The Committee was briefed in a virtual meeting by the Gauteng Provincial Departments of Human Settlements & Water and Sanitation on the Gauteng 2020 adjusted human settlements development grant business plan and the Gauteng district implementation plan for 2020/21. It was also briefed by Rand Water on its water delivery and Capex plans over five years
The Committee asked the Gauteng Department of Water and Sanitation about the wastewater treatment works in the province’s metro municipalities, and was told that 15 of the plants had been flagged for non-compliance in the Tshwane Municipality. It asked about the integrated Vaal River system, and heard that the Department was refurbishing infrastructure in this area, and had also implemented the Dutch-supported Blue Deal project that was meant to address pollution in the Vaal River and the Vredeforte Dome World Heritage.
The Gauteng Department of Human Settlement was questioned about the abandonment of housing projects, the eviction of people from the housing units at Fleurhof, and the land exchange project at the Khutsong Hostel. The Department said the abandonment of housing units had to do with capacity constraints on the part of contractors. However, the Department had conducted a structural assessment of the abandoned projects, and most of them were back on track.
The Committee asked Rand Water about the impact of delays in the implementation of the Lesotho Phase 2 Project, as well as its debt management plan during the COVID-19 crisis. It was told that the Lesotho Phase 2 project delays had to do with difficulties in acquiring work and mining permits in Lesotho. Rand Water said it had provided COVID-19 debt relief measures to the municipalities.
The Committee Members expressed disappointment that the Minister was not attending the meeting. There were diverging views on whether the Members were going to continue with the meeting or close it. The Chairperson asked Members to vote, and the majority voted to proceed with the meeting.
Gauteng Department of Human Settlement: Briefing
Ms Phindile Mbanjwa, Head of Department: Gauteng Human Settlement, made some opening remarks, and invited Ms Tshepiso Mokgosi, Director: Project Support, Gauteng Department of Human Settlement, to lead the presentation.
Ms Mokgosi first informed the Committee of how the Department had responded to the adjusted business plan in face of the COVID-19 crisis. It had reprioritised the budget towards increasing stands through the rapid land release programme, and decreasing units, amongst other issues (See presentation).
She presented a list of tables showing the Department’s quarterly outlook cash flows, mining town allocations, blocked or abandoned projects, hostel redevelopment and urban renewal projects. The tables showed the number and names of the housing projects in the different municipalities of Gauteng.
Department of Water and Sanitation: Briefing
Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director-General, National Department of Water and Sanitation, made some opening remarks and handed over the presentation to Mr Sibusiso Mthembu, Head of Department: Gauteng Water and Sanitation.
Mr Mthembu took the Committee through power point slides showing Gauteng’s current water resources, which included the Vaal River. The slides further showed and explained the reconciliation strategy for the integrated Vaal River System, the challenges the Department was facing with delivering reliable and safe water services, the Department’s Blue Deal projects in the upper Vaal, the Sedibeng Regional Sanitation Scheme (SRSS) and the failing waste water treatment works (WWTWs) within metro municipalities.
Rand Water: Briefing
Mr Sipho Mosai, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Rand Water, showed and explained Rand Water’s water delivery plan and Capex plan over five years. The presentation touched on areas including Rand Water’s water supply systems and areas, the main Capex infrastructure drivers, asset performance and condition, water demand management, resource management and limitations, and the impact of COVID-19 on the board’s business operations.
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) expressed disappointment with the fact that Rand Water had not submitted their presentation to the Committee for scrutiny. This was unacceptable. The refusal by some Members to adjourn the meeting showed that they were pandering to the Minister’s behaviour of not attending Committee meetings. That was equally unacceptable.
The Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) maintained oversight on the operational status of the District Development Model (DDM) in all the provinces, including Gauteng. However, it was important to extend this role to the Committee on Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation. The Committee had an interest in knowing how the grants administered to the Departments would be effectively and optimally used under the DDM.
The management of water resources in South Africa was dependent on the government’s ability to establish catchment management agencies (CMAs). The Department had to explain why South Africa had only two CMAs.
The Department of Human Settlement had to explain its failure to provide an analysis on the use of grants and the release of land in Gauteng.
The delegates had to inform the Committee if the Gauteng province had procured consultancy services for the development of the business plan. If it had procured consultancy services, the delegates had to explain how the province could shift from the overuse of consultants.
The delegates had to explain to the Committee the whereabouts of the people who were evicted for illegal occupation of the housing units at Fleurhof. The Committee was aware that the project was complete, and was struggling to understand the absence of occupants. Did the houses have beneficiaries?
Mr Balzer replied on the CMAs, and said the DWS would establish two additional CMAs in the Vaal and the Western Cape. In places where the Department had not established CMAs, it would utilise the services of private CMAs.
Ms Mbanjwa replied that the DHS had not procured consultancy services for the development of business plans. The plans had been developed in-house.
Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Director-General, National Department of Human Settlements, added that consulting services were important on matters of human settlement. It was the DHS’s wish to employ in-house professionals permanently, but the professionals were only interested in working on a contractual basis.
On the Fleurhof issue, the DHS asked if it could submit written responses.
Ms Mohlala and Ms E Powell (DA) strongly rejected this request, and asked Mr Tshangana to explain this.
Mr Tshangana said the Department had explained that the Fleurhof units were earmarked for people who were on the list. By promising written responses, the DHS sought to provide the Committee with accurate information.
Ms Mbanjwa explained that the beneficiaries were working with the DHS to avoid the invasion of the housing units. The Department was going to provide further information on this.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) said that the presentation had not shown the future legislative development plans for both the DHS and the DWS.
The delegates had not informed the Committee of the transformation measures they had in place for black communities. It was important for these communities to have access to clean water.
People had written to the Parliamentary Constituency Office complaining of wrongful evictions. It was important for the DHS to address these matters.
Mr Tshangana replied that both Departments were reviewing the already existing legislation. The DWS was in the advanced stages of reviewing the 1997 Water Services Act. The DHS was also reviewing the Housing Services Act.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said the delegates had stated that they were experiencing delays with title deeds because the title deeds offices were closed. The delegates had to explain whether they were aware of the reasons for the offices being closed.
The presentation had mentioned a Blue Deal project that South Africa was co-funding with the Netherlands. The Committee was interested in getting more details on the project.
The delegates had to provide the names of the 15 water treatment plants that were flagged for non-compliance. The Committee wanted to know whether the Department had an action plan for compliance.
Ms Tshangana replied that the title deeds offices had been closed due to COVID-19, and this had had an impact on the DHS’s work.
Mr Mthembu said that the Department had had a longstanding water resources partnership with the Netherlands. The Blue Deal project was founded on the backdrop of that relationship. At the core of the project was the need to reduce or eradicate pollution at the Vredeforte Dome World Heritage, the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site, and the Liebenbergsvlei Catchment.
The 15 waste water treatment plants in Tswane that were flagged for non-compliance, were listed on page 69 of the presentation. (See presentation). The Department’s action plan was to engage with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the affected cities on the idea of borrowing funds to build capacity in the water works. The cities would later repay the loan, using part of the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) that they were receiving. The Department had proposed the administering of R2.7 billion to key water works plants, including Rooiwal and Baviaanspoort in the next medium term expenditure framework (MTEF). It was important to emphasise that the Department could not commit beyond the MTEF period.
Ms Powell expressed concern with the quality of research that the Committee was receiving from the DHS. The research lacked proper analysis of the issues to do with human settlement -- for example, the implications that the adjusted business plan and budget had on the Department.
There were reports that the Gauteng Housing Committee was struggling with the management of housing projects. There were problems of foot-dragging and abandonment of projects, as well as problems with housing waiting lists. The Committee needed to know the people on the housing waiting lists in order to safeguard against corruption.
Slide 5 of the HSDG report dealt with quarterly outflows. The Department needed to account for the R1.3 million that it had spent in April. There was no clear indication of what this money had been spent on.
Mr Neville Chainee, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Planning and Strategy, National Department of Human Settlements, replied that the DHS already had the analysis on the implications of the adjusted business plan, and would made it available to the Committee.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) asked the delegates to furnish reasons for the abandonment of three projects they had mentioned in their presentation. It was important to know if these projects had been budgeted for. If they had been budgeted for, the Department had to explain what had happened to the budget following the abandonment of the projects.
The Committee was interested in knowing whether the Department of Water and Sanitation had an updated water quality modelling plan to guide policy intervention, as well as waste water disposal strategies to reduce and increase the volumes of reusable water. There were serious shortcomings in the management of the integrated Vaal River system. The Committee wanted to know what the Department and Rand Water were doing to address this problem.
The Gauteng presentation had referred to the Vaal River pollution and how this was threatening the Vredeforte Dome. The province had to explain its action plan to the Committee. It also had to report on whether the culprits causing the pollution had been punished.
The Gauteng delegates needed to account for the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG) and Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG) spent by municipalities in the previous financial year.
Acid mine drainage (AMD) rehabilitation was a serious problem in Gauteng. The Committee wanted a progress report on the measures the Department was taking to deal with this.
The Committee was interested in knowing the number of directives or notices that the Department had issued to municipalities for non-compliance in the previous financial year.
There were many WWTW plants flagged for non-compliance. This had to do with aged equipment and unskilled workers. The Department had to indicate the measures it had in place to deal with this problem once and for all.
Ms Mbatha replied that 50 housing units for the Mamelodi housing project had been abandoned due to capacity issues with the contractors. Moreover, some of the abandoned projects fell under the people’s housing process (PHP), and had been left to the communities for rollout without monitoring. However, the Department had conducted a structural assessment of the abandoned projects, and most of them were back on track.
The money budgeted for the abandoned projects had been redirected to other projects. The DHS would provide further details on the matter in writing.
Mr Balzer replied that most of the questions asked by Ms Mokgotho should be answered at a local governance level. Be that as it may, the Department was going to find ways to ensure the issues were addressed.
On the Vaal River pollution, Mr Mthembu answered that the Blue Deal project sought to stop the Vaal river pollution from upstream. This would stop pollution at the Vredefort Dome.
The Department had made it a priority to punish those responsible for the Vaal River pollution. It was in the process of initiating legal action against those organisations charged with violation of the National Water Act.
Mr Mthembu referred to reusable water, and said the Department already had indirect work that was happening in this area. Water in the Hammanskraal was partly reused water. The Department took the matter of reusable water seriously, as it understood the fact that there were limited water supplies in many areas, including Johannesburg.
Regarding the RBIG, the Department had had a budget of R241 million in the last financial year, and this had deliberately been underspent. The money had been ring-fenced to deal with the refurbishment work on the Vaal River system.
The Department had recorded under expenditure of R45 million on the WSIG by the three municipalities. The underspending was justified, as it had been beyond the control of the municipalities. For example, one the municipalities had had to delay one of its projects due to ground instability. The project strongly depended on ground stability to avoid the collapse of reservoirs. The municipalities had already applied to the National Treasury for rollovers.
Mr Mthembu requested that the Department present on acid mine drainage at the next meeting.
On the notices and directives, the Department had issued nine directives and 21 notices against perpetrators in the last financial year. It was important to emphasise that the Department took legal action against those perpetrators who refused to follow the directives. Most of the perpetrators had followed the directives and notices. The Department would submit a list of all notices and directives that had been issued in the last financial year.
He said the ministerial infrastructure grant covered the refurbishment of aging equipment. However, this was insufficient, and there was a need for money to refurbish aged equipment in all the municipalities. The CoGTA and the Department were working on an initiative that could potentially address the financial problem. On the issue of unskilled workers, it was the duty of the municipalities to fill vacancies with skilled workers.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) asked whether the Department had a plan to deal with the problem of illegal water connections on pipelines running from Lesotho.
Mr Mthembu replied that the Department was strengthening its guard against water theft an ongoing basis. It was considering the use of drones to monitor the security of pipelines, as well as the deployment of compliance monitoring and enforcement units.
Ms N Tafeni (EFF) asked how the DWS was developing the integrated Vaal River system infrastructure.
Mr Mthembu replied that the Department was working with Rand Water to resolve the issues responsible for the non-performance of the Sebokeng regional sewer scheme (SRSS). There was refurbishment and upgrading work planned in this area. However, the Department’s budget for this was limited to only the current financial year. The total amount of money required for the refurbishment and upgrade work was over R2 billion and R7 billion respectively.
The Chairperson supported Ms Powell on the issue of housing waiting lists. There were allegations that some people had lost their houses to those in positions of power. It was therefore important for the Committee to understand the criteria used to determine those who got on the waiting list.
She requested an update on the implementation process of the Lesotho Phase 2 project. The CEO of Rand Water had mentioned that Gauteng could experience water problems if there were delays with the project. The Committee wanted to know the causes of the delays.
There were complications with the exchange of land at the Khutsong Hostel. The Committee was interested to know what action the Department had taken to resolve the matter.
Had Rand Water experienced payment problems with municipalities, as other boards had complained? If not, it was important that it shared its debt management plan with the other boards.
Mr Balzer said the Department expected to complete the Lesotho Phase 2 project by June 2026, when the water was going to be delivered. The delays with the project had to do with issues involving the applications for work permits and mining permits.
Mr Mosai responded that delays with the Lesotho Phase 2 project also had to do with the financial problems that the organisation was experiencing. The project was funded by water users, and the blockage of proposed increases in water tariffs had put financial pressure on the project. The Water Board had an outstanding debt of R4 billion that was exacerbating the already existing financial pressure.
Regarding Rand Water’s debt management plan, Mr Mosai explained that municipalities were required to make payment within 72 days. Previously, this had been 30 days. Its biggest debt problem was with the Emfuleni municipality, which was owing R900 million. The Department had had to provide COVID-19 debt relief measures to the municipalities.
Ms Mbanjwa said that the Khutsong land exchange issue had been resolved. The Housing Development Agency (HAD) was the intermediary facilitating the resolution.
The meeting was adjourned.
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