Department of Water and Sanitation on 3rd Quarter 2015/16 performance

Water and Sanitation

09 March 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) briefed the Committee on its 3rd quarter of 2015 performance. A detailed analysis of its programmes on Administration, Water Sector Management, Water Infrastructure Management Water, Sanitation Services and Water Sector Regulation was given, outlining the main challenges and the extent to which targets had been achieved. In Programme 1, there was an increase in the vacancy rate. Although pipelines and electrical installations for the short term Acid Mine Drainage measures in the Eastern Basin were finalised, there were delays in inserting the pumps pending links with Eskom power supplies. The draft levy costing model had not been finalised yet. Under the Water Sector Management programme, a provincial regional Bulk Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Master Plan for Eastern Cape was developed, but there were delays in finalising the national and provincial plans. Public consultations had been held on proposed water resource classification. The numbers of jobs created in priority municipalities, in the Dam Safety Rehabilitation Scheme, and in the Water Infrastructure Management programme, as well as progress in seven out of the 13 planned bulk infrastructure schemes were outlined. Updates were given on the dam projects. In relation to Water and Sanitation Services, the DWS outlined that progress was measured against three criteria which must all be present – a list of households, certificate of completion from the municipality and a “happy letter” confirming the services by the household. In many cases the work had been done but certificates and letters were not provided. By December 2015 1 715 bucket structures had been eradicated, and 3 780 rural sanitation structures created.  A Programme Management Unit had been set up to address gaps, and project managers were reporting weekly on progress and challenges, with support offered to municipalities. In relation to Water Sector Regulation, a draft business case to establish the national water infrastructure agency was developed, and this would be fast-tracked in the coming year. The Water Trading Entity had monitored 65 rivers by the end of December.

An update on bucket eradication up to end February 2016 was also given, noting that buckets had been eradicated from five towns: Britstown, Petrusville, Kanana, Fauriesmith and Springbok. There were still many challenges which included hard rock conditions, smaller outfall sewer diameters between old and new infrastructure, and pending approvals for wayleaves over railway lines in the Northern Cape. Coupled with the decrease, however, were increases in other areas, particularly informal areas, although DWS was concentrating on eradication in formal settlements.

Members were disappointed that the presentation was received late. They asked how the DWS was dealing with water loss and illegal use of water by farmers and mine owners without licences, although the DWS said it was not aware of the latter. They asked about spending on infrastructure, and reasons for underspending, particularly in KwaZulu Natal, as well as instances of over-spending. They questioned  the continuing existence of buckets and toilets that the community could not use because they were full, and an EFF member claimed there were uneven services offered to different races. Members also asked about vacancy rates for engineers and scientists, wanted more details on the War on Leaks programme, and who would be responsible for the new grants. The Department was asked why it had not yet paid the debt it owed Bloem Water, and who was responsible for policing municipalities, to avoid contamination, and for prescribing standards to contractors. The DWS was also requested to explain its definition of formal and informal systems, and what working relationships were in place with the Department of Cooperative Governance. 

Meeting report

Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on its 3rd quarter 2015 performance
Ms Margaret Ann Diedricks,  Director General, Department of Water and Sanitation, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the 3rd quarter progress report of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS or the Department).

Ms Babalwa Manyakanyaka, Chief Director: Corporate Planning, Department of Water and Sanitation, outlined the various programmes of the Department.

In Programme 1: Administration, the vacancy rate increased, due to resignations and exiting of officials as well as the inability to attract and appoint technical people. The pipelines and electrical installations for the short term Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) measures in the Eastern Basin were finalised. However, delays were experienced in inserting the pump, pending the link with Eskom power supply. A potential implementing agent was identified for the AMD long term project, through which a construction contractor may be appointed. The National Treasury was advised that an alternative implementing agent is being considered.

The levy concept was drafted, with the levy costing to be determined. The draft levy costing model had not been finalised as National Treasury may appoint a service provider to assist with determination of the costing.

She moved on to the highlights of Programme 2: Water Sector Management. She noted that the contract to appoint a service provider for the EIA Western Cape Water Supply System Augmentation project had been finalised and signed. The scoping report was not achieved as the contract appointments were finalised only on 20 January 2016. The provincial Regional Bulk Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Master Plan for Eastern Cape was developed. Nonetheless, lack of funding and technical support resulted in delays in finalising the first draft national and provincial Water Services Bulk Master Plans.

There had been public consultation on proposed water resource classes and Resource Quality Objectives (RQO) for the 5 -river systems but legal notices could not be updated as most comments could not be addressed.  Also, the delay by internal specialists in providing the required technical guidance to assist in dealing with all comments received had hampered the achievement of the target.

630 out of 2 010 targeted job opportunities were created, through interim or basic water supply in the 27 priority district municipalities. Late appointment of contractors by the West Rand District Municipality delayed the commencement in Gauteng of projects in Mogale City, Westonaria and Randfontein. This also negatively impacted on the creation of job opportunities.

132 of the planned 191 job opportunities were created through the Dam Safety Rehabilitation programme, with 41 job opportunities created during Q3. No appointments were made in December because the construction sites closed early.

Seven of the planned 13 bulk infrastructure schemes were completed, one in Q3, in Msukaligwa. The Moutse project had experienced delays in getting approval to appoint labourers and procurement of materials. The Mzimvubu water project design reports had been finalised and approval granted for the establishment of a Project Management Office (PMO) in Mthatha. There were three key issues appealed by affected parties. The Department of Water and Sanitation had responded to the appeal received from Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and was awaiting the final outcome. The initiation of the Environmental Management Programme (EMP) process depended on the Environmental Authorisation affected by the appeal process.

The Greater Letaba Water Augmentation project (Nwamitwa Dam) tender design had been completed. Road realignment design was completed. The process had been accelerated and the dam tender design and road realignment design were in progress, and would be achieved in the next quarter.

In relation to the project for Raising Clanwilliam Dam, she reported that the Environmental Control Officer (ECO) had been appointed, with the PMO established, and this was currently being resourced. The site handover commenced on 24 November 2015. The environmental baseline assessment for the dam was under way, and this would pave the way for commencement of any physical activities on the dam. Activities related to access roads and excavations at the dam were also being done. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had been requested to give exemption for mining permits. Approval had been granted for the supervision team to review an alternative implementation model.  Pre-construction activities were currently being accelerated.

One dam safety project was completed. At the Roodekoppies Dam, delays in the procurement of rock fill material had affected the completion of the rehabilitation works. At Vaalkop II Dam,  there was damage to 95% of all construction plants at Vaalkop by the local community during unrest. At the Kalkfontein Dam, the work had to be halted due to the unavailability of the Approved Professional Person (APP) on the project, in line with the Dam Safety Regulations.

Ms Manyakanyaka the moved on to Programme 3: Water Infrastructure Management. In this programme,
142 job opportunities were created through financially supporting resource-poor farmers and installing rainwater harvesting tanks. In Q3, 35 job opportunities were created.

Programme 4: Water and Sanitation Services was measured using three criteria, and all three criteria must be met for the performance to be recognised. The three criteria are:
- A list of all households that were provided with a service
- A certificate of completion from the municipality
- A “happy letter” from the receiving household.
As at December 2015, 1 715 bucket structures were eradicated but because two of the criteria (i.e. completion certificate and happy letter) were not met, the performance was reduced to 1 197. In the areas of rural sanitation, 3 780 structures had been completed as at December 2015. However, the “happy letters” were outstanding, and so the recorded performance was reduced to 1 796 structures.
Ms Manyakanyaka noted that the DWS had established a Programme Management Unit to address gaps such as limited institutional capacity and resources, segmentation and poor planning of functions, poor information management, and performance monitoring and compliance, all of which impeded service delivery. DWS had appointed Professional Resource Teams as Project Managers, developed weekly reporting on progress and challenges, and on interventions made, was holding bi-weekly technical meetings and weekly site visits. DWS will support municipalities in the event of delivery lapses, to ensure that interventions are made to achieve planned delivery.

She next moved on to describe progress under Programme 5: Water Sector Regulation. A draft business case on establishing the national water infrastructure agency was developed. The activity will be fast tracked during the 2016/17 financial year. The second draft economic regulation strategy was not finalised due to the timing of the gazetting of the Raw Water Pump Station (RWPS) and public consultation on section 10. This should be finalised in the next quarter.

In relation to the Water Trading Entity, it was reported that 65 rivers were monitored to date, with 19 of those being monitored in the Q3.

Mr Andre van der Walt, Chief Director: Sanitation, DWS, said that buckets had been eradicated in five towns, with 806 units, by the end of February 2016 as follows; Britstown, Petrusville, Kanana, Fauriesmith and Springbok. However, in regard to bucket eradication, the DWS still faced a number of challenges. These included:
- Difficult soil conditions, with hard rock. Projects were now employing blasting and heavy machinery to excavate trenches for water and sewer reticulation
- Newly installed infrastructure cannot be accommodated in the old infrastructure, due to a smaller outfall sewer diameter. DWS aligned its bulk infrastructure projects to bucket eradication, to address new and upgraded projects
- Approvals were still pending for wayleaves to cross railway lines in the Northern Cape. DWS is interacting with Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa in the Northern Cape
- The number of buckets to be eradicated is still increasing in some areas (though decreasing in others) due to some in-fill areas being informal. DWS is adhering to the definition of eradicating ‘formal’ buckets.

The Chairperson thanked the Department, but expressed his dissatisfaction that the presentation documents, which were supposed to be received one week prior to the meeting to enable Members to prepare properly, were submitted late.  He asked about the strength of the construction unit, at what point the Department would use this unit's staff, and at what point it would rather choose to go out and invite service providers from the public. He asked what was the enforcement plan for water losses and illegal use of water by some farmers, and how far the Department had managed to go in dealing with 104 mine owners using water without licenses.

Mr L Basson (DA) asked why the Department was not spending money on infrastructure. He also wanted to know the reason for the Department’s under-spending, despite having enough money.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) also expressed dissatisfaction over the late delivery of the presentation to the Committee. She asked why the KwaZulu Natal budget was not used, and where it went. She asked why Gauteng did not receive any adjustment grant. She was concerned that there were still bucket systems in existence, despite the fact that the DWS had assured the Committee that all buckets would be eradicated some time in this year. She noted that, for example, in Port Elizabeth, toilets had been constructed but they were not working. There were also no toilets in some housing units. She commented that it still seemed to be that black people were receiving sub-standard forms of development, compared to other races. She asked what the DWS was doing about contaminated water in some areas.

Ms T Baker (DA) asked about the vacancy rate of the engineers and scientists, asking how many people in these particular categories had left and how many remained. She wanted to know the reasons for the delay in finalising the Master Plan and whether the DWS was developing a new Plan.  She asked if the DWS was working with the Department of Public Works on the War on Leaks programme. She wanted to know who would be responsible for the management of the Water Infrastructure grant and the new grant after its merger – the DWS, or the individual municipalities? Why had the Department not yet paid the debt it owed Bloem Water? Finally she asked how many towns are affected by drought.

Mr I Cebekhulu (IFP) asked why KZN was not listed in the presentation, since there are still buckets being used in that province. He asked who was responsible for policing municipalities in maintaining their bucket systems in a way that would avoid river contamination. Pointing out that some of the pits in some communities were very shallow, he also asked who was responsible for prescribing to the contractors that they must build safe pits.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) urged the DWS not to “make under spending the norm”. He noted the comment that the under spending on office accommodation can be attributed to the fact that the Main Account is still paying office rental on behalf of the Water Trading Entity, and the invoice from Main Account will be presented in the fourth quarter. He wanted comment on this. He also wanted clarification on the over expenditure and the late clearing of invoices for international travel for officials to accompany the Minister.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked why some targets on water infrastructure development were not achieved. He sought clarification on what the DWS regarded as  formal and informal bucket systems. He noted that whilst some units have been completed and are flushing; others have been completed but are not flushing, and he wanted to know the timeframe to complete this work?

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) queried whether, in regard to the bucket eradication, the DWS had a working relationship with the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCOG). She questioned the reason for under -spending.

Ms Diedricks apologised for the late submission of the presentation to the Committee. She said that the DWS was not aware of any mine owners without licenses, but this would be investigated. In relation to construction of units, she said that the DWS had had internal maintenance issues, meaning that in some cases the work had exceeded both time and budget. The Department was working towards the creation of an Infrastructure Agency. The Department had developed a format for procurement of localisation. The reasons for underspending had mostly to do with the prevailing conditions; some made it impossible to achieve the targets. Any budget remaining would not be spent on other matters but would be returned to National Treasury. If the prevailing conditions were cleared or improved, the Department would request a roll over of that money, or it could ask National Treasury to re-allocate the funding to other projects that were more pressing.

She noted that according to the definition of “formal” bucket systems, there were no remaining buckets in KZN, Limpopo and Gauteng. Where buckets were being used in these provinces, they fell outside the  definition of formal buckets and formal settlement, as directed by the Minister. People used chemical toilets in formal areas or might use buckets where they resided in informal settlements. She explained that a formal settlement was described as one where the residents held a deed, where the land had, under town planning, been designated as a stand and the area was designated as a township. Sanitation policy was looking to deal with informal settlements, but these could “pop up” in any area.

She emphasised that in some cases targets were not met because the municipality had not provided the “happy letter”, or had delayed in signing them. Proper governance approaches would go far to make sure there was delivery on the “happy letters”. She noted that the War on Leaks programme was launched by the President in 2015, in Eastern Cape. The DWS provided training and training certificates for that programme. Another War on Leaks had been launched in 2013 by the Department of Public Works, but this one had been funded, planned, and training offered solely by the Department of Public works. The DWS agreed, in an MOU, to provide learners from different municipalities.

In answer to the question on Bloem Water, Ms Diedricks said that the Department had asked for invoices from Bloem Water, to ascertain what sum it was owed. She noted that the increase in the vacancy rate was as a result of restructuring in the Department, coupled with some difficulty in sourcing capacity, and recruiting the right professionals. She assured Members that DWS would continue to work to improve on its under expenditure. The Department was making headway in preventing water contamination.

Mr van der Walt added that money earmarked for Water Infrastructure Assets has been redirected to drought intervention.

Mr Mpho Mofokeng, Chief Financial Officer, Water Trading Entity, said consultation had been held with relevant stakeholders.
Mr Anil Singh, Deputy Director General: Regulation, DWS,  said the Department was working on pollution and irrigation boards. There was a road map in place on how to transform the irrigation board. The Department would continue to deal with water pollution issues. It was generally doing well despite challenges in some areas.

Mr van der Walt said that Mpumalanga still had areas using buckets but this would be dealt with. The queries on the municipalities and pollution of water would be dealt with in writing. 

Ms Khawula said that toilets should be provided in the townships, pointing out that many people were going into the forests, from Wards 101, 19 and 22, where there were no toilets available; although VIP toilets had been made available in the first two areas, they were full.

Mr Mnguni suggested that the Department should use the nine regional offices for monitoring and evaluation and so that they could help in recruitment.

The meeting was adjourned.


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