The Committee received a follow-up briefing by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on the progress in implementing the Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP). The National Treasury’s project goals included completing the BEP by March 2019. The 2018/19 budget allocation was R608m to the Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG) to complete reticulation (sewer collector infrastructure) and R440m to the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG) for bulk infrastructure (bulk pipes and pump-stations).
Outstanding works for the 2018/19 financial year were in the Free State and Northern Cape, where work was in progress. In the Northern Cape, five projects required sewer collectors and bulk mains to allow for functional sanitation services. In North West Province’s Ubuntu Municipality in Victoria West, 890 toilet structures were constructed. In Sol Plaatje Municipality, at Motswedimosa, 656 toilets structures had been completed. Some repairs were required due to a combination of poor workmanship by the contractor and vandalism. In the Free State, two contractors had been appointed. One had started with Bloem Water in 2013, and the DWS had taken the contractor over in 2016 and completed its work on 13 projects (13 880 buckets). The other had been issued with a notice of intention to terminate the relationship after the contract lapsed in March 2018.
The DWS construction unit would be instrumental in completing the outstanding BEP work, supported by the internal engineering services doing the design work and project oversight.
Members sought more information on the Department’s dam maintenance plans, the delivery dates for the BEP, whether personnel were still being paid while investigations by the Special Investigating Unit were ongoing, and whether the Department had verified the work done by the suspect contractors to justify their being compensated for work done.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson commented that the fact that decisions taken at the Committee were often not adhered to was a clear expression of the executive undermining Parliament -- and not for the first time either. He added that the Constitution was very clear that the Executive was accountable to Parliament, and “such matters should not be brushed away”.
Response from DWS
Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, Director General (DG): Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), said that when she makes promises that she would provide reports to the Committee, she genuinely makes attempts to fulfil those promises. However, she works with and as part of a team, which could at times let her down. Because she never wants to present shoddy or sub-standard reports, she had had to return several reports to the team to correct before she could submit them to the Members. She apologised and pledged to submit all outstanding reports by the end of the week.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) said she did not understand the Director General’s response. The Members did not need to know that the reports were of sub-standard quality. That was an internal matter within the Department. The Members just wanted to see the reports “and not hear stories”.
Mr L Basson (DA) said he did not accept the DG’s apology. The buck stopped with the DG and if she had problems with her staff and personnel, she must tell the Minister. The Department was in such a mess because nobody was willing to take responsibility for anything.
The Chairperson agreed that the buck stopped with the accounting officer who was the DG. He added that decisiveness was key, because indecision would delay everything.
Ms Pam Tshwete, Deputy Minister, agreed with the Members that the response from the acting DG was an internal matter that did not need to be given to the Committee. She would take the matter up with the Minister to ensure changes at the offices, which was causing a lot of embarrassment. She promised that before Parliament went on recess the following week, the Committee would have received the outstanding reports. She expected the reports to be submitted by 12 noon on Friday 30 November.
The Chairperson said this problem was occasioned by the failure to plan. He told the DG that as part of her performance management plan, if people did not perform as required, they ought to be fired. “Failure to plan was planning to fail”. He categorically told the DG that she was failing the Deputy Minister, the Minister and the ANC government.
Mr R Hugo (DA) seconded what the Chairperson had said, but added that the Members needed to also know what problems the Department was facing in finalising the outstanding reports.
Mr Basson said they did not wish to get involved in the internal administration of the Department. He added that on top of failing the ANC government, they were also failing the country.
Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP): Progress Report
Ms Zandile Makhathini, Deputy Director General (DDG): Infrastructure Build, Operate and Maintenance (IBOM), DWS, said the National Treasury’s project goals included completing the Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP) by March 2019. The 2018/19 budget allocation was R608m to the Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG) to complete reticulation (sewer collector infrastructure) and R440m to the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG) for bulk infrastructure (bulk pipes and pump-stations).
The programme targeted four provinces -- the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and North West Province -- with bucket toilets in formal areas. Targets had been achieved in the Eastern Cape, where 3 319 buckets were eradicated, and North West, where 224 buckets were eradicated.
Outstanding works for the 2018/19 financial year were in the Free State and Northern Cape, where work was in progress. In the Northern Cape, five projects required sewer collectors and bulk mains to allow for functional sanitation services. The DWS internal construction unit would be utilised for the completion of four of the five projects. One project (bulk sewer line) was being implemented by the water services authority in the Dawid Kruper local municipality as a WSIG schedule 5B grant allocation.
In North West Province’s Ubuntu Municipality in Victoria West, 890 toilet structures were constructed. There were 363 occupied stands as at June 2016, and 642 occupied stands by July 2018. The contractor had completed all toilet structures without beneficiaries on site, whilst the municipality suggested they would assist with the relocation of families to the new toilets which had not happened as a result of structures being vandalised. Additionally, in Tsantsabane municipality, at Postdene/Maranteng, the removal of large volumes of rubble must still be done. In Sol Plaatje Municipality, at Motswedimosa, 656 toilets structures had been completed. Some repairs were required due to a combination of poor workmanship by the contractor and vandalism.
In the Free State Province, two contractors had been appointed:
- Contractor #1 started with Bloem Water in 2013. The DWS had taken over the contractor in 2016 and completed its work on 13 projects (13 880 buckets)
- Contractor #2 was issued with a notice of intention to terminate the relationship after the contract lapsed in March 2018.
All grants that addressed water and sanitation matters were consolidated into integrated infrastructure forums in all provinces as part of DWS coordination, monitoring and evaluation of projects to completion. The DWS construction unit would be instrumental in completing the outstanding BEP work, supported by the internal engineering services doing the design work and project oversight. To date, seven of the 13 projects had been scoped.
The Chairperson asked whether personnel were still being paid while investigations were ongoing by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked about dam maintenance, and whether there were measures in place to ensure that there was regular maintenance of dams, including the removal of silt. He asked about the specific measures to control water pollution downstream of rivers. Additionally, since the Department had quoted 2020 as the delivery date for some of their projects, he wanted to know whether they had the budget to actualise that goal. He added that the Inter-Ministerial Programme was “quiet” because no dates had been given. He gave the example of the Netherlands, which had small water treatment plants that re-used the sludge from the treatment works as fertilizer for crops.
Mr Hugo complained that the deadlines for the BEP kept moving, and that the one set for March 2019 was also unlikely to be realised. He queried the amount of collaboration with the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) to ensure that the toilets and houses were together so that people did not have to walk long distances from their houses to the toilets. He was disappointed because the presentation had a lot of flaws, particularly in slides 4, 25, and 26. The programmes quoted therein were unmeasurable.
Ms Makhatini responded that she did, in fact, agree that the programme was not measurable, but the construction programme and timeline had been given by the engineers and contractors in the field. The Department was working on developing Gantt charts to outline the deliverable dates, and these would be ready in a month. She gave a commitment to get this project to succeed, and added that it was her first year dealing with the BEP project. The 2020 and March 2019 dates were informed by the surveyors and project managers in the field.
Mr Tefetso Phitsane, Chairperson, Bloem Water, wondered what his role in the meeting was, because they were often invited to appear before the Committee but were hardly ever involved in implementing the projects. They were, however, asked to account for the projects simply because they were located in their areas. He added that there were also a range of social issues that needed to be addressed.
Mr Hugo asked how many bucket toilets were still out there in Free State and Northern Cape Provinces.
Mr Mnguni asked about the companies and service providers that had a contractual obligation that had expired. He also asked whether it was possible to utilise the existing infrastructure instead of building it afresh and from scratch.
Ms Makhatini replied that slide 20 of the presentation had a complete breakdown of the numbers of toilets. The Auditor General (AG) had raised reservations over the appointment of contractors for the BEP as being highly irregular and suspect. A letter of intent to terminate had subsequently been issued by the Department to some of the companies, and they had been requested to make representations to the Department as to why they should not be terminated. Those companies would still be compensated for works they had completed to date.
Mr Basson asked if the Department had verified the work done by the suspect contractors to justify their being compensated for work done.
The Chairperson commented that this was clearly a report on work in progress, and he hoped that the target deadline of March 2019 to conclude the BEP would be honoured.
Mr Mnguni said pages 25 and 26 of the presentation proposed dates other than March 2019. He wondered why this was the case.
Ms Makhatini responded that there were different processes, each with its own deliverable date.
The Chairperson asked the Department to try and live up to its slogan, “Water was life and Sanitation was dignity.”
The meeting was adjourned.