The Portfolio Committee reviewed the minutes of its meetings from 12 September until November 14, and made comments or proposals on action that still needed to be taken. The Members emphasised the importance of knowing the current performance of underperforming water boards, and said the Minister had to decide on the course to be followed. The DWS was expected to provide a report on the employment of 600 people as a follow up to the meeting held on 12 September.
The DWS was also asked to provide an annexure and the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) to the minutes of the meetings held on 9 and 10 October between the Committee , Auditor General and the DWS. The Committee was not pleased with the poor reporting skills of the Department.
The Committee was waiting to receive the names of the schools targeted for intervention on water and sanitation issues following its joint meetings with the Department of Basic Education.
The Chairperson advised the Members that the term had been extended to end in the first week of December from the current date of 21 November. The Minister had been set to come and present to the Committee on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) progress, but he had sent an apology saying he could not attend the meeting, and he would advise later when he would be available to brief the Committee .
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) wanted to know if it was possible for the Members to go to Lesotho during January/February. However, before heading to Lesotho, he wanted to know if it was possible to meet up with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), to be briefed on the gravity of the matter in Lesotho.
The Chairperson also mentioned an issue pertaining to the employment of people in posts for which they were unqualified, and said some of the issues dated back to 2012. The Minister had advised that the issue was being dealt with by the legal team under Advocate Frank Jenkins, and that if need be, an escalation would be done through the Public Protector.
Ms Mahdiyah Solomons, Committee Secretary, said the Portfolio Committee had been invited to the signing of a memorandum with Umgeni Water and the eThekwini traditional authority in Durban on 23 November, and three Members had been approved to attend. The Chairperson had confirmed his attendance, but both Mr Basson and Mr Cephukwayo apologised that they could not make it due to other commitments on the day of the meeting.
The Chairperson put the minutes of 12t September forward for adoption.
A Member drew attention to a section dealing with Water Boards, suggesting a wording change, and the Chairperson said it would be interesting to know what the actual status of these Water Boards was currently. The Minister had to decide on the way forward for the Boards.
A Member said more information should be added on how the Water Boards had been finalised so that whoever read the report would understand of how the finalisation process took place.
A Member said that the DWS had said that it would provide a summary on the employment of 600 people, but he was not sure if this had been done. The Chairperson asked a DWS official to note this down.
He said page 5 of the report highlighted that the Committee was not happy with the bank balance of the DWS, which had an overdrawn amount of R2 billion.
Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) proposed their adoption, and Mr R Hugo (DA) seconded.
The Chairperson moved on to the minutes of a meeting between the Auditor General (AG) and the DWS, which briefed the Committee about their annual report on 9th and 10 October. His concern with the minutes was that anyone who read them would be lost. There was no annexure. Through interaction, there should have been recommendations and a way forward. The report was only two pages long, and something was amiss.
An official from the DWS said they could attach the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) to the minutes to give clarity.
The Chairperson said that for deliberation purposes, the report should be attached for reference when discussions take place.
Mr D Mnguni said that this was not the first time this was being highlighted about the DWS producing an insufficient report.
The Chairperson asked the official from the DWS to supplement the minutes and report back to the Committee.
The Chairperson put the minutes of 9 and 10 October to the Committee.
Mr Nguni proposed their adoption, and Ms H Kekana (ANC) seconded.
The Chairperson moved on to the minutes of 11 October, which was a DWS and Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) update meeting.
Ms Kekana proposed their adoption, and Mr Hugo seconded.
The Chairperson moved on to the minutes of 16 October, which was a meeting on the state of governance of Water Boards, and a Departmental briefing with the Minister. He highlighted point 3.2 of the report, and asked if it meant that the CEO of the Magalies Water Board had been suspended. The Water Board had had a Cjoef Executive Officer (CEO) who had been there for a long time. He said that this had been a Mhlathuze Water Board issue, and not of Magalies. He was fully aware of this issue because he had been following it. He referred to an issue of clarity on the appointment of outgoing board members on point 3.3 of the report on Magalies.
A Committee member said that clarity was needed on why some of the old members were not appointed back to the Board of the Magalies Water Board.
The Chairperson flagged 3.4 and indicated how it did not mention a specific water board, but in the body of the statement mentioned Umgeni Water. He said that this was confusing.
The member from the DWS said that the Minister had given a very broad comment on the issue. She said that in the context of Umgeni, the Minister was referring to the delay in the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Umgeni Water.
A Committee member referred to 3.4 in terms of the powers of the Umgeni interim board. More clarity had to be given.
The minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson moved on to the minutes of the meeting held on the morning of 17 October, which were briefings by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Mr L Basson (DA) proposed, and Mr Cebekhulu seconded, the adoption of the minutes.
The Chairperson moved to the minutes of the afternoon meeting on 17 October 2018, which had been a closed session on the BRRR.
A member of the DWS said that there was nothing much captured in the meeting except for the resolutions made by the Committee.
The Chairperson referred to page two of the report regarding the long suspensions of officials with full pay, and officials that moved from one department to another. He said that another session with the entities must be held in the first week of January 2019.
The minutes were adopted.
The minutes of the meeting held on 24 October, which dealt with acid mine drainage, and the Green Drop and Blue Drop reports, were adopted, with Ms Kekana proposing and Mr Mnguni seconding.
The meeting on 31 October considered the Medium Term Budgetary Policy Statement (MTBPS), and its implications on water and sanitation, in the presence of the Minister. The minutes were adopted.
The meeting on 7 November involved a joint meeting with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Mr Mnguni said that when presenting at such a meeting, the Committee should present first and then a government department, and not the other way around.
The Chairperson said that inter-departmental meetings were of a serious nature. When looking at budgetary issues, the schools and sanitation programme needed to be considered as this helped to push both Departments to perform in terms of meeting their targets.
Mr Mnguni agreed with the Chairperson and said that the DBE had requested the Committee to be part of their oversight. When they do their oversight, a few schools needed to be selected to see what innovations could be introduced in the future.
The Chairperson flagged page nine of the report and asked about the statement that indicated there were plans that were meant to be submitted on 13 November. He asked the Department if they had copies of the report, but there were not. A list of schools targeted for implementation was to be provided.
Mr Cebekhulu proposed, and Mr Galo seconded, the adoption of the minutes.
The meeting held on 14 November had been a joint meeting with the DWS and the Standing Committee on Appropriations, which aimed at dealing with debt issues. The Chairperson said that national departments could not be owing funds to municipalities.
The minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson said that all outstanding reports should be submitted before the term ended.
The meeting was adjourned.