Progress report on meeting December 2015 deadline in respect of bucket eradication: Department of Water and Sanitation, with the Minister

Water and Sanitation

28 October 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) briefed the Committee on their Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP) progress report. The Programme was focused on bucket toilets in formal areas which had been established before 1994. The verified bucket eradication target as at 20 October 2015 was 57 329, of which 15 544 bucket toilets had already been eradicated. The outstanding work to be completed was 41 785 toilets, of which 13 420 would be completed by implementing agents, while the balance of 28 365 would be completed by the DWS in March 2016.

The Minister explained that the Department’s approach to eradicating bucket toilets had been to establish project steering committees in all provinces for overseeing the implementation of the programme, appointing turnkey contractors and standardising construction prices and professional fee. This was to ensure that most of the money was used for construction of the new toilets, and not on professional fees as had been the case in the past. The DWS had further stipulated in construction contracts that 25% of the sub-contractors had to be local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s), and that the contractors would be paid only upon completion and handover of the buckets, as and when the reticulation networks were completed.

The DWS had initially suggested December 2015 as a date for full eradication, and asked for an extension to March 2016. It reported that the extension was needed due to the negotiation of quantum and prices with subcontractors on standardised rates, hard rock conditions in the Northern Cape -- which had prompted the deployment of heavier, specialised equipment to the province -- and the choice of the type of sanitation solution, as well as the location of the structure in the property by the community, which had delayed the commencement of construction.

Members wanted to know the role that the local municipalities were playing in the BEP. Some felt that due to the lack of capacity inherent in the local municipalities, it could be better if all water and sanitation issues could be handed over to the DWS. Some were unhappy with the fact that DWS had asked for an extension, as the challenges were known even before the programme started. They sought clarity on the DWS’s approach of constructing toilets outside houses, where toilets already existed inside them.

Septic tanks of the newly built toilets were reported to have a lasting period of 20 years before they could be full. The veracity of this was questioned, as most septic tanks were reported to have been half full only two months after their construction. Members also sought clarity on the 25% beneficiation plan of the DWS -- whether it was the Department’s policy for all its projects or just for the Bucket Eradication Project. They wanted to know whether there would be enough water capacity in all the municipalities for functionality of the flushing system of the new toilets.

The general concern, which drew much attention from the Members, were the figures of the Department which indicated that most provinces, including Gauteng, had no bucket toilets, when in fact there were still many bucket toilets in those provinces.

Meeting report

DWS Progress Report on Bucket Eradication Programme

Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS) provided an overview of the Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP). She began her presentation by defining a ‘bucket toilet’ as use of a bucket or similar container located under a toilet seat which was used for retaining untreated human waste and urine until the bucket was removed for disposal of its contents. She emphasised that the BEP was focused on bucket toilets in formal areas established pre-1994.

The Department of Human Settlement (DHS) had verified the “post-94” formal buckets in 265 municipalities and in all nine provinces. In February 2007, the combined backlog for all municipalities in South Africa was 272 995 bucket toilets, or only 2,2% of 12.5 million households. However, DWS had carried out its own verification, which showed the backlog of bucket toilets in formal areas in was 58 010 buckets, which was an overall reduction of 214 985 buckets.

The bucket backlog had been qualified, and it had been found that the large initial backlog figure was mainly because the 2007 survey had not been aimed at capturing the bucket backlog only in formal areas, but had recorded the existence of bucket toilets in sampled households -- irrespective of location. This had prompted the DWS to undertake a second round of verification, which had confirmed the figure of 57 329 bucket toilets. It was pertinent to note that the second verification varied from the first verification, in that the second one was a physical count which checked functionality, presence and workability of the bucket toilets, while the first verification had used the South African Statistics Community Survey as a baseline to determine the backlog.

The Minister said that as at 20 October 2015, the verified bucket eradication target was standing at 57 329, of which 15 544 bucket toilets had already been eradicated. The outstanding work to be completed was 41 785 buckets toilets, of which 13 420 would be completed by implementing agents, while the balance of 28 365 would be completed by DWS in March 2016.

The DWS approach to eradicating bucket toilets had been to establish Project Steering Committees in all provinces for overseeing the implementation of the programme. It had appointed three turnkey contractors in the Free State, the Northern Cape and North West, and the Eastern Cape, on standardised rates which included the cost of the toilets’ structure (R15 000 per structure), reticulation per metre, project management (8%) and professional fees at 5%. This had been done to ensure that most of the money was used for construction of the new toilets, and not on professional fees, as had been the case in the past. The DWS had further stipulated in construction contracts that the use of sub-contractors had to be 25% local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s), and that the contractors would get paid only upon completion and handover of the buckets, as and when the reticulation networks were completed.

In terms of infrastructure, the DWS approach had provided alternatives. Where infrastructure was available, they proceeded with construction by using conventional supporting infrastructure, like water reservoirs and waste water treatment works, and where bulk infrastructure was not available or a settlement was remote, they provided alternative or temporary sanitation solutions, including the provision of low flush toilets and/or dry, on-site sanitation.

Mr Mpho Mofokeng, Chief Financial Officer: DWS, presented the BEP progress report, and said the Department hoped to have completed the 41 785 units by March 2016, of which 4 275 would have been completed by December 2015. The DWS had initially suggested December 2015 as the date for full eradication, but the start of construction had been delayed by the negotiation of quantum and prices with subcontractors on standardised rates, hard rock conditions in the Northern Cape -- which had prompted the deployment of heavier, specialised equipment to the province -- and the choice of the type of sanitation solution, as well as the location of the structure on the property, by the community.

Possible theft and vandalism of elements of the toilet structure over the festive season would pose challenges to the DWS if they completed the structures by December 2015, so they proposed to hand over the structures to communities for locking their toilets, ensuring the households took care of the structures over the festive period.

Mr Andre van der Walt, Chief Operating Officer, Sanitation Unit, DWS, presented on the actual work being done on the identified sites. He reported that in the Northern Cape Province, they intended to establish 2 374 units in Rosedale, 404 units in Britstown, 555 units in Douglas and 890 units in Victoria West.

Ms Mokonyane made concluding remarks on the presentation. She emphasised the importance of noting that they had introduced the 25% usage of local SMME’s in support of beneficiation, and that they had changed the system where contractors would be paid without having finished the work, because the financial year was coming to an end. According to their new system, which they had communicated with the Treasury, payments would be made only upon completion and handover of the buckets, as and when reticulation network was completed. The DWS had also standardised rates of construction and professional fees to ensure that the bulk of the money went to the construction of new toilets instead of the professional fees, as had been the case previously.

Discussion

The Chairperson said that ‘concurrence’ was an issue in these projects, as sanitation focused on the local and national sanitation. He wanted to know whether the Department’s budget was derived from local municipalities, or if it was national budget. Either way, he wanted a breakdown and a distinction to be made between local and national sanitation. On the issue of standardisation of prices, it was pertinent to note that places differed, and the prices of construction differed according to the places and the circumstances, so the Department had to take those issues into consideration when determining the standardisation of prices. He said that some of these projects were ideal on paper, but it would be much better for the Committee to be given a chance to examine them physically in order to understand them fully.

Mr M Galo (AIC) said he was impressed with the presentation, especially the project methodology. He wanted to know whether the local municipalities had any role to play in the project. If there was anything that was being done by the municipalities in terms of water and sanitation, he felt that it was much better if it could be handed over to DWS as the municipalities had no capacity for dealing with water and sanitation issues.

Ms T Baker (DA) said that the DWS was not justified in holding that the project had been delayed because there were areas with hard rock and therefore they had had to use soft materials to cover the pipes, since all those obstacles should have been identified before the project started. She also wanted clarity on why the DWS was constructing other toilets outside the houses, even where toilets already existed inside them. She questioned the validity of the verification information, which portrayed the province of Gauteng as having no bucket toilet problems, as she was aware that there were still bucket toilets in Gauteng.

Mr L Basson (DA) said that it was imperative for the Committee to see the actual physical toilets. The presentation had depicted that there were no bucket toilets in Limpopo formal settlements, but he was aware of formal settlements in Limpopo where bucket toilets still existed. He sought clarity on why the toilets could not be built near the houses. Septic tanks of these toilets were reported to have a lasting period of 20 years before they could be full, but a septic tank which had been built a few months ago was already half full, falsifying the presentation report. The presentation’s illustrations made it clear that the erection of the septic tanks were on slopes, thus eroding the soil, and he wanted to know whether the Department was aware of this and what measures were they implementing to curb ground water pollution. The Department also had to give an account of how toilets were not connected to the sewer lines.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) sought clarity on the validity of the DWS’s verification. He was aware that many houses in formal settlements already had built-in toilets, and as such, there was no justification for the Department to erect new toilet structures outside of the houses. He wanted to know whether the Department had consequence management in this regard. On the issue of 25% beneficiation, he sought clarity as to whether the 25% beneficiation was the department’s policy for all its projects, or if it was just for the Bucket Eradication Project.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) pointed out that the Department was lacking in monitoring and evaluation, as the monitoring and evaluation process did not end upon the completion of the new toilet structures. It ought to have realised that the septic tanks were not performing according to the desired expectations of 20 years. He asked whether the Department was sure about its set target timeframe of March 2016, as it would not be extended further. He further wanted to know whether the communities had a choice of which toilets they desired for their homes, and whether it was not possible for the Department to have rectified the older toilets, rather than building completely new ones.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) said that a contributing factor on why most of the new toilets were full was the lack of training by the Department on how communities had to use those toilets.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) asked for more details on the ‘implementing agents’ -- who they were, and how they were related to the Department.

Mr Basson said that he was aware that the new system used water for flushing would put pressure on some water plants, and so he wanted to know whether they would be enough water capacity in all the municipalities for functionality of the system.

The Minister responded that most questions and comments from the Members stemmed from the misconception that the DWS project of bucket eradication focused on every house, and this was not so. The houses which the project was focusing on were houses which were erected in the apartheid era and transferred to the municipalities in accordance with the Mandela and De Klerk pre-1994 Accord, which sought to rectify the problems of past apartheid. The project was only directed at bucket toilets in formal areas established before1994.

On the question of whether the communities had a choice in terms of placement of the toilets, she said that the communities were the ones which decided where the toilets had to be located. As far as the Amathole Municipality project was concerned, they were not responsible and as such, the responsible entity had to be called to answer on it.

On the question of how many toilets were waterborne, and how many were alternate, the DWS pleaded for an opportunity to confirm the figures. Regarding the delays caused by the presence of soil and hard rock, she said that it was imperative for Members to understand that the DWS had been given a project to implement, but had later found out the challenges of implementation only when they were already into the implementation stage. It had therefore not been possible for them to identify the soil and hard rock conditions before they implemented the project.

She alluded to the fact that training of the communities on how to use the toilets was imperative for the success of the project, together with the consequence management on their part. She pointed out, however, that they had a challenge in applying consequence management as the old toilets -- which most Members felt could have been refurbished and rectified instead of building new ones -- were depleted and poor, and fixing them would be deplorable.

Implementing agents were explained in slide 10 of the presentation. They were contractors who were still under contract with the Department of Human Settlements to eradicate the bucket system, so they were still under an obligation to implement their contracts, and hence the word ‘implementing agents’.

Mr Mofokeng confirmed the completion target of March 2016 for all outstanding work.

Ms Mokonyane, on the issue of whether the 25% beneficiation was for all their projects or the Bucket Eradication Project, said that it was for the latter.

The Chairperson said that overall, this was a practical project which was evidenced by results on the ground.

Mr Mnguni said that the people on the ground did not know which department was responsible for which programme -- all they wanted were toilets to be rectified. He asked whether it was possible for the DWS to be flexible and cater for those houses which only needed a pipeline connection from their houses.

Mr Basson said that they had not received a report on these projects from the Department, and wanted to know why that was the case.

Ms Baker said that she was aware of a number of units which had been completed but had never flushed, wanted clarity as to why that was the case.

The Minister explained why the Department could not cater for the houses which were in need of a pipeline connection. She said that there had to be an engagement with all the relevant departments on the issue, but as things stood, they were unable to connect such pipes as they would be accused of over-expenditure. The municipalities had their own budgets which they administered alone, and therefore the DWS could not interfere. She pleaded for the consolidation of the Water Services Act and the National Water Act to ensure that they were no overlaps and inconsistencies.

Mr Mofokeng said that the non-flushing areas would be completed with reticulation in March 2016.

The Minister responded on the report being late, and said that it had been attributed to the fact that it had been given to the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) for their inputs in an effort to ensure that the report was owned by both departments.

The Chairperson said Members should have noted that the Department of Justice had prioritised the drafting of legislation dealing with vandalism of government property, inclusive of water and sanitation property, and as such, the alignment with other departments with regard to government property was imperative.

Ms Baker said that the definition of the bucket toilet in slide 3 of the presentation had been deceiving, as it had indicated that the Department was working on the bucket toilets established ‘after 1994’. This should have been corrected to read that the project was focused on bucket toilets ‘pre-1994’.

Mr Mofokeng said that the slide which portrayed ‘after 1994’ was an error which ought to have been corrected to show that the period was ‘pre-1994’.

Mr Basson expressed great concern over the fact that the DWS report submission to the Committee had always been changed without due cause. There was no rationale for why the report would be submitted to SALGA, but would not be submitted to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that the issue of the report would definitely be discussed the following week, so Members should refrain from engaging in open-ended processes. He then announced some housekeeping issues for the meeting of the Committee the following week. and adjourned the meeting.

 

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