water basins with neighbouring countries such as Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia and 40% of our water resources derive from those shared water resources. Various protocols and conventions governed these resources.
The Department has aligned several of its 14 goals with those of the National Development Plan (NDP). These included employment, infrastructure, building a capable and developmental state and environmental sustainability. With regard to employment, the Academy contributed to the development of skills. Those who graduated from the Learning Academy were employed by the Department.
Mr Balzer said that most water is used by the agricultural sector. There were 150 water services authorities (WSAs), some at municipal level. Regarding National Assembly and NCOP oversight, water was not a competence and not in the provincial structure, but at local government level. One future project is the raising of the Clanwilliam dam wall, but the Department manages some 350 dams, as well as canals, pipelines and water treatment facilities. The Department has therefore nine provincial offices, four construction sites (areas or regions) and four operation clusters.
The transfer of Sanitation from the Department of Human Settlements (DHS ) is being processed in accordance to a generic project plan for such transfers. Timelines were indicated. The intended name changes are behind schedule. The transfer and necessary changes hope to be finalised by 26 September 2014. The various projects that are being transferred from the DHS include the bucket eradication programme (BEP). The Department had made R260 million rand available towards getting this programme going while awaiting additional funding. The Vote 38 Water budget was divided into programmes with sub programmes:
Programme 1: Administration
Programme 2: Water Sector Management
Programme 3: Water Structure Management
Programme 4: Regional Implementation & Support
Programme 5: Water Sector Regulation
Programme 6: International Water Cooperation
At this point, the Chairperson commented that the presentation contained an amount of information which would not be easily covered within the given time. He pointed out that they had received the presentation late and that in future such documents should be submitted a week before the meeting.
Mr Basson agreed and asked for a follow up meeting for the specific purpose of scrutinizing the Annual Report at which it would not be necessary to have everyone in attendance again.
The Chairperson said they did not have the time to do so as they would have to compile a committee report on this presentation within three days. He asked Mr Balzer to stick to presenting programme highlights and covering the entities.
Mr Galo pointed out an error on the slide which showed the budget figures. The slide shown did not agree with that in the document handed out. Mr Balzer apologized for this and promised to send the amended slide as well as the ones he had referred to during the presentation but which were not in their documents.
Mr Balzer continued that the review of existing water monitoring networks is 25% complete. The programme also includes water use authorization enabling as it relates to licensing. Mr Balzer said that current legislation would have to be reviewed. As a result of the old Water Act, riparian rights were replaced with entitlement subject to conditions and time frames. Some existing legal water use rights were still valid, while the water resource was not being used. These resources needed to be freed up. Agriculture accounted for 60% of water usage, mining for 7%, energy 7% and 27% for urban and domestic use.
Programme 4 spoke to job creation programmes like the resource poor farmers programme and the rainwater harvesting programmes. It involved providing access to water supply to some 144 000 households, 2 449 jobs created and 82 schemes. The “war on leaks “ project is a local municipal initiative to curb water wastage which stands at R7 billion per annum. This project has created 5 916 job opportunities. A rating system, whereby municipalities are measured in term of water services and management requires that the Department provide support in order to improve these ratings. Mine water management requires additional funding from financial institutions.
Mr Balzer said the Catchment Management Agencies or water trading entities were funded through tariff payers. Over 11 500 water users had been validated.
Budget for the main account was R12.5 billion, which was divided among the six programmes. Most of this went to Programme 4, regional implementation and support.
Spending plans for 2014/15 indicate payment schedules for municipal water infrastructure grants. These include the so-called Accelerated Community Infrastructure Grants (ACIG) for refurbishment projects.
Looking at the Statement of Financial Performance, R10.5 billion rand can be generated. Credit control and debt recovery have improved dramatically, which will improve the Department’s audit outcome in future.
The Chairperson raised the time constraint in terms of preparation for the next meeting on 9 July 2014 to prepare for the Committee Report on the Department’s budget. The debate in the National Assembly will take place on 15 July and there was a need to prepare the ground and do a lot of reading. The officials who do not know the names of members of parliament should not minimise their identity by referring to their political party but rather refer to them as members of the committee. He reminded members to refrain from using “political tagging” during committee meetings. Everyone had the right to sufficient food and water according to Section 27(1)(b) of the Constitution; and water has no political party tag. Members should be united on water and sanitation and encouraged to work together to give meaning to this constitutional right.
The Chairperson recommended that the report be presented in terms of jobs created and in relation to infrastructure development projects, and improvement in training and qualification. In addition, it was equally important to emphasise management of finances, promotion of local economic development and improvement of people’s lives for the better. Enterprise development, especially for black people, should be consciously promoted. He asked the Department for clarity on the matter of water boards as implementing agencies and the extent of promotion of black business.
Ms J Maluleke (ANC) noted that there has been a challenge at times when there was not much happening on the ground, usually resulting in blame being put on the President and the ANC. She asked the department in terms of administration whether it has met the target of 2% regarding employing people with disabilities and if not, what were the reasons. She was concerned about the use of consultants and asked if there were plans to minimise such hiring. She asked why there were still problems with blue and green drop water certification and asked about the role of consultants in addressing such problems. She referred to municipal assistance support and the Madibeng bulk water supply project as people were complaining about the water quality. People wanted to know if this was the responsibility of the municipality or national government. Who was in charge of water supply in the Madibeng area? She asked why the budget was underspent due to vacancies.
Mr T Makondo (ANC) wondered if the spending of the budget was helping the lives of ordinary people in a positive way. There was a gap between the budget and its intended beneficiaries. The matter of the role of municipalities with water authority status and that of the department as the overall water authority was raised. He noted concern about the diversion of funds intended for water by the municipality and questioned if monitoring tools were in place to ensure spending of the budget on water. He asked for clarity on skills development and the sourcing of students from high school rather than graduates or whether there were bursaries in place that would allow for producing the specific skills required by the department.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) pointed out that water is a basic amenity service that should afforded to every citizen of the country. He asked if the municipal grants were used effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the communities and why there were still water related protests and what the department was doing about the matter. What plans were in place for radical monitoring and evaluation of resources given to municipalities? All these questions included municipal priorities in terms of expenditure and whether the department had plans to account for every cent spent on water. He asked if there was centralised planning for the department and its entities to avoid the duplication of plans. He wanted to know if the department entities were facing challenges that hampered service delivery.
Mr M Shelembe (NFP) referred to the report presented by the research team and noted that the department had failed to spend the budget as there was underspending due to vacancies. The department was responsible for reversing the unemployment rate and it had provided its organogram. He asked how many vacancies there were and the constraints in filling such vacancies. He asked for clarity on the spending priorities of local municipalities and districts (including the Department of Human Settlements) at the time the budget allocation and the expenditure of such budgets. How was the department monitoring the budgets given to a municipality to spend on water?
Mr L Basson (DA) was concerned about the monitoring of rivers. He gave Madibeng as an example where pollution was still taking place. Who was monitoring this and acting to stop the municipality putting effluent into riverine channels in the area. He emphasised that funds should be spent on what they were intended for. He asked why the department did not take over from the municipalities that were not functioning so as to ensure that people get water. Water has become expensive and he was concerned that much of the budget was spent on salaries.
Mr M Mpontshane (IFP) asked if it was possible for the department to indicate delivery time frames for the implementation of its objectives in terms of mitigation measures and he was concerned that the plan may remain a wish list.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) noted the department had three core objectives for contributing to the economy and job creation. She was not sure if the department was planning to grow the economy or was shifting responsibilities. She asked when the Department of Water Affairs and the sanitation function was going to merge.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) asked if the department would put part time workers onto permanent employment. She was concerned whether meter readers were monitored by the department. It had been observed that many contract workers make estimates of meter readings and produce incorrect bills. Development should benefit all people of South Africa and not only sectors belonging to particular political parties.
Ms Maluleke requested clarity on water licences. She gave the example of farm areas where the farm owner did not want the municipality to connect the water in such areas and asked how the department would address such matters.
Ms H Kekana (ANC) stated that the Minister had promised that a report would be tabled in September about the provision of water and sanitation. She was happy that the Minister was here to report on this. The department was not in line with the Millennium Development Goals and the report demonstrated that it was behind with the provision of water and sanitation. Districts were encountering problems in providing water and sanitation due to lack of capacity and provinces were not assisting those municipalities. She requested that provinces intervene where there are district municipalities falling behind or incapacitated to provide such services.
The Chairperson requested clarity about the tariff definition, how tariffs go up and down, and collection. He noted that there was a problem with accountability and there was need to provide measurements of success. He commented that some of the Members’ questions where not in line with what was presented today on the budget and certain of the questions would be addressed by the Annual Report later in the year.
The Deputy Minister acknowledged all the questions and replied that they would be answered by the department units and other entities. She noted that some Members were in parliament for the first time and that they should be free to contribute or raise matters.
Mr Balzer (Acting Director General) thanked the chair and deputy minister and pointed out questions would be directed to particular individuals and entities in the department and a second round would be accorded.
Mr Mpho Mofokeng: CFO – Water Trading Entity acknowledged that the department’s procurement systems were not conducted strategically for particular commodities. He addressed the question of job creation and black empowerment for the historically disadvantaged, saying there have been interactions between various entities, the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Economic Development and Treasury so as to ensure that when procurement was conducted it was according to the principles adopted by government. The matter of the hiring of consultants cannot be excluded for the moment as these are special skills. For instance for civil and mechanical engineers, engineering companies from the lowest to highest categories are all put on the department database and allocated jobs. The initiative aims at enabling those who were previously disadvantaged. They are given the chance to benefit from the department tenders and assist in providing sustainable jobs.
Mr Squire Mahlangu: DDG: Corporate Services addressed the matter of capacity building, skills development, empowerment and creating local enterprise. He referred to work with big construction companies that have joint venture programmes which have 25% black ownerships and the remainder comprised previously white owned. The strategy was that the company should adopt emerging companies to establish and provide real experience for the future. In addition they were given targets in relation to the amounts of money given to ensure that company’s turnover was doubled at the end of the contract. It was emphasised that local people should be given the opportunity for enterprise development, young people should be skilled, as well as ensuring that the procurement was in line with the project footprint in that particular area. The department had registered 3 500 jobs in terms of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD). Skills and capacity building are part of the process and are linked to a particular project. In the long run the black companies should also participate in big tender structures and not only subordinate themselves to small tender structures.
Another department official added that in terms of the strategies undertaken to ensure black empowerment, there was a rotation of jobs between different departments. He acknowledged there were challenges of conflicting approaches by different government departments, for example, proposals for changes of approach or criteria on who qualifies for particular tenders. Measures were in place to ensure partnerships with Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) therefore allowing small businesses to participate. The matter of permanent employment was also addressed. This was influenced by the availability of skills and funds and he acknowledged that it was a challenge faced by the department and the matter was being looked into further.
The Water Research Commission responded on the matter of SMEs, saying they were also using research enterprise to develop small enterprise. It was noted that 29% of research projects were currently run by SMMEs. The Commission was using projects for the development of enterprise such as the use of a social franchising model to build and maintain toilets in schools. The Commission conducted had research on inland aquaculture run by the Department of Agriculture and a similar franchise model was now used for the promotion of indigenous food crops. Enterprise development was a key part of the portfolio.
On the 2% target for employing people with disabilities, the department pointed out that for the past 10 years to date, it has not yet achieved this and apologised for its failure. Currently, it was at 1%; however they have been taking on interns in the department. There has been dialogue with the department’s Human Resources and to relative institutions handling disabled people. This was to identify the availability and skills of disabled people so they could be employed by the Department of Water Affairs. The department was making sure that its infrastructure was user friendly for disabled people.
With reference to bursaries and training, the department pointed out that a training centre was in place for training candidate engineers. R73 million had been spent per annum, and they wished for more allocation of funds in future. There was a signed memorandum of understanding for 18 institutions of higher learning to train people in engineering and other science related fields. Since 2007, the department had given out 648 bursaries, 203 bursaries were still being maintained; of which 90 were allocated this year and they had placed most of the graduate students in the department; 231 were scientists and engineers. The department had received a prize as the best public training institution in the public service. Rand Water and Magalies Water Boards were also providing various training. The high rate of vacancies in the department which was around 13 .5 % was acknowledged. This was as a result of signed policies which had unintended consequences that were overlooked. There was high payment for the OSD (Occupation Specific Dispensation) programme. This meant scientists and engineers found OSD salary status preferable to lower-paying directorships, which in turn created director vacancies He suggested the Committee assist on the matter of this particular policy as the present one created discrepancies and limitations in term of hiring personnel. Such restrictions were part of the issues that were currently being addressed by the department
On the hiring of consultants, the department hired consultants who owned expensive tools and machinery such as cranes for once-off use in projects so as to avoid the upkeep and maintenance costs in owning such tools. However, these matters were being addressed by promoting small companies and big business as well as training emerging companies so that one could slowly start using them in the implementation of BEE goals and department projects. Further, it would be difficult to hire people on a permanent basis. For example, the construction of a dam had a limited time frame and would require temporary employment. The department said 42% of people working on the construction of dams were youth. Local communities where the development was located were employed rather than importing personnel from other provinces.
The Acting Director General responded to the question about the use of municipal space and the municipal infrastructure grant (MIG funds). Municipal funds were not controlled by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation but was controlled by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs which is responsible for ensuring compliance and monitoring of such funds. The Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation was responsible for grants such as the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant, Water Service Operating and Subsidy Grant, Municipal Water Infrastructure Grant plus the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme.
Ms Zandile Mathe, DDG: National Water Research Institute (NWRI), spoke about the SONA reference to the infrastructure development projects covering water provision that were to be implemented in the years 2014 to 2015. Some projects such as the De Hoop dam project had been completed and were getting into the bulk distribution system phases, whereas projects such as the Clanwilliam dam, the Mzimvubu water project and Mokolo River were underway. It would take a minimum of three years to complete the construction of the dam during which time artisan programmes are conducted at the training academy and the people involved in the project are trained to become qualified artisans. The Department of Water Affairs in conjunction with the Department of Energy was working towards increasing the energy capacity out of 318 dams. They would identify a certain number of dams that would be used as pilots for production of hydropower. The project would target the independent power producers (IPP) and the strategy will promote radical economic distribution.
Ms Nthabiseng Fundakubi (CFO: Main Account) referred to the question on spending of funds in relation to the budget. The department was addressing the matter by aligning the APP with the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) to ensure that budgets are spent according to what was planned for. The department had developed demand plans; which included procurement plans to ensure that budgets are spent. Monitoring of expenditure was conducted monthly as well as quarterly. For the transfer of funds to a municipality, tools such as quarterly reports are used to check if municipality has met the requirements. If a municipality failed to comply, the funds would be withheld until the specific requirements were met. There had been an improvement in internal controls that allowed efficient control systems for budget expenditure of the department.
Mr Anil Singh (DDG: Regulations) responded to the question on the green and blue drop water quality matter. He pointed out that the department was working towards accelerating the certification programme in relation to the overall improvement of water quality in the country. There was both green drop and blue drop certification programmes in place as an incentive-based regulatory approach which would assist in supporting a municipality improve its water quality and waste water management. Information was communicated through reports as well as award ceremonies. The department’s future focus was how to support the poorer performing municipality in terms of the overall quality improvement. Dealing with a municipality included the intergovernmental relations framework and the principle of the autonomy of the three spheres government should be applied especially the respecting of local government. He acknowledged that the department had achieved a lot but there was still room for improvement. With reference to Madibeng, there had been a collective governance approach to try deal with its problems but matters had become complicated. Therefore they opted to work directly with the municipality to assist in improving the situation. In terms of licensing, the department had been working towards an integrated licensing approach with the Department of Mineral Resources as well the Department of Environmental Affairs and this culminated in three pieces of legislation which included the aligning of time frames and producing of water licences in a quicker manner.
Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, DDG: Planning, responded to questions on integrated water resource planning. She emphasised that department aimed to ensure a continuous supply of water as well as determining needs and demands. Integrated water resource planning was informed by where the needs are, economic development, the National Development Plan as well the National Water Resource Strategy. The latest policy review that was recently approved by Cabinet included the full value chain such as planning for water services, highlighting the supply as well as its distribution, progressive realisation of higher services and provision of infrastructure development for realisation of higher services such as the installation of street pipes. The department would look into the implications for water in relation to water borne sanitation.
Dr Gydu-Ababio Thomas (Chief Executive: Inkomati Catchment Management Agency) responded to the question on pollution of water resources. The unit had its own method of monitoring in the catchment area and to detect the surface pollution. If pollution was detected, then necessary steps would follow to remedy the situation. In cases of identified sources pollution, follow-ups are made and they meet with the industries and mines responsible with the intention of stopping the problem. However, if not resolved, the matter would be taken to the court of law. The matter of pollution by municipalities was acknowledged. They often pollute water resources because of their aged infrastructure. He explained the unit usually sent through a team of specialist advisors on matters relating to pollution but their advice would be turned down by the municipality who pointed out the reasons were due to a lack of funds. Dr Gydu-Ababio was surprised to learn from the budget presentation that funds were allocated for spending on such a matter. The committee was reminded that indeed there were enforcement measures in place for the unit to address the pollution of water resources.
Mr Phakamani Buthelezi - Chief Executive: Breede-Overberg CMA) added that the unit has monitoring activities such as the testing of water on a monthly basis, analysis and discussions were conducted with the municipalities on matters of water quality. He noted that the quality of water has been improving drastically.
Ms Deborah Machotli commented on planning, saying that centralised planning had not been working effectively. Therefore, it was the department plan to rollout systems for provinces.
The Chairperson reminded members about the second round of question and was pleased with the questions so far and how the meeting was proceeding. However the discussion could change its form, referring to a statement about the ‘promotion of black business’ which seemed to have changed its meaning as the discussion went on. He asked members to remain on the same level.
Ms N Bilankulu referred to the annual target for employment of people with disabilities which seemed not to be indicated in the APP. She asked if this could be shown. She asked for clarity on the percentages indicated for improved organisation performance and corporate services. It was suggested that actual numbers should be used for clarity purposes. She expressed concern about long term infrastructure and other capital plans with reference to the Mopani district municipality emergency works. The report should indicate the type of construction in relation to its locality.
Mr M Shelembe requested the department respond to the problems it faces regarding the OSD posts and suggested that the matter should addressed effectively.
Mr Basson asked about the type of structure in place for regulating water tariffs and if the problem of backlogs with water licensing was still there, if so he requested the department to provide reasons.
Mr M Galo (AIC) noted some errors in the APP slide presentation. There was a mix up in municipality names in relation to particular projects.
Ms M Khawula asked for clarity on how the department was meeting the needs of rural people, or where needs were met according to party affiliation. Certain people still live without a water source and pollution has been a problem for rural communities. Toilets next to the rivers posed a threat to water resources for communities living along the river. She suggested that follow ups should be made to check on such concerns and meeting the needs of people.
Mr Makondo said he had earlier asked about monitoring municipal water infrastructure grants and whether they were spent properly and he was not happy with the response provided. What did the department mean by saying it was “monitoring” because it seemed certain projects (such as Project 39) are long overdue and not completed.
Mr Mnguni suggested Members should put more pressure on the department and should select projects and visit project sites. Department officials had to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their performance. He said that water is a necessity which has to be managed for future generations.
Ms Maluleke commended the work of the various department units and they seemed to be moving towards making a positive impact. However, implementation was too slow and should be improved.
Concern was expressed about lack of bridges which affect people’s movement and children fail to attend schools that are across rivers as well as the poor water quality especially in the rainy season in rural areas. People were only considered important during elections and abandoned thereafter. There had to be an improvement in communication between the rural community and department officials in order to find solutions to such water related problems.
The Chairperson emphasised that members should speak more of practical issues rather than theories. The assigning of responsibilities should be in relation to targets for the specific financial year. He raised the issue of the 2% target for employing people with disabilities. He was also concerned about the outsourcing of staff instead of using the relevant government department such as Department of Public Works and the spending of millions of rands. He acknowledged that planning was ongoing however he needed clarity on municipalities in relation to the plans for the water boards.
Mr Balzer (Acting DG) replied to the question on water policy asked by Mr Basson. The department was currently conducting a review of water tariffs policy and the tariffs supplied by the water boards. The issue of backlogs (221 licence backlogs, 174 of them due to outstanding information from applicants) were being addressed. He apologised for typing errors in the APP and these would be rectified. The matter raised about the department not working effectively was acknowledged and that they took this seriously and would work towards meeting the department’s mandate so as to leave a legacy for the future generation. The matter that was raised by the chairperson at a practical level was noted and would be addressed. On the use of consultants and why they could not use Public Works was acknowledged and he pointed out that the Department of Water Affairs was far advanced in terms of technical staff and its profile. He suggested that Department of Public Works should have a reservoir of engineers from which the Department of Water could take. The Department of Public Works was monitoring and managing the regulatory environment of the CIDB and the built environment and such issues fell within its mandate.
Mr Mahlangu responded to the matter of people with disabilities and mentioned that the Department of Social Development dealt with issues of women, children and people with disabilities and should assist in setting guidelines on matters of disability for the Department of Water Affairs. He acknowledged the request for an indication of percentages of work skills attained and pledged to include the specific number in the APP. There have been previous discussions with the Department of Public Works regarding the OSD posts as well as getting retired engineers into the department. However, the secondary structure for OSD posts that would provide engineers was still to be discussed with the new Minister.
Ms Mathe referred to Mopani and agreed that it was not a dam but a pipeline. The project or re-establishment of the pipeline had been completed. On the construction of a dam in Mopani, the design had been completed and the Committee was assured that construction would start before the end of the 2014 financial year.
Ms Fundakubi responded to the question on the monitoring of municipality funds. Funds were allocated to municipalities as direct grants. Through monitoring it was discovered that some municipality did not have capacity to spend. The money that was spent did not correlate to the budgeted items. There has been a revision in the allocation of funds. These have been diverted to projects that would be monitored by the department as part of the control over spending of funds.
Mr Mahlangu responded about the municipality grant and water boards, saying there had been engagement on this and asked if the Portfolio Committee could help in sorting out the flow of funds from the local municipality, districts to water boards which had been a challenge.
Mr M Msiwa (CE: Amathola Water Board) spoke about the work of water boards as implementing agencies for municipalities and the large unpaid debt owed by municipalities to them. The matter was a challenge. He suggested that funds be transferred from the department straight to the implementing programme for there was no value add from the funds which were paid to the municipality. That process led to various financial troubles such as lost invoices and disputes and changes in officials. On the funds for the supply of bulk water to municipalities, he noted the system had resulted in competition due to the inappropriate translation of the water authority
Mr Mofokeng referred to the matter of the 1% employment of people with disability. This could not be a full reflection of the sector as a whole but represented certain sectors of the department and the matter will be looked into further. The department had been engaging with National Treasury, provincial governments and municipalities to address the issue of debt. He asked the Committee whether the equitable share should be conditional or rather depend on funds allocated for a particular use.
Mr Thami Hlongwa (Umgeni Water Board) responded about the water quality problems in Maphumulo and noted that the situation was being attended to.
The Deputy Minister of the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation thanked Members and delegates for their participation. All concerns raised had been noted and it was the government’s aim that people in rural areas have access to clean water and that there will be visits to all provinces.
The Chairperson thanked everyone. He noted that the committee would go into recess in the third week of July. There would be site visits as soon as such a structure was in place.
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- PC Water: Department of Water and Sanitation on Budget, Strategic Plan & Annual Performance Plan of Department & its entities
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