The Committee unanimously resolved to cancel the meeting with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for not submitting a report that was supposed to have been submitted on 28 October 2016. It had been agreed at a meeting in the North West Province from 20 to 22 September 2016, that the Department would submit a report on an intervention strategy to speed up the provision of water to the people of two local municipalities, Madibeng and Magalies.
The Chairperson considered the failure to submit the report an undermining of the functions of Parliament. A Member commented that the conduct of the DWS was tantamount to that of a child who failed to abide by the authority of its parents. Another Member was particularly concerned at the fact that taxpayer’s money had been wasted on bringing the Department before the Committee, and proposed that it should pay for its own accommodation and flight expenses.
The Chairperson emphasised that the provision of water was constitutionally protected and that the main concern of the Committee was to change the lives of people. The Committee was disturbed by the relaxed manner in which the Department was handling the matter when the people of Kgetleng and Madibeng were suffering as a result of a lack of access to water.
The meeting was cancelled.
The Chairperson raised the issue that Parliament had been undermined by the non-submission of a critical report on the water situation in rural areas. The report was concerned with an intervention strategy to speed up water provision to the people of Magalies and Madibeng. This had been agreed upon at a meeting held in the North West Province from 20 to 22 September 2016. The Chairperson stressed the poor level of assistance that had been offered to the Committee by departments and entities. This had only added to the bad impression held by the public about Members of Parliament.
Mr H Chauke (ANC) stressed the importance of the report which was supposed to have been submitted to the Committee. He said that the DWS should account for the non-submission of the report, as the presentation before the Committee did not stand alone, and was supported by the report.
The Department responded that the report had been submitted to the Committee, and apologised profusely for the misunderstanding, as the report had been submitted as a ‘submission’ rather than as a ‘report,’ and the Department had been unaware of the format of the report. At a point of progress, it was difficult to compile a report, as the Department was conducting feasibility studies concerning the pipeline which had been envisaged. It requested a week to engage with the affected municipality and compile a final report.
Mr L Basson (DA) said that at a previous meeting, the Acting Director General of the DWS had stated that the report was ready and on its way.
Mr Chauke emphasised the importance of being serious when accounting to the Committee. When the Committee took a decision on the crisis which South Africans were facing, the Department was required to comply with instructions given by the Committee. Instead, the work had not been done. Not long ago, the Committee had been informed that the report was being compiled and would be presented. The Committee had a direct interest in the matter. He acknowledged that the Department had skilled people, but he was concerned at the fact that in Swartruggens there was no water, and that the Koster Dam was drying up. He was not impressed with the level of performance by the Department. He was saddened by the situation of South Africans without water.
He proposed that the meeting should be cancelled because the Department was unprepared, and that the Department should pay for its own airfares and accommodation. The Minister was required to account in the Chamber for the water crisis in Kgatleng, and her response was to be informed by the report.
The Chairperson reminded the Department that when the Parliamentary committees exercised oversight, it meant that resolutions of Parliament had been taken. The report was to go to the National Assembly to account for work that had been done during the year by the Committee. When the Department was not meeting these resolutions, it was undermining Parliament. The Committee’s report was ready for the National Assembly, which was to endorse the report. He emphasised that the provision of water was constitutionally protected, and that the main concern of the Committee was to change the lives of people.
The Committee was disturbed by the relaxed manner in which the Department was handling the matter, when people in Kgetleng and Madibeng suffered through a lack of access to water.
Several Members supported Mr Chauke. A Member compared the conduct of the Department to that of a child who did not want to listen to its parents.
The meeting was cancelled.