It was agreed by the Select Committee on Social Services that, even though the annual report of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) was not received timeously, due to time constraints it was advisable for the meeting to proceed.
The DWS said that during the year under review, through its various programmes, it had continued its commitment to manage the country’s water resources effectively to ensure equitable and sustainable socio-economic development and universal access to water and dignified sanitation. The Cabinet had approved the new national sanitation policy on 7 December 2016. A total of 13 mega water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of at least R1 billion over the project lifecycle -- were under construction. A further 35 large water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of at least R250 million, but less than R1 billion over the project lifecycle -- were under construction, with two completed during the period under review. A total of 519 small water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of less than R250 million over the project lifecycle – had been implemented under the regional bulk infrastructure, the accelerated community infrastructure, and municipal water infrastructure programmes, with a total of 31 projects completed during the period under review.
Members were concerned that despite unauthorised expenditure amounting to over R406 million, the overall performance level of DWS’s programmes was 50%, and it had overspent by over R110 million. The DWS said that the overspending had been mainly due to the Bucket Eradication Project (BEP), which had not been adequately funded, as well as other interventions during the drought period. It was agreed that there was an urgent need to have another meeting with the DWS, where the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) would be present.
In the second part of the meeting, the Committee considered and adopted a number of reports on oversight visits and a study tour, as well as minutes of meetings held between June and October this year.
Opening Remarks and Comments
The Chairperson welcomed the Select Committee on Social Services and the representatives from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). There were apologies from Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, the Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS), and from three Committee Members -- Ms T Mampuru (ANC), Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC) and Ms D Ngwenya (EFF).
The Chairperson advised Ms Pamela Tshwete, Deputy-Minister: DWS, that matters would be raised in the present meeting by the Committee Members that had been raised in the previous financial year. The Mbombela municipality -- the biggest in Mpumalanga -- was very vulnerable in times of drought to water scarcity. This municipality was supported by only two rivers. This matter had been raised with the DWS since 2014. As the DWS prepared for the next financial year’s budget, the Department must not expect support from the Committee on the budget if Mbombela Municipality was once again neglected. It had been four years, and it was time to start planning for a tender.
Annual Report not received
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) said that the Committee Members did not have a single copy of the annual report (AR).
The Chairperson stressed to the DWS that it assisted the Committee to get the AR well in advance. This was so that Members had the opportunity to go over the report. Neither the Chairperson nor the Committee Members had received the report a yet.
Mr Hattingh said it was impossible to engage with the presentation if it was not received in advance.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) remarked that the DWS was taking the Committee for granted. It was not fair, especially in light of the impending debate. The DWS’s annual report was meant to be given far in advance. The Committee wanted the DWS to take its work seriously.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked the Committee Secretary, Ms Marcelle Williams, why the report had not been communicated to the Committee in the office.
Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) indicated that he had received the AR on Friday afternoon. In his email, it indicated that the report had been sent from the DWS to the Committee Secretary on 27 October, the Friday before the meeting.
The Chairperson highlights, however, that if this was the case, then the report was still sent late.
Ms Marcelle Williams (Secretary) highlights that immediately after receiving the annual report, she forwarded it to the Committee members.
Mr Hattingh said, however, that what was received on Friday needed to be distinguished from the annual report.
Nevertheless, the Chairperson repeated Mr Stock’s comment that the annual report had been sent from the Department to the Committee Secretary on 27 October. The Chairperson asked the DWS to whom the report was sent.
Mr Squire Mahlangu, Acting-Director General: DWS, responded that although he did not know the exact date, the report had been sent in September 2017.
Mr Hattingh said that the Committee did not have the source document -- the annual report.
The Chairperson said that if the DWS were responsible, it would have checked if the annual report was actually received by the Committee. The Chairperson asked the Committee Members whether the presentation should be taken as the annual report. If not, what was the way forward?
Mr Stock suggested that, in light of Parliament’s congested programme, it may be advisable for the DWS to present today. If there was any additional issue or question that Members might want to ask from the annual report, which might not necessarily be covered by the presentation, then the Committee should submit the questions to the relevant department.
Ms Zwane (ANC) registered her concern that the proper procedure had not been followed in ensuring that the Committee received the annual report well in advance. Much as it was unprofessional for the Committee to sit without the official annual report of the Department, she agreed with Mr Stock that, due to time constraints, it may be advisable to proceed with the presentation. Were the DWS representatives to leave, and then have to return to give the presentation, this would once again amount to fruitless expenditure. The DWS must be warned that this should not happen again.
Mr Hattingh was concerned that, in the absence of the annual report, the Committee was essentially unable to comprehensively appraise the DWS. Therefore its ability to play an oversight role would, as a result, be completely unsatisfactory. It was not credible for the Committee to return to the provinces with the excuse that, due to time constraints, it had been unable to complete its work. The Committee could not proceed without having at least one more meeting with the DWS, once the Committee had had sufficient time to peruse the annual report.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana highlighted that the Committee’s function was to oversee the provision of water -- a basic right -- which gave dignity to the citizens of South Africa. The Committee was empowered by its Constitutional mandate to ask questions. It was about the dignity of South Africans and the right to life. Time constraints would always exist. However, the Committee had to pose questions based on the annual report, so how could it pose them without the annual report? Having this position did not mean that the Committee did not consider wasteful expenditure. Since there was not an annual report, there was no reason to proceed with the Committee meeting.
The Chairperson registered her discomfort regarding the fact that the Minister was absent. She asked Deputy-Minister Tshwete to convey to the Minister that the Committee felt that she was not taking the Committee seriously. Since 2014, she had not attended the Committee more than twice. Deputy Minster Tshwete was always present. Having received the report only now, the Committee Members would not have an opportunity to read the report, because they would be listening to the presentation. The advantage of this setting was that when Committee Members raised questions, the Department had an opportunity to respond. It was unfortunate when Committee Members raised questions and the Department was unable to respond.
Furthermore, systems had to be improved, since the Chairperson had learned only now that there would be a debate on water and sanitation this week. While the suggestions of Mr Hattingh and Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana were taken seriously, since the programme was not determined by the Committee, and due to time constraints, it was advisable that the meeting proceeded. If there was a feeling that there was a need for a follow-up, the Committee Members needed to indicate this.
DWS Annual Report
Deputy-Minister Tshwete began by apologising to the Committee. She agreed with the Committee Members and confirmed that the annual report was tabled or submitted on 27 September. There was a need to change strategy. The secretaries had to take Members seriously. Copies had to be taken early, either to the Chairperson or to the Chief Whip of the Committee. The Committee needed to receive the annual report early so that it could base its questions to the DWS upon the report. It was not the Members of Parliament or the Executive that was responsible, but the secretaries. This would not happen again.
The Minister was out of the country. She would have wanted to be at the meeting, but the programme organisers seemed not to synchronise its schedule adequately with that of the Minister. The strategy of programming would be changed. This would never happen again. The main Acting Director-General was away with the Minister. The Acting Director-General, Mr Mahlangu, would do the presentation. The DDG, who should arrive soon, dealt with the infrastructure and would be able to speak to the DWS’s engagement with the municipality of Mbombela.
The DWS had taken note that the hydrological drought had been a setback for many departments, not least the Department of Water and Sanitation, which was required to provide relieve to all nine provinces. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the City of Cape Town had been invited to a meeting with the DWS to discuss the drought crisis. At the meeting, discussions had focused on how these stakeholders could work better together where the drought was serious. At the moment, Cape Town had the worst scenario of drought. While the Department was responsible for bulk water supply, it was also providing reticulation. Two weeks ago, the DWS had lost one of its Members from the Democratic Alliance, Ms Tarnia Baker. It had been a very painful and sad funeral.
Acting Director General’s Presentation
By way of introduction, Mr Mahlangu said the DWS’s mandate was informed by the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), and the National Water Resources Strategy objectives. Regarding the service delivery environment, the Department had found itself in a situation where the rainfall had been very low in 2016/17. Eight provinces had been declared disaster areas. Mitigation measures had been implemented in light of the drought impact. This had implications for the budget of the Department. Communities could not be left without water. Services were provided to the people of the country.
The DWS had a customer relations complaints management system. It received calls from communities throughout the country. In this way, communities received answers on all issues raised. 95% of the problems which the communities raised with the DWS were resolved. The 95% complaints were not only complaints which related to the function of the Department -- many complaints were related to service delivery issues that ought to be attended to by municipalities.
In April 2016, the Department had commenced with a review of the organisational structure with a view to analysing and realigning its functions and resources in line with the mandate, the Medium Term Strategic framework (MTSF) and the National Development Plan.
Mr Mahlangu said that during the year under review, and through its various programmes, the Department had continued its commitment to manage the country’s water resources effectively to ensure equitable and sustainable socio-economic development and universal access to water and dignified sanitation.
As part of its global multilateral engagements in the year under review, the Department had showcased and won the confidence of world leaders, resulting in the nomination of President Zuma as part of the 11 Head of States High Level Panel on Water (HLPW). The panel seeks to accelerate the implementation of the sustainable development goals, in particular goal 6 (SDG6) and related targets, through leading the advocacy initiatives on water and adaptation.
The Cabinet had approved the new national sanitation policy on 7 December 2016.
A total of 13 mega water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of at least R1 billion over the project lifecycle -- were under construction. One was in the Eastern Cape, one was in Gauteng, four were in KwaZulu-Natal, six were in Limpopo and one was in the Northern Cape.
During the period under review, the Department had continued with the provision of water storage infrastructure and regional bulk infrastructure that assisted municipalities with the connection to the resources. A number of strategic water resource infrastructure projects had been implemented, such as the Hazelmere Dam and phase 2c of the Olifants River Water Resources Development project. The phased impoundment for the Hazelmere Dam had continued, with two stages of the piano key weir completed. The 40-kilometre pipeline for phase 2c of the Olifants River Water Resources Development project had been laid, with the pump station over 95% completed, meaning the defects notification period was under way.
A further 35 large water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of at least R250 million, but less than R1 billion over the project lifecycle -- were under construction, with two completed during the period under review. Of the 35 projects under construction, the Eastern Cape accounted for eight projects, the Free State had eight, Gauteng had two, KwaZulu-Natal had five, Limpopo had four, Mpumalanga had one, Northern Cape had two, North West had seven and Western Cape had one. The two completed projects were the Kalahari East to Mier pipeline in the Northern Cape, and the Masilonyana / Brandfort phase1 in the Free State.
A total of 519 small water and wastewater services projects -- with a total project cost of less than R250 million over the project lifecycle – had been implemented under the regional bulk infrastructure, the accelerated community infrastructure, and municipal water infrastructure programmes, with a total of 31 projects completed during the period under review.
Strategic objective achievement
Mr Mahlangu said that Administration had achieved 75% of its strategic objectives, Planning had achieved 80%, Infrastructure had achieved 67%, and Sanitation 100%. Regulation had achieved 40% of its strategic objectives.
Regardiong the infrastructure achievements, some of the projects which the DWS had planned had had to be changed due to the drought in order to assist with the the various provinces.
Regarding important milestones that were not achieved, Mr Mahlangu said that in the DWS’s Administration programme, an unqualified audit outcome for 2016/17 was not achieved. In its Water Infrastructure Development programme, 253 bulk water supply and sanitation services infrastructure projects were not completed. In the Water Sector Regulation programme, the draft water and sanitation services regulatory compliance and assessment tool was not achieved. Moreover, the draft national mine water regulation programme was not achieved.
Mr Mahlangu gave an overview of the ‘analysis of annual performance’. Regarding the main account, 50% of the target was achieved (21% partially achieved; 29% not achieved). In terms of water trading, 75% of the target was achieved (25% partially achieved).
Regarding the main account, the ‘analysis per budget programme’ indicated that, for Administration, 80% of the target was achieved (10% partially achieved, 10% not achieved); for Planning, 64% of the target was achieved (27% partially achieved, 9% not achieved); for Infrastructure, 33% of the target was achieved (28% partially achieved, 39% not achieved); for Sanitation, 83% of the target was achieved (17% partially achieved); for Regulation, 26% of the target was achieved (17% partially achieved, 57% not achieved).
The water trading analysis per budget programme revealed that, for Financial Management, 67% of the target had been achieved (23% partially achieved); and for Proto Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs), 100% of the target was achieved.
Mr Mahlangu continued with a detailed analysis of the main account, and reported that under Adminstration, a 43% versus the planned 100% compliance with the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) had been achieved -- 15 of 35 standards had achieved full compliance. The 57% compliance with MPAT standards had not been achieved as certain key performance areas had had additional requirements, resulting in the attainment of partial compliance. These areas were strategic planning, governance and accountability, human resources and financial management. An improvement plan for MPAT compliance had been developed and was being monitored quarterly. With regard to water and sanitation services, a total of 807 versus the planned 1 500 tanks had been installed to harvest water for food production and other household productive uses. The plan to install 693 tanks to harvest water was not achieved, as funds had been reprioritised to support drought interventions.
Mr Paul Nel, Chief Financial Officer: DWS, presented the detailed account of the Water Trading performance. 13% of the planned 15% of targeted procurement budget had been spent on exempted micro enterprises (EMEs). The target had not been achieved as there was no mandatory requirement for the Water Trading contractors to sub-contract certain procurement to EMEs, which had affected the achievement in this regard.
Mr Frans Moatshe, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Main Account: DWS, said that the overspending was due mainly to the Bucket Eradication Project, which was not adequately funded, as well as other interventions during the drought period. In total, the DWS had overspent by R110.7 million.
The Chairperson askedfor clarification on the overall performance of the DWS’s programmes.
Mr Mahlangu highlighted that the overall performance of DWS’s programmes was a 50% achievement.
Mr Moatshe said that the unauthorised expenditure amounted to R406.9 million. The funds that were earmarked for programmes had been reprioritised.
Mr Moatshe said the under-spending of R100.3 million for the compensation of employees (CoE) was mainly due to the vacant posts across all five programmes. The Department was in the process of reviewing the organisational structure. The CoE budget was specifically and exclusively appropriated. Parliament`s approval was required to utilise this budget for any other purpose. The overspending in goods and services was due mainly to expenditure incurred for water tanking in respect of drought relief activities, and expenditure incurred in respect of operations and maintenance-related interventions.
The under-spending in transfers and subsidies was mainly due to the amount of R14 million allocated to the Thabazimbi Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG), which could not to be transferred due to the risk of misappropriation of funding and the unconducive environment within which Thabazimbi found itself (facing legal issues and administration). This was also to ensure compliance with the Division of Revenue Act. Furthermore, with respect to payment for capital assets, the overspending was due mainly to unfunded projects in the Bucket Eradication Programme, which had been processed against the insufficient budget.
Mr Nel presented the overview of water trading financial performance by unpacking the statement of financial performance, the impact of the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) on the financial position of the Water Trading Entity (WTE), and the statement of the financial position. Among the key indicators were the interest accrued by the TCTA of R4.6 billion, and the bank overdraft, which amounted to R 2.2 billion.
The main findings of the Auditor General of South Africa’s (AGSA’s) audit report for 2016/17 were that the assets under construction (AUC) were an overstatement; the financial liability of the TCTA had been understated; the irregular expenditure disclosed was understated; and the fruitless and wasteful expenditure disclosed was understated. The DWS had appealed the qualification in the last three areas.
The Chairperson commented that due to the fact that the Committee Members had no prior engagement with the annual report, it was not possible to do justice to the report.
Ms Zwane asked the DWS to elaborate on its financial state of affairs, conduct and sustainability, which was a cause for grave concern. Why did most of the AG’s comments in the annual report give the impression that it was unable to get proper and appropriate information to conduct a proper audit? This was a very undesirable state of affairs. She said the internal audit committee’s recommendations had not been implemented by the DWS, and if they had been, the DWS would not be where it was in terms of the findings of the AG. In the absence of a financial discipline committee, was there a structure to ensure that those who were party to financial misconduct were disciplined? The report clearly indicated that proper tender procedures had not been followed. The financial state of affairs and conduct was really worrying. A proper turn-around strategy was needed.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) referred to the Matatiele bulk water scheme (BWS) contract which had been terminated and ceded to another contractor due to poor performance. What had the initial budget and target for that been, and what was the current budget?
Mr Hattingh said that while the annual report was meant to give a true reflection of the current state of affairs, the annual report was showcasing the Department and emphasising its achievements, and only sometimes highlighting under-achievements. Based on media reports, the Clanwilliam Dam was a departmental project that had been discontinued in 2016 and up to now, the construction team was still on site and not working. Due to problems with the tender evaluation process, there were indications that the project would cost R1 billion more than it would have cost if the Department, with its construction team, had completed it with its own capacity. However, this had not been mentioned in the report. This was one example. This raised serious questions as to what else was ‘hidden’ in the report. What were the reasons for stopping the departmental construction team? What were the envisaged costs at that stage, why had it been stopped and what were the envisaged costs now? The value of the time lost couldnot be quantified monetarily. A separate report was needed on the Clanwiliam Dam to give the Committee a real insight into, among other things, what motivated the decision to stop the construction by the departmental construction team. This did not bode well for the future, both financially and for the delivery of water. He asked how many criminal and disciplinary proceedings had been instituted flowing from the respective investigations that had been opened. In light of the unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, clarity was needed as to why it appeared that the DWS had not managed to clear previously reported amounts.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked Mr Squire how long he had been Acting Director-General, and what the timeframe of his position was. She referred to Deputy Minister Tshwete’s comment on the Western Cape’s drought and that a meeting had been held which had involved the Premier, the City of Cape Town, COGTA and the Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula, and said it was good to hear that there was a strategy in place. Considering the vast resources that it would require, was there any intention to increase the R20 418 500 that had been allocated for drought relief after the meeting?
The Chairperson reminded Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana that due to the fact that the annual report was being dealt with at this meeting, this matter would not be broached.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana referred to the promise that was made in 2014 by former President Thabo Mbeki regarding the eradication of the bucket system, and asked why this challenge still endured in all provinces, in spite of the strategies that had been implemented and all the overspending. What had the DWS’s strategies been? In the Free State, considering the national government’s oversight role, how much progress had been made regarding the payment of the outstanding debt accrued through water billing? Regarding the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme (ACIP) projects, what strategy was being followed by the DWS? What was being done about corruption? What had been done regarding the wasteful and over-expenditure? There were many concerns which the report had raised. On basic rights, the DWS was not performing well. It was important to strengthen the strategies.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said that while the report was welcomed, it did not seem that the DWS had given the Committee clarity. It should unpack the unauthorised expenditure and clarify the accruals. If it was overspending, why had it surrendered funds to the revenue fund? If the DWS had had a report in its possession, why was it failing to explain and give clarity to the Committee on issues that were raised with the DWS a while ago?
Mr Stock registered his discomfort over the budgetary re-allocations, and asked for clarification. Could the DWS give the Committee an explanation for its accrual of R2.5 billion of irregular expenditure? He said the DWS deserved to be applauded on its intervention in the Northern Cape in a community located close to the Vaal River, which was struggling with water.
The Chairperson said that she would give an analysis report to the DWS, which raised a number of issues to which it could respond in writing. Firstly, the annual report suggested that some the concerns raised in the media were possibly true, especially the claims regarding the purported bankruptcy of the DWS. Secondly, when the Committee was in Mpumalanga to oversee the Department, there had been a commitment by the DWS that the Committee would be invited to the official opening in June/July of a dam, yet the Committee was still waiting for the Department to make good on its commitment. Thirdly, there was a real need to have another meeting with the DWS, where the AGSA would be present. A date needed to be set.
The Chairperson said what was extremely concerning was that there were many projects that had not been implemented. The Committee’s researcher had to calculate the money that was budgeted for those projects and add the total amount to the over-expenditure in order to calculate the total financial damage incurred. The R406.9 million in unauthorised expenditure versus the 50% rate of achievement painted a very concerning picture of the overall situation in the DWS. Money was spent, yet it could not produce receipts for the AGSA. This raised a red flag regarding corruption. These matters had to be thrashed out at the next meeting. Why was there no evidence of the payments?
The DWS had to make greater efforts to involve the Committee in its work so that the Committee could be in a better position to oversee and comment on its work. Conversely, concerning the absence of the Minister, the DWS must also show greater interest in the work of the Committee. She agreed with the Members that the DWS was not doing well as all. While the DWS claimed that 95% of problems at a local level of were resolved through the Department’s national call centre, water was still a serious matter. The Committee had initially raised the issue that the DWS must return to the water boards and ask whether these mechanisms were working and were viable in terms of understanding and addressing the state of municipalities. The Department must come up with ways to ensure that water bills were paid.
As the DWS had a fully-fledged Department that was equipped to deal with infrastructure, why was it planning to create an agency to deal with infrastructure? Why did it not use and strengthen what was already available? She asked why the DWS had a R2.2 billion bank overdraft, and how it was going to be paid. A follow-up meeting was very important to know the true story of the DWS’s financial situation.
Ms Zandile Mathe, Deputy Director General: National Water Resources Infrastructure Branch, DWS, said Clanwilliam Dam had been was initiated by the DWS internal construction company in 2013/14. It had been tendered at an amount of R2.2 billion as their construction package. In the process of the establishment of the site and other preliminary work, the DWS internal construction company had faced a number of major challenges. There was a new Act that required, through the process of localisation, that most of the materials had to come from the area. While the DWS was busy trying to tap into some of the resources of Clanwilliam, this had led to a delay of at least six months, and there were budget cuts.
At that stage, the Minister had suggested that that under the circumstances – in which the DWS was failing in its internal procurement processes – that the market should be tested to see whether external companies, over which the DWS did not have direct control in terms of procurement, could step up to the plate. In the first instance, it was not true that the internal construction company’s costing was R1 billion lower than what the DWS could get from the market. The market was cheaper. Furthermore, the only reason why the DWS could not continue at Clanwilliam was the budget cuts. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) did not allow the DWS to appoint a contractor while it did not have money. The whole country had experienced budget cuts in the last financial year. Many of the strategic projects had had to be stopped. The decision had been made to focus on projects that were already in motion.
This was the reason why Clanwilliam Dam was delayed. It was, however, included in the bidding process. Treasury requested the DWS to prioritise the most important projects out of the 26. Clanwilliam was included as a priority by the DWS. It had been completed. The Moshani/Moshali Mohale dam had been completed and was operational, although it had not been launched. There was another phase of Mohale that would continue The Mbombela dam was at the planning phase.
The Minister had visited the Jozini dam two or three months ago. The phase of Jozini had been completed. What was not operational at the moment, regarding the refurbishment, was the infrastructure that was initiated by the municipality. When it became dilapidated, by the time the Department responded in terms of bulk water provision, which was the DWS responsibility, the municipality had already gone ahead in terms of reticulation, but this process had not beenup to speed. Based on the projected allocations for Jozini, it would take nine years for the DWS to complete the whole area that was planned to be serviced by Jozini. The Minister was advised that Umkhanyakude District Municipality, together with the Mhlathuze Water Board, had put together a business plan which aimed to complete the dam within three years. The aim was to use Mhlathuze’s balance sheet. This business plan would have to be signed with the new administration, since the current administration did not seem to understand what the DWS aimed to do.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was aware the Mohale Dam was complete. The question posed by the Committee concerned when it would be launched? If, due to budgetary cuts, it would not presently be launched and since it had therefore not been handed over to whoever would operate it, who operated it now? Whilst the Mbombela dam was at the planning phase, what did this entail?
Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, Deputy Director-General: Planning and Information, DWS, said that under the Medium Term Strategic framework (MTSF), the Crocodile East Water Project included the Mbombela project. According the medium term plan, the Record of Implementation Decision (RID), which moved the project from planning to implementation, was planned for 2019. What the DWS was currently busy with was the pre-feasibility study. The reconciliation study indicated the amount of water available, and the deficit. Before 2019, the feasibility study would be conducted which would determine the specifics, like the exact area.
The Chairperson said that according to the Committee a project was implemented only once communities had water. Moreover, if the feasibility phase took three years, this raised a concern as to how long the implementation phase would take.
Ms Zwane supported the Chairperson’s call for another meeting to address all of the issues raised at the meeting.
Mr Khawula emphasised the confusion of the DWS, requesting the DWS to be better prepared for the next meeting.
Mr Mahlangu responded that the DWS could give the Committee feedback on the financial issues.
The Chairperson, however, repeated that there were explicit contradictions in the report. In the beginning of the report, various achievements were highlighted that were later contradicted. While the DWS was challenging the AGSA’s findings, the report bore out that the DWS had very real financial problems. The unauthorised expenditure of R406.9 million and the 50% achievement were clear indications of confusion within the DWS. How could the DWS simultaneously challenge the AGSA’s findings while, by the same token, the report bore these findings out?
Mr Mahlangu said that the intended agency was not necessarily an addition to the DWS. The National Development Plan made provision for such an agency. The Committee, however, had raised an important issue.
He said the reason the DWS had surrendered funds to the Treasury was in terms of the law.
The DWS apologised that invitations were not communicated to the Committee. This would not happen again. While not delving into the finances at length, many of problems faced by the DWS were drought-related. These were not intended by anyone. When there was no water in Mafikeng, for example, the DWS would have no option but to assist as much as possible. Some of the municipalities simply did not have money. It was impossible for the DWS to not intervene when a municipality had no money. The DWS would assist in a municipality where getting the money back would be almost impossible. The DWS had to be hopeful that the money would be recouped.
Deputy-Minister Tshwete said that the issues that had been raised by the Committee were taken very seriously by the DWS. She contended that the DWS did have good stories to tell. The DWS would invite the Committee to all the work carried out by the DWS, and apologised for past lapses in this regard.
The drought had caused severe damage to the DWS. When communities had water-related difficulties, they contacted the DWS. It was difficult for the DWS to say to the communities that it did not address reticulation, but only bulk water supply. The DWS was being punished for the work that it was doing, yet it was trying to fulfil its constitutional mandate to ensure that communities got water. This raised questions about the capacity of municipalities. The DWS would return with the financial damage which the drought caused for the Department. When it returned, it would ensure that the Minister attended.
The Chairperson said it was important that a figure had been provided concerning what been spent on drought interventions. This would give some indication as to the extent that the drought had impacted upon the DWS’s current financial situation. The Committee acknowledged that there was a lot of work being done by the Department. While it had inherited many of its current problems, the DWS must own the problems. It must try its best to rectify the challenges it faced. Poor planning often gave rise to challenges, so adequate planning was vital.
Adoption of Committee Reports and Minutes
The first report that the Committee considered for adoption was its report on an oversight visit to the Mbombela, Bushbuckridge and Nkomazi local municipalities in the Mpumalanga province from 27 to 31 March 2017. Ms Zwane moved the adoption of the report, and Mr Khawula seconded.
The second report that was considered was the report on the Committee’s joint study tour with the Select Committee on Education and Recreation to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia from 10 to 21 July 2017. Ms Moshodi moved the adoption of the report, and Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana seconded.
The third report that was considered for adoption was the Committee’s report on an oversight visit to the Sol Plaatjie local munipality in the Northern Cape from 14 to 18 August 2017. Ms Zwane moved the adoption of the report, and Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana seconded.
The fourth report that was considered for adoption was the report of the Committee on an oversight visit to the Ethekwini local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal from 4 to 8 September 2017. Mr Hattingh moved the adoption of the report, and Mr Khawula seconded.
Mr Khawula asked how the Committee should conduct follow-ups when there were so many outstanding issues, such as in the case of Ethekwini local municipality.
The Committee considered the minutes of 6 June, 13 June, 20 June, 12 September and 17 October 2017 for adoption. These were all proposed, seconded and adopted.
Referring to the query of Mr Khawula (IFP) regarding how the Committee should conduct follow-ups, the Chairperson said that Committee Members could make suggestions or proposals. Nevertheless, there was often disagreement among committees as to whether the report would be tabled, or if there would be a debate. A debate did provide the opportunities for questions and responses on the key issues. However, Committee Members could give suggestions on how follow-ups could and should be conducted.
Ms Zwane suggested that beyond its oversight role, the Committee should probe the reports from the respective provinces. If there was no report, then the relevant Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) must be subpoenaed by the Committee to account for this.
The Chairperson said that the NCOP’s Secretariat had to write to all the provinces which the Committee had visited and request responses on what progress had been made regarding the issues that were raised in all the departments that were visited. Failing that, the Department had to be called to account.
The meeting was adjourned
- Select Committee on Social Services Joint Study Tour to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
- Report on Social Services on an Oversight Visit to Sol Plaatjie Local Munipality in Northern Cape Province
- Report on Oversight Visit to Mbombela, Bushbuckridge and Nkomazi Local Municipalities in Mpumalanga Province
- Report on Social Services on an Oversight Visit to Ethekwini Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal Province
- Department of Water and Sanitation Annual report for the 2016/17 financial year
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