Infrastructure Master Plan: Department of Water and Sanitation briefing, with Deputy Minister in attendance

Water and Sanitation

03 June 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) briefed the Committee on the Water and Sanitation Investment Framework. It said the challenges the DWS faced were because there was no integrated water and sanitation policy. The sanitation function had come to the DWS last September and the need for an infrastructure master plan had been endorsed by Cabinet in February 2015 as a plan that cut across all spheres of government. There were 4 400 dams in the country and 320 were in the jurisdiction of the DWS.

The water and sanitation sector had a poor track record because of under-utilised dams, incomplete services and lack of functionality, and this required a holistic, integrated approach to infrastructure development going forward. Water resources were owned by the national, provincial and local governments, and used by industries, farmers, households, and energy companies, among others. All these needed water management.

In 2011, the total estimated infrastructure replacement cost had been R 970 billion, and the total investment requirement over ten years was R670 billion, or  R67 billion per annum. Total funding available had been R33 billion per annum, meaning there had been a funding deficit of R34 billion per annum. The refurbishment component was 43% of cost. Currently, the total estimated replacement cost was R1.18 billion, and the estimated investment requirement over ten years was R805 billion, or R81 billion per annum. The total funding available was R46 billion per annum, meaning there was a funding deficit of R35 billion per annum and a refurbishment estimate of 46% of the cost. The financing requirement had increased between 2011/12 and 2014/15, from R67 billion a year to R81 billion a year. The major problem was a lack of capacity in municipalities, combined with ageing infrastructure and vandalism. The bulk of the money in the plan would be going to maintenance.

An important issue was the power of the constitution and other legislation regarding who was responsible for water infrastructure. There had been a misalignment of the different spheres of government which had led to poor service, so they were now working towards integrated development. No legislation had been amended to allow the DWS to go into municipalities, and it could only work on the principles of cooperative governance. The infrastructure plan had to be intertwined with the maintenance plan. South Africa had met the millennium goal for water and sanitation and this meant something was being done. The DWS was dealing with a backlog of over 100 years in the making, and to eradicate it in 21 years was impossible, with the changing urban landscape, the mushrooming of informal settlements and the increase in urban migration.

Members said the Department must come with an infrastructure audit and a mapping of the country’s water resources in order to justify its budget requirements. They asked for a progress report on the bucket eradication programme, and stressed the need for a standardisation of the costs involved in providing toilets. Municipal water debts needed to be settled, because water boards were facing a financial crisis. Quick action was required to deal with the challenges facing the Department.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Committee, the Deputy Minister, visitors, and officials from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The Department should have brought an audit of the infrastructure that was already in place before talking about the R801 billion required for water infrastructure, as it would be moving from the known to the unknown. In the Eastern Cape, there was a dam with infrastructure that had been established 30 years ago and never been put to use. The question was what informed the DWS’s programmes, as they had to be premised on a plan. The Department had to think outside the box. It had to map out the country’s water resources. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) had done a lot of work in mapping water availability nationally. The presentation had to be contextualised, otherwise it would be moving from nowhere to nowhere. 

Ms Margaret-Ann Diedricks, Director General, DWS, said the challenges the DWS faced were because there was no integrated water and sanitation policy. The sanitation function had come to the DWS in September and the need for an infrastructure master plan had been endorsed by Cabinet in February 2015 as a plan that cut across all spheres of government. There were 4 400 dams in the country and 320 were in the jurisdiction of the DWS. The DWs was at the procurement level, and the amount projected was based on backlogs and expected commitments. The infrastructure plan had been aligned to the resources available. However, there was a disjuncture between Treasury allocations and conditional grants, and the Department risked building infrastructure that was not linked to municipalities.

Water and Sanitation Investment Framework

Mr Fred van Zyl, Chief Engineer: Macro Planning, DWS, said the water and sanitation sector had a poor track record because of under-utilised dams, incomplete services and lack of functionality, and this required a holistic, integrated approach to infrastructure development going forward. Water resources were owned by the national, provincial and local governments, and used by industries, farmers, households, and energy companies, among others. All these needed water management.

In 2011, the total estimated infrastructure replacement cost had been R 970 billion, and the total investment requirement over ten years was R670 billion, or  R 67 billion per annum. Total funding available had been R33 billion per annum, meaning there was a funding deficit R 34 billion per annum. The refurbishment component was 43% of cost. Currently, the total estimated replacement cost was R1.18 billion, and the estimated investment requirement over ten years was R805 billion, or R81 billion per annum. The total funding available was R46 billion per annum, meaning there was a funding deficit of R 35 billion per annum and a refurbishment estimate of 46% of the cost. The financing requirement had increased between 2011/12 and 2014/15, from R67 billion a year to R81 billion a year. The increase was due to inflation, developmental growth and extended and improved business assessments and requirements. The 17% cost increase over 3 years had been based on the official engineering CPAF (contract price adjustment factor). Other indices -- the consumer price index and the producer price index -- implied increases of up to 29 and 39% over the same period.

The investment requirement perspective included national water resource development and municipal water services development. At present, it excluded replacement of collapsed/failed systems (assessment under development); service level upgrades (additional R100 billion required for yard connection status); economic development sector reticulation (National Development Plan) and ecosystems rehabilitation (Sustainable Development Goal requirement). The 119-page presentation document provided the essential details, with diagrams, maps and tables.

Discussion

The Chairperson said the plan must be encapsulated in the NDP and the post-2015 sustainable goals. There must be reliability of energy supply at water pump stations by using solar or wind energy in case of load shedding.

Ms Pamela Tshwete, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, said that the major problem was lack of capacity in municipalities, combined with ageing infrastructure and vandalism. The bulk of the money in the plan would be going to maintenance. There had to be a meeting with municipalities as would have to do some of the work, and a joint meeting with the Cooperative Governance (COGTA) Portfolio Committee was needed. Every time there was a problem, the DWS carried the burden of the municipalities.

The Chairperson said COGTA had made it a requirement that 10% of municipal budgets had to go to maintenance. The state of collapse of infrastructure around the country, and depreciation levels, was a major concern. The philosopher Karl Marx had said all philosophers had interpreted the world, but the question was how one changed the world for the better. The master plan should not be just an academic exercise, but a practical and implementable. Programme.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked if the bucket eradication programme included one-roomed houses built with non-working septic tanks inside, to make the rooms fit for human habitation.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) said the DWS was unable to quantify what infrastructure was currently available, and what had been presented was just budgetary estimates. For a start, the DWS must present an audit of water infrastructure on the ground. He asked what had informed the R870 billion budget.

Mr L Basson (DA) asked why the DWS had come out with a plan that carried an annual R35 billion budget deficit. Whatever was planned without funding would just remain a plan.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said the DWS repeatedly referred to its challenges, but what was needed was for it to go and fix the problem in the municipalities. The DWS was not (U.S. singer) R. Kelly, repeatedly singing the same song every day.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) said she had met the chairperson and whip of the COGTA Committee to address the issues of maintenance. The presentation had been high level and not understandable at the level of politicians. The DWS could not fold its arms while recognising that municipalities had challenges and needed assistance. There had to be a focus on assets in order to keep people drinking water.

The Chairperson said the Committee would engage the DWS in the coming three months on the audit of the infrastructure, including the mapping of water resources. Farmers along the Vaal River used water illegally and mine companies used water without a licence. The water research strategy must talk to the equitable distribution of water so that when there were projections, there would be a sense of the current status quo. Some people with big dams sold water to government. The DWS must activate the toll free number 0860 200 200. Agriculture used 60%of the water in the country, and the DWS must oversee all water users, including mines and irrigation schemes. Farming irrigation equipment was outdated and needed to be repaired.

The Deputy Minister apologised for the use of acronyms in presentations, and said when the Committee met with the COGTA Committee on, it must remind it to pay money to water boards, as most of them were facing a financial crisis. The DWS would ensure people had quality water and toilets.

Ms Diedricks said that as far as the mandate of the DWS was concerned, water infrastructure referred to dams. There were 320 dams and the DWS knew where they were. An important issue was the power of the constitution and other legislation regarding who was responsible for water infrastructure. There had been a misalignment of the different spheres of government which had led to poor service, so they were now working toward integrated development. No legislation had been amended to allow the DWS to go into municipalities, and it could only work on the principles of cooperative governance. The infrastructure plan had to be intertwined with the maintenance plan. Given the deficit, the Department was not going to have enough money, but there were backlogs not only in the DWS, but also in the Departments of Housing, Education and Health. The DWS could put together a master plan in two years with a R1.8 trillion budget, but the government did not have the money. There had to be an investment framework in addition to the master plan. The DWS could borrow, but Treasury insists the money should be borrowed where it could be recovered.

Mr Anil Singh, Deputy Director General: Regulation, DWS, regarded the comments and questions in a positive light. Water debt at municipalities was a problem, and COGTA had to use its powers to ensure water boards were paid as they were facing a serious financial crisis. The Department would come and present on water rights enjoyed by golf estate owners and farmers, as it was currently doing verification and validation.

Ms Ntabiseng Fundakubi, Chief Financial Officer, DWS, said the Department received a qualified audit last year for not billing mining companies. It was aware that people would contest being billed, but hoped to recover the outstanding amounts from including irrigation farmers.

Ms Diedricks replied that the DWS was rolling out meters to farmers on the borders of rivers.

The Chairperson said the DWS workers had a combined 150 years of experience in the water sector, and the fact that there was a new department did not mean there were new people. He asked if the Department was planning from scratch.

Another official from the DWS responded that the Department was not planning from scratch, as there had previously been a water resource strategy. The question was to what extent the existing plan answered the existing questions and filled the existing gaps. The DWS had an ambitious plan starting with the refurbishment of canals, and an assessment report on irrigation infrastructure was due in December. About R1 billion would be spent on refurbishing the irrigation infrastructure, and the Department was currently rehabilitating 12 canals.

Mr Basson said the reason why National Treasury had not given the money was because it did not understand the plan. The continuous restructuring of the Department was a problem. It was said that water was life and sanitation was dignity, and one must do what one preached. If possible, the money to complete the plan must be borrowed at once, because next the cost would increase to R1.4 trillion. He would like to see the difference between a R36 000 toilet and a R6 000 toilet, as savings could come from there.

The Chairperson said there must be a follow up on the standardisation of prices for sanitation. R36 000 for a toilet was a criminal charge. The rand must be stretched to do more with less and feedback on this must come as soon as possible. The Committee must make a quick oversight visit. If possible, the DWS could introduce a pilot project and do things right, rather than just having big plans, as this challenge was not insurmountable

Ms Diedricks replied it was possible to have a pilot, and there were previous case studies of successful projects already in existence. When the DWS had received the sanitation component in November, it had raised a lot of questions with the implementing agencies to gain an understanding of the costs of toilets. One of the key issues was standardisation of costs. It was not possible to have the same toilet costing R6 000 from one agency and R36 000 from the other. The DWS was standardising the costs of toilets and going into geo-verification where there were rocky places to lay the pipes. It would take the cue from the Department of Human Settlements, where 15% of the cost of a house went to water and sanitation.

Between June and September, most implementing agencies would be moving out. The had already started in Mopani, Giyani and Bushbuckridge, connecting rural households to bulk infrastructure. The Committee would be given a list of places to go and oversee. South Africa had met the millennium goal for water and sanitation and this meant something was being done. The DWS was dealing with a backlog of over 100 years in the making, and to eradicate it in 21 years was impossible, with the changing urban landscape, the mushrooming of informal settlements and the increase in urban migration. The existing challenges could be met within the confines of what the Department had at its disposal.

The Chairperson said the issue was whether the Department was hitting the road running at 100m race sprinting pace, or with a Comrades Marathon pace. Given the challenges of backlogs, and the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, this was a 100m race which the DWS must hit sprinting.

Mr Mnguni said there was a need to move to an ideal situation, where everyone had water and toilets. Most of the entities had data bases of backlogs and what needed to be done, and where. The DWS could pull together the information and formulate its infrastructure plans. He asked if the Department had any water plans for nuclear energy.

Mr Mpontshane said the Committee dealt with the reality out in the communities. The Members came from specific constituencies and would be happy to be lectured about the projects that were running in their districts. The DWS should not talk about generalities, but what was specifically happening in a province or community. He was disappointed that contractors disappeared without finishing their projects and reappeared in another province doing the same work, while the pipes they had installed were bursting. 

Ms Maluleke said one of the challenges was for Members of Parliament to encourage residents to pay their rates to municipalities. In her constituency, the municipality was having difficulty in paying for the water, and the city of Tshwane was cutting off water, pending payment of rates. Even though the challenge was for the municipality, Members sometime put the blame on the DWS.

The Chairperson said Members were different from those who always complained and marched. They had a better understanding of the challenges on the ground. Communities from Members’ constituencies know that they sit on the Committee on Water, so the DWS had to make them shine as they also wanted to be voted back to power in the next elections. The Department must come with an infrastructure audit and a mapping of the country’s water resources. The Members wanted to see changes in the lives of ordinary people, having heard of these great plans.

Ms Diedricks said the nuclear programme was under discussion under the energy mix, and if nuclear was to come online, that would be in the next 30 years. The list across provinces would be made available by Friday, and the Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP) was due in December. The Department was prioritising 36 district municipalities, 23 distressed municipalities and three mining towns.

The meeting was adjourned. 

Share this page: