Adjustments Appropriation Bill: hearing with Department of Water and Sanitation

Standing Committee on Appropriations

16 July 2020
Chairperson: Mr S Buthelezi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Appropriations 16 July 2020
Audio: Adjustments Appropriation Bill: Department of Water and Sanitation briefing

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Water Sanitation (DWS) on its special adjustment budget reduced by R257 million and implications for the 2020/21 annual performance, COVID-19 interventions to vulnerable communities, and the 2019/20 Quarter 4 performance which achieved only 55% of its overall targets. Phase 1 of the Covid-19 intervention included the procurement of water tanks for communities without water and provision of water tankers. Rand Water was appointed as the implementing agent. Phase 2 will look at more sustainable sources of water provision.

Members emphasised that water tankering is not a sustainable solution for water provision. Long-term solutions need to be found urgently by DWS to ensure that the country has water security in the foreseeable future. Members raised concern about the reported corruption in DWS. They referenced the Covid-19 intervention and an old Mount Ayliff project as examples. They said that the DWS organisational review was taking too long and vacancies needed to be filled. DWS needed to capacitate itself to stamp out wasteful and irregular expenditure and corruption. They asked about progress in the eradication of bucket toilets; the Vaal River pollution intervention; centralised pricing for purchase of materials; localisation; project management; cost overruns and many more questions in the hearing. Despite extensive replies by senior management, further unanswered questions will be replied to in writing.

Meeting report

Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) overview
DWS Acting Director-General, Mr Trevor Balzer, indicated that his presentation is on the Department’s 2020/21 special adjustments to Budget Vote 41.

Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) said it is disappointing that the Minister and the Deputy Minister have not attended the meeting especially in light of the COVID-19 expenditure and reports of corruption in the Department.

The Chairperson indicated that the Minister did forward an apology but there was no apology from the Deputy Minister. The Department should report later why he did not attend.

Mr Balzer mentioned that on 12 March the Minister tabled the Five-Year Strategic Plan and the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan (APP). After the announcement by the President that some of the Covid-19 stimulus package would be sourced from budgets of government departments, DWS had to reprioritise its budget. R1.755 billion was taken away from the original budget allocation of R17.216 billion. However R1.498 billion was returned, resulting in a revised allocation of R16.959 billion. This indicates a net decrease of R257 million in the budget.

Prior to the end of the 2019/20 financial year, DWS had started the Phase-1 Covid-19 intervention and DWS funds allocation of 2020/21 is to continue with a Phase-2 of that Covid programme. The R1.498 billion returned to DWS will be reprioritised to support this programme. These funds will also be used to implement water source development or bulk linkage projects to replace the need for water tankering and sustain supply of water in the post-tankering period.

The Phase 1 project included the emergency installation of static tanks that are filled with water. An amount of R200 million was allocated to 2020/21. In the previous year, DWS had allocated R306 million to this initiative.

Given the lockdown, DWS has not been able to advertise posts and thus not fill them in Quarters 1 and 2. However, there are currently recruitment processes underway for the filling of posts, which are mainly critical or core in nature.

Due to the budget reprioritisations, some programmes will have an increase in their construction of projects and others will have a reduction. For instance the number of regional bulk infrastructure projects will increase.

The revised APP is being submitted to Parliament soon and DWS is in the process of signing new allocation letters to the municipalities by midday tomorrow. The municipalities will then submit their revised business plans.

The Phase-1 Covid response commenced on 23 March 2020. Rand Water was appointed as the implementing agent for that intervention. A Water and Sanitation Command Centre has been established at Rand Water to monitor the project. Tanks have been delivered to a total of 158 municipalities and districts between 28 March 2020 and 28 June 2020. 740 million litres of water have been delivered to communities across the country during this period and 402 735 households have been serviced.

On the Quarter 4 DWS performance for 2019/20, he outlined the worst programme performers: Programme 3 which stood at 45% targets not being achieved, Programme 2 with 21%. Whereas in programme 4, 75% of targets were achieved. DWS was able to spend 92% of the allocated budget and the total request for roll-over of funds was R650.9 million. The thirty day compliance report for April 2019 to March 2020 indicated that 137 invoices went beyond the 30 day requirement on the Main account and 42 invoices on the Water Trading Entity account.

The Chairperson asked Mr Balzer to summarise the rest of the presentation.

Mr Balzer said that despite the poor performance in the Quarter 4, DWS is putting steps in place to ensure there is no repeat of it. A project management team has been put together to monitor the Covid-19 intervention funds to ensure that the APP targets are met. Thus DWS is working to improve its performance.

Discussion
Mr A Shaik-Emam (NFP) said that the Committee conducted an oversight visit to Mount Ayliff sometime in the past four years. The Committee found that there had been corruption on a project there. The contract awarded was worth R300 000, but DWS saved R166 000 on the contract. The Committee realised immediately that corruption had occurred in the project. DWS assured the Committee it would conduct an investigation. To date DWS has done nothing about the allegations of corruption.

He asked for an update on the water tanks that had been signed for but had not yet been delivered to the designated area.

As the contract for supplying water tanks had been awarded to Rand Water, he asked what process was followed to assign the contract to Rand Water. The Committee found that many of the contracts of bulk water supply were stagnant and the reason was that the contractors did not have the money to pay for raw materials. And these raw materials, particularly the water pipes are imported from China, India and the USA. The Committee asked DWS to communicate with the Department of Trade and Industry to identify if an industry to manufacture these goods can be built in the country. He suggested that through the creation of this industry, new jobs can be created and this can also improve international exports.

It has been reported that 30% of schools have still not received water tanks, he asked DWS to explain.

Every year it seems as if there are vacancies within DWS and this leads to instability. DWS does not fill vacancies even though it knows that it has corruption and currently weak capacity. He asked what DWS has done to deal with this.

It appears as if DWS is always underspending. He asked if it has a capacity problem and if this is the reason DWS cannot deliver. Earlier DWS indicated that 36 municipalities will provide DWS with a programme of action and business plan, but this has been seen before and it has not worked. Fortunately DWS will have to function on zero-based budgeting. He asked how DWS anticipates dealing with zero-based budgeting.

Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) followed up on the Mount Ayliff corruption and asked if DWS has begun proceedings to deal with the matter. If so, could it provide details.

He asked what the spending performance of the Infrastructure Bulk Grant and Water Services Infrastructure Grant has been in the past five years. In the case where municipalities have been constantly underspending, what has happened? And what is DWS doing for the municipalities that are spending but are in need of more money for their projects?

On water tanks, he asked DWS to provide a list of the areas where tanks have been installed but are not operating because there is no water inside the tank. He also asked how many water tankers there are.

He asked how far DWS was in reaching the NDP 2030 targets and the effect that these budget cuts will have in derailing efforts to reach these targets. Looking at the percentage of underspending of DWS, particularly in Quarter 4, he asked about the achievement of only 45% in the water infrastructure development programme (programme 3). He is worried by the R1.8 billion underspending in programmes.

Ms Ntlangwini said that Mr Balzer has painted a bleak picture of water situation in the country. It is clear that DWS has struggled to fulfil its mandate to provide good, efficient and running water to the country’s citizens. It is concerning that there is underspending in DWS programmes. With DWS underspending, citizens residing in the vulnerable communities are affected. She asked if DWS has dealt with the individuals in charge of underspending programmes. It is disappointing that DWS has not met its targets, especially because it has a performance plan. She asked why there are still vacancies in the funded positions. Is it the case that people did not apply?

On the water tanks, she said that DWS has been charged more money than it should. She asked why DWS did not obtain water tanks at market price. It is important to establish how much they are charging DWS for the water tanks versus the actual market price.

Ms D Peters (ANC) repeated the point that it is important that both the Minister and the Deputy Minister be present at the next meeting. Previously the Deputy Minister made a commitment to the Committee that he would attend the meeting.

In 2011 already a World Economic Forum meeting indicated that the next biggest challenge, besides energy, is water security. She asked what DWS has done to address the problem of water scarcity in the country. Water desalination was brought up as a possible solution. DWS, together with PetroSA, invested in a water desalination project in Mossel Bay to address the challenges faced by both PetroSA and the community. She asked why DWS has not invested in long-term sustainable infrastructure interventions for water provision. Water tanks have always posed a challenge to the government because of corruption and the mismanagement of funds. This has once again been seen during this Covid-19 pandemic. DWS should consider long-term options, such as sourcing water from boreholes where there is an indication of underground water in communities.

In the Magareng municipality, where there is a vast flow of water from the Vaal River, the water treatment plant has been under construction but the budget was overrun despite top up funds from the Frances Baard district which has led to wasteful expenditure. The foundation of the water treatment plant has since rusted as it was poorly constructed; and new infrastructure had to be put in place. She asked why DWS does not ensure that infrastructure projects in municipalities are finished according to the specifications and budget. The cost of infrastructure in Magareng will be costly as one needs to cross the river to reach the plant while the community is on the other side. She asked why DWS is not engaging with SANRAL to ensure that infrastructure costs are reduced by looking at alternative ways for the pipes to cross the N12. She emphasised that the cost of water tankering is not sustainable and will not be affordable.

On Quarter 4 expenditure, she asked how it was possible for DWS to spend 92% of its budget, but to have met only 55% of targets.
 
Following the President’s announcement on acceleration of infrastructure development and investment, she asked what DWS - as a key infrastructure department - is doing about this, especially in light of the inability of DWS to properly plan for infrastructure development and where money is consistently rolled-over and reprioritised. Infrastructure is a key job creator and DWS must deliver on its mandate.

She asked what happened to the Working For Water initiatives. These were major job creators in small communities with water-related challenges. This worked better than the EPWP programmes and there were more interventions that were visible.

Mr O Mathafa (ANC) referred to the transfers and subsidies underspending by municipalities. He asked if this was because the municipalities did not have implementation readiness. He asked if the funds earmarked for these municipalities were allocated because they had identified programmes. It has been reported in the media that procurement has been centralised, he asked if this also applies to DWS. And if so, how will this process enable DWS to assist the municipalities that are unable to spend their allocated funds due to not having implementation-ready studies.

Mr D Joseph (DA) touched on the poor performance in Quarter 4. The fourth quarter refers to 1 January to 31 March 2020 but this was pre Covid-19. It is known that there are long-term capacity challenges within DWS, and he asked for a better understanding of these in the next presentation because the details were not explained properly in this presentation.

He said that the country cannot continue to rely on water tankers. DWS needs to have a long-term solution for the provision of water in the country.

On the eradication of the bucket toilet programme, there was a rollover of R330 million. He asked if DWS could provide details on the status of this project.

In the Free State and North West there were more tanks installed than had been used. He asked why this is the case.

Referring to the Vaal River system pollution project, he asked what the status of the project is as it affects several municipalities. He asked how much money will be spent on the project as well as when the study done by the SA Army will be concluded.

He asked why DWS has struggled to comply with 30 day payments and if there are disputes between DWS and creditors and the extent of these disputes. Are small businesses involved in the outstanding payments as small businesses are critical to economic development?

Mr A Sarupen (DA) said that there is no indication on the number and nature of DWS vacancies and asked how many involve critical skills. Is this hindering DWS’s ability to carry out its functions as DWS frontline services require engineers and technicians.

He asked what the status of the water boards is, and how many of them are dysfunctional during this pandemic.

Noting the rollover of unspent funds on the bucket toilet programme, he asked what the status is of bucket toilets across the country. Previously DWS said that it would eradicate them in the Free State. He asked how far they are in this process and what DWS has achieved, especially with this pandemic, to ensure that people can take care of their health.

Mr Shaik-Emam asked if DWS has put in place mechanisms that will ensure that the price it pays for goods and services is market related. He has been informed that the country loses 40% on goods and services, to an amount of R240 billion. Since corruption is rife in DWS, it is important for DWS to have cost-cutting mechanisms, to ensure that more can be delivered to the citizens.

Mr Mlenzana asked for an update on two schemes: the Umzimvubu water scheme in the Eastern cape and the Bizana dam water scheme. The latter project has been completed, the only thing that remains is opening up the water for the community to benefit.
 
He asked if a Treasury is present so it can provide its opinion on the consistent and constant underperformance of DWS.

The Chairperson indicated that there is indeed a Treasury representative.

Ms Ntlangwini asked if DWS knows of corruption cases where DWS has taken active steps to file criminal charges against the accused individuals. She indicated that this can be provided in writing. She asked for a list of companies that have received contracts for the provision of water tanks. This can also be a written response.

She asked if the DDGs responsible for the underspending in some of the programmes had been taken to task.

Ms Peters asked if the Committee can be provided a list of companies that have been given contracts by DWS to provide water tanks. She asked if the local companies have benefitted from this particular initiative. It is important that DWS discloses how much the service providers charge per tankering service, including those that provide the water consistently. She asked if the tanks are decontaminated periodically to avoid an outbreak of cholera and diarrhoea.

The Chairperson stated that it is known that the Vaal River pollution has been caused by the private companies in that area. Since DWS has a polluter-pay principle, he asked if DWS applies this and if so, how does it apply it.

He asked if DWS can give a conclusive date when it will eradicate bucket toilets in the country. What exactly is the problem as there are still roll-overs amounts.

In previous meetings, the Committee has emphasised that project management is one of the most deficient skill in the departments. This is seen with project overruns where costs increase exponentially. He asked if DWS agreed with this statement and what DWS is doing about that problem. He asked what critical skills DWS needs to provide water to the citizens.

On BEE, he asked who gets preferred for the provision of goods and services in DWS. In light of the skewed ownership figures of the economy, the budget is the one instrument that the government has to correct this imbalance. DWS must inform the Committee on the representation of the companies DWS has contracted with. The Committee wants to know how many of the companies are black and female-owned; youth and those living with disabilities. The Committee measures performance on the role DWS plays in effecting economic development.

DWS has not explained what the causes of the variances are and how it intends to solve them.

There are many unfilled vacancies yet unemployment is rife in this country. He asked when the vacancies will be filled and what the impact is of not filling the vacancies. If DWS does not have the answers now, it can provide them in a written submission.

He asked for the National Treasury representative to answer Mr Mlenzana’s question.

Responses
National Treasury Chief Director: Urban Development and Infrastructure, Ms Ulrike Britton, said that speaking to the challenges facing DWS is difficult as it is currently in transition and it will take time to build the mechanisms to strengthen its capacity and rebuild the culture and confidence in DWS. In 2017 DWS was lacking systems to effect payments. She is confident in DWS’s current performance and that it should be given time to institutionalise the processes it has developed.

The Chairperson said that the excuse is not acceptable at all. It has been three years since this process of rebuilding occurred. The leadership within DWS has been there for many years so there should be stability. This excuse cannot be used to the citizens of South Africa.

Mr Balzer asked if the DDGs could assist him in answering the questions posed to DWS. Each DDG will respond to questions that refer to their directorate in DWS.

The Chairperson agreed and asked the DDGs to introduce themselves and indicate how long they have been at DWS.

Mr Mlenzana asked that Mr Balzer to follow the same process as his DDGs.

Mr Balzer replied that he has been Acting DG since 30 June 2020 as the current DG is struggling with Covid-19 thus the Minister recalled him. He joined DWS in 1995.

On water security and long-term planning, it is important to mention that in November 2019 the Minister launched the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan (NWSMP) until 2030 and beyond. There is a water mix plan and this includes desalination. Currently DWS relies on surface water followed by groundwater. Presently DWS is looking for the water mix to rely on groundwater and to bring desalinated water as an additional source of water. In addition to the plant in Mossel Bay, there are plants on the West Coast and the Southern Cape (in Knysna and Sedgefield). During the drought a plant was put up in Richards Bay and the City of Cape Town.

At this moment DWS is going through restructuring. The Minister has led a process to guide it on the reconstruction of DWS and spread of work with the DDGs. A new post has been added which will focus on the water services, which forms part of the municipal infrastructure space. This is similar to the DWS structure prior to 2005 where there was a focal point in DWS that dealt specifically with water services within municipalities. DWS is repositioning itself in terms of the regulatory functions it performs. This will assist in dealing with issues of the Vaal pollution.

One of the difficulties found with the Covid-19 intervention is that there is only 63% functionality of infrastructure within the municipal space. And this has exacerbated the issues on the ground. That is why DWS has had to step in and do the emergency intervention on static tanks and water tankering. This is not an ideal situation, and more sustainable water supplies should be put in placed and this will happen in Phase 2 of the Covid-19 intervention.

There has been a misuse of the water tanker system and through the Rand Water programme, DWS has a tighter control of the 1400 tankers which have been deployed under that programme. But he cannot categorically state that there has not been a misuse of the tankers during this period.

The re-allocation of R1.5 billion from the grant-funded programmes will take DWS forward on the Covid-19 Phase 1 interventions to ensure those supplies are sustainable and there can be a reduction in the water tanks. This will be phased out by the end of August hopefully.

Rand Water was chosen to procure tanks largely because it is one of the DWS entities that has shown it is competent. It has a large board and they were able to mobilise quickly. Rand Water had the infrastructure to form a Command Centre which is able to give DWS a ready overview on the situation in the country as they rolled out the programme. They were given a delegated responsibility for the procurement of the tanks and the motorised tankers for the delivery of water and they went on a procurement process to procure those services. Rand Water was not procured on a tender basis.

DWS Acting CFO, Mr Frans Moatshe, indicated that he has been in the position of Acting CFO for the past two years. On the procurement of water tanks and tankering, DWS had appointed Rand Water as the implementing agent. The procurement processes followed by Rand Water are in line with the procurement framework issued by National Treasury. DWS will provide in a written submission the specific companies that have been appointed by DWS throughout the country.

DWS does have a 30% target for BEE rated companies. The details on the BBE representation of the companies will be provided in the written submission.

One of the reasons for underspending in DWS is on compensation of employees and this has to do with its organisational restructuring – the placement and positioning of employees within the organisation. The Head of HR will elaborate on this. There are vacancies that DWS had to reprioritise and to reconsider alignment between head office as well as the provinces.

Under goods and services, DWS asked National Treasury in the last quarter of the 2019/20 to reprioritise an amount of R300 million towards the Northern Cape drought. Approval was granted in February and DWS appointed Sedibeng Water to implement that project. But due to the processes that they had to follow, the funds have not been spent. However, commitments have been made by the implementing agent on behalf of DWS.

In the Eastern Cape and Limpopo there were interventions that led to rollover requests. One of the factors contributing to this is the delay of the procurement process within DWS. There are reforms that have been put in place by DWS to ensure that procurement is in line with the National Treasury framework and it is working with the implementing agents. This contributed to the under expenditure.

Whilst Rand Water has been appointed as the implementing agent, they do appoint service providers. The contracting of companies has been in line with the procurement framework.

Treasury allocated money to the Vaal River system project, to ensure that there is a holistic review of the Vaal River pollution. Those funds were committed at the end of the financial year. One of the challenges DWS has faced was that most of the commitments were effected at the end of the financial year, hence the rollover and the underspending.

On the thirty day payment requirement, usually DWS meets all its obligations for normal budgeted projects. However, there are historical projects that have led to an increase in costs that the implementing agents had to claim back from DWS. They were not budgeted for which led to a reprioritization during the adjustment budget. Most of the invoices have remained unpaid. DWS has taken a decision in its financial recovery plan that no payments will be processed if there is no budget. In previous years, there were high levels of unauthorised expenditure. This stood at R641 million incurred in the previous financial years before DWS was adhering to the budget prescript. All the old invoices are being considered in budget reconsiderations (in-year and MTF budgets).

On corruption, DWS has finalised investigations of irregular expenditure amounting to R9.5 billion.  DWS has applied to the National Treasury for condonation. Some of the cases are subject to finalisation of investigations by the police as well as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). DWS will provide information on the cases. Treasury has responded to the cases and there are other instances where disciplinary processes have to be finalised by DWS.

The centralisation of procurement was done to ensure that DWS gained efficiency from bulk buying. It was done to prevent corruption occurring. Rand Water and DWS are currently engaging on localised procurement – there is collaboration with Rand Water and other water boards on this.

On prices for goods and services, the prices indicated earlier are in line with the guidelines issued by the Chief Procurement Officer. There were efficient gains in this process. He emphasised that the procurement had to be expedited as this was a case of emergency (the lockdown).

DWS Chief Audit Executive, Ms Emilize Nezar, replied that there are 20 SAPS cases that are currently being investigated. DWS will engage on a quarterly basis with SAPS on matters that are closed so that there is traction. In the 2019 financial year DWS recovered R966 000 thus far from the forensic investigations. The investigations amounted to R3.2 billion worth of work of which R1.4 billion was related to preventative reviews performed prior to DWS expenditure being incurred. DWS has trained 900 of its officials on fraud and what to be aware of. Regular consequence management meetings are arranged to follow through with disciplinary action. DWS has conducted 42 this year.

Mr Balzer replied the Working For Water programme is under custodianship of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and questions should be posed to that department.

DWS Deputy Director-General: Planning and Information, Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, said that she is responsible for water and sanitation planning and information. Planning for water security within the country did not begin with the Master Plan. It started with the National Water Act, which gives DWS a mandate to plan on this. DWS then created the National Development Resource Strategy. DWS is currently on version 2 of the five year strategy, and will advance to version 3 in due course. There are several infrastructure plans laid out with their respective timelines. The Master Plan was intended to improve coordination between national and the municipalities. Thus the municipalities have their own master plans. The improvement of coordination includes the whole water sector (water services authorities and DWS entities). All the master plans are subservient to the national master plan.

DWS has a reconciliation strategy, which provides what the catchment yields are and what the projected demands are. It provides when infrastructure development will be needed in a particular area. Recognising that there are capacity challenges, DWS conducts water efficiency and demand management. With the municipalities and other water users, means of saving water are placed on order to deliver infrastructure. There were some delays on the infrastructure. She added that according to the Master Plan, the country is not yet in a crisis.

On water services, municipalities would have their own master plans, and the role of National is to assist them with the development of the structures, for example a feasibility and implementation study is jointly conducted.

DWS Deputy Director-General: Water Sector Regulation, Mr Anil Singh said that he is responsible for regulation. He was appointed as DDG in September 2013. Regulation deals with pollution, water quality and the enforcement of the universal principle of polluter-pays (which is to take action against the polluter). The biggest challenge is to deal with the pollution of municipalities. DWS tries to do this through monitoring and evaluation. DWS applies the process of intergovernmental regulations to support municipalities and to ensure that they are compliant. When they are non-compliant, as a last resort terminal action is taken. A report on the actions taken against the municipalities can be provided to the Committee.

Rand Water is the largest water board. Its footprint is Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga and it has great capacity to deal with major projects. Currently all the water boards are functional and operational. There have been one or two cases where boards were closed briefly due to the infection of staff members.

DWS Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services, Mr Squire Mahlangu, replied that there are 7 385 employed staff on the Public Service Act and a further 2 938 people employed on contract for construction work. Of this number 197 are experts (engineers). The construction employees are hired from the areas where the projects are done. The unfilled posts are 747 but every year if DWS has not filled these posts, they must be cut. At the moment there are only 470 unfilled posts which DWS wants to fill this year especially as a number of the posts are senior management positions in both regulation and in finance. There are currently 179 senior managers in DWS, 37 of which are Chief Directors. DWS has many capable individuals. However, the vacancies in Regulation must be filled as municipalities are not doing well with their water treatment plants and this has to be focused on. DWS intends to fill those posts as soon as possible but due to the restructuring in DWS over the past four years, the process has been delayed. When there is a change of Ministers in the department, the structure within the department changes. It is believed that all senior management posts are to filled in the next six months.

Tanks have been supplied across the country to help people sanitise their hands. DWS wants to ensure that the construction companies must attend to water infrastructure plans in the next two to three years.

For its graduate programme, DWS takes on 150 trainees every year. DWS produces many engineers and scientists. They are trained through the universities. DWS will provide statistics to the Committee on the achievements of the graduates.

DWS Chief Director: Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance, Mr Manus Leonardo, said that he is responsible for Programme 3 and has been employed at DWS since 1998. The performance analysis that is required for serial non-performing municipalities will be provided in writing to the Committee.

DWS has partnered with municipalities to address tanks not filled with water, as the duty of supplying water to communities rests with municipalities. This joint cooperation has included both the filling of tanks, as well as where they should be placed. According to DWS, this has been successful. Currently there are 18 653 tanks placed across the country. However when they run dry this is reported to the municipalities and then the National department. DWS has asked its implementing agents to provide reporting on this. DWS understands that the tankering process is not sustainable for the long-term but this intervention was an interim response and was a part of the Covid-19 Phase 1 response. Phase 2 will explore the connections of tanks to boreholes, well springs and surface water, where possible.

DWS has worked with the Water Services Infrastructure Grant and has communicated to municipalities to reprioritise 20% of allocations to contribute to the Covid Phase 2 implementation of ensuring that the tanks are a formalised form of water services.

The Vaal River intervention project cost R1.3 billion. A lot of the sewage collection system had to be cleaned as this has led to an unhealthy environment for Sebokeng residents. 25 km of the 27 km of pipelines have been cleared to date. 379 manholes have been cleared, 46 manhole covers have been replaced. The clearing of the sewer connections showed that there was a huge increase in effluent into the waste water treatment plant of Sebokeng. Before the intervention there were 18 megalitres into the waste treatment, today there is 120 megalitres flowing into the treatment works, which means that in the environment of collection, both the living conditions and health of the environment of the community has improved. 50 tonnes of rubble has been removed from the system. On the opposite side of the wastewater treatment works, there has been an increased flow of treated water from 19 to 43 megalitres. DWS, through its interventions, has had a significant impact on the Vaal River pollution.

On the Umzimvubu project, DWS is back on site with the contractor but the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the material delivery of infrastructure projects. DWS is ready for the construction of the plant to begin so that there is easier access to the construction site. This project forms part of the Presidential Sustainable Infrastructure Development symposium. This symposium looked at how the government can be assisted for further stages of this project.

DWS has progressed well on the bucket eradication programme in the Northern Cape area. In the structures that were identified at the conceptual section of this programme, 99% of all the toilet sub-structures have been built except for the town of Campbell. This forms less than 1% of the original target set. However to get the toilets connected to a sewer main, a decision was taken not to connect them to dry sanitation. This meant that bulk systems should bring water to the toilet and carry the water away from the toilet. In Griquastad there are ten more toilets to connect to the main. It will take a pipeline of 200m to have this connected but because it is limestone and 4m has to be dug underground, it is an extremely expensive engineering exercise. In the Free State DWS has been affected by the delivery of the material but this is progressing slowly as contractors have returned on site and industry providers are returning. DWS plans to complete this bucket eradication programme by the end of the year.

Mr Joseph asked why the CFO is still acting after two years. He asked about the officials who had been charged in the 2019/20 financial year. He asked what the role of mines is in polluting rivers and what action is DWS taking to prevent this. Also what is DWS doing to clear the catchment areas before the water reaches the dams because that was critical in the drought in Cape Town.

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) asked what the problem is at Sterkfontein Dam, as it has a lot of water but has a history of a lack of water supply. He asked what the timeline is for the region of QwaQwa to be supplied with water. And when the project will be completed. He asked if DWS has found the culprits in the pollution at the Vaal Dam.

Mr Shaik-Emam said that he is not pleased that DWS did not respond to some of his questions. For four years DWS has not been willing to address corruption at Mount Ayliff. The Committee understands that Rand Water is an entity of the state but DWS did not answer specifically why it was chosen to procure water tanks. The question on the 30% of tanks that have not been provided to schools was not answered. There is a problem with capacity in DWS and this was said by the Acting DG last year.

Ms Ntlangwini agreed that DWS has not responded adequately to the majority of the questions. This is why the Minister should be present so that the Committee is able to gain insight on the challenges faced from her perspective.

She asked if the Committee could get a list of the 20 people charged and this can be provided in writing. This must include the amount looted by those individuals.

The Chairperson suggested that the secretary provide DWS with the unanswered questions.

Mr Balzer indicated that the Department of Basic Education appointed Rand Water to provide water tanks to the country’s schools. As a result, he cannot answer on behalf of the other implementing agents. However, in the meetings he has attended, it has been indicated that no school does not have access to water tanks. He will provide a spreadsheet of these results to the Committee. He confirmed that all unanswered questions will be answered in a written response.

Currently DWS does not have the details on the Mount Ayliff oversight visit, but will provide a written response to the Committee.

Referring to the Bizana dam project, he will follow up on this and provide a written response.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee file the questions that have not been answered and DWS must provide written response in the next 30 days.

The Secretary said that 30 days is far too long as the report has to be drafted by 31 July. He asked that the process be finalised earlier.

The Chairperson suggested that by 24 July DWS must provide its responses.

He thanked DWS for both the presentation and their engagement with the Committee.

Mr Balzer said that DWS has taken note of the timeline and will respond accordingly.

The Committee adopted its previous minutes.

The Chairperson asked Members to log into the virtual meetings prior to the beginning.

The meeting was adjourned.






 

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