In this virtual meeting, the Department of Water and Sanitation presented to the Committee on the Second Adjustments Appropriation Bill. The presentation covered the financial position of the Department, the overview of non-financial performance and then the responses to follow-up questions of the Committee. The final adjusted appropriation of the Department amounted to R16.994 billion and this resulted mainly from additional funds of R306 million through approved Roll-Overs for drought and country wide COVID-19 interventions, suspended funds of R257 million for the support of the COVID-19 macro-economic stimulus response, the budget cuts of R71 million and R200.919 million as a contribution of the Department towards Business Rescue Plan for SAA.
The presentation also covered the installation of water tanks. Water tanks were delivered to a total of 158 local and districts municipalities between 28 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. The intervention was a short term measure to ensure access to water was given to the identified vulnerable communities.
The presentation discussed the Nongwandla Village Scheme at the Alfred Nzo District Municipality. The municipality had identified and protected another spring in the high lying area and installed a steel tank to serve an additional number of households in the area. Due to vandalism and illegal connections on the pipeline, there was a part of the village that was not currently receiving water. The ANDM will reprioritise funds to refurbish the scheme and ensure constant water supply to all households in the area.
The Committee raised concerns over the remedial work of the Nongwandla Village Scheme. Why did the Department only show up at the site on the morning that the Portfolio Committee paid an oversight visit? There was evidence of work that had only been completed on the morning of the visit. The Committee wanted the Department to provide the original documents of the amounts budgeted for and the bill of quantities. When was this contract awarded? Who was the contract awarded to? When was the job completed? When did the Department pay for the job? The Committee was not satisfied by the responses of the Department. The Committee also asked what the Department doing to deal with the predictions that the next major crisis in South Africa would be a water crisis? One day the country might have to experience ‘water-shedding’. There was also a problem with the water quality provided by some of the municipalities. What support was the Department providing to municipalities to ensure that the quality of the water provided was good? The issue of the installation of the water tanks was also raised by the Committee. Was the Department able to inform the Committee which of the recently installed water tanks were functional? Were there plans to address those water tanks that have been vandalized because those communities were still going to have challenges with water? The Committee asked the Department when it thought it was finally possible to do away with the bucket system? The bucket system was inhumane.
The Chairperson welcomed the members and the delegation from the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation to the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was for the Department to brief the Standing Committee on the 2020 Second Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B25 – 2020].
Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Department introduced the Acting-Director General, Chief Financial Officer and the rest of the delegation from the Department.
Briefing by the Department of Water and Sanitation on the Second Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B25-2020]
The presentation was delivered by Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting-Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation, and a delegation from the Department. The presentation was broken down into three parts. Part one of the presentation dealt with the financial position of the Department. Part two dealt with the overview of non-financial performance and part three were responses to follow up questions of the Committee.
Mr Frans Moatshe, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DWS, discussed the financial position of the Department and focused on the overall impact of the second adjustments appropriation. The final adjusted appropriation amounted to R16.994 billion and this resulted mainly from additional funds of R306 million through approved roll-overs for drought and country wide COVID-19 interventions, suspended funds of R257 million for the support of the COVID-19 macro-economic stimulus response, the budget cuts of R71 million and R200.919 million as a contribution of the Department towards Business Rescue Plan for SAA. The rest of part 1 discussed the summary of financial and non-financial performance as at end of the 2nd quarter of the 2020/21 financial year. The measures put in place to ensure the effective, efficient and economic use of the proposed allocations. Finally, the possible implications of the R200.919 million that was transferred to the Department of Public Enterprises was also discussed.
Mr Leonardo Manus, Deputy Director-General: Infrastructure, DWS, discussed the issue of water tankers. He provided information on the Number of water tanks procured by the Department per province, sizes and unit cost per water tank. Water tanks were delivered to a total of 158 local and districts municipalities between 28 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. The intervention was a short-term measure to ensure access to water to Identified vulnerable communities.
Mr Sibusiso Mthembu, Gauteng Provincial Head, DWS, presented on the Vaal River System Pollution issue. To accelerate the Human Settlements Development Programme and contribute towards economic development in the Emfuleni Local Municipality, the capacity of the waste water treatment plants needs to be upgraded. The estimated cost of this project is R6 billion. The DWS has submitted a proposal to National Treasury to upgrade and refurbish the capacity of waste water treatment works in the Emfuleni Local Municipality.
Ms Portia Makhanya, Eastern Cape Provincial Head, DWS, discussed the status of the Nongwandla Village Scheme at the Alfred Nzo District Municipality (ANDM). The ANDM has further identified and protected another spring in the high lying area and installed a steel tank to serve an additional number of households in the area. Due to vandalism and illegal connections on the pipeline, there is a part of the village that is not currently receiving water. The ANDM will reprioritise funds to refurbish the scheme and ensure constant water supply to all households in the area.
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) raised the issue of remedial work of the Nongwandla Village Scheme. When Parliament performed an oversight visit in 2015 the entire project was paid for and completed. When he and some members of Parliament visited the houses surrounding the area the people there said that they had last seen anyone from the Department in 2009. Why did the Department only show up at the site on the morning that the Portfolio Committee paid an oversight visit? There was evidence of work that had only been done that morning. He wanted the Department to provide the original documents of the amounts budgeted for and the bill of quantities. When was this contract awarded? Who was the contract awarded to? When was the job completed? When did the Department pay for the job? The Committee heard how the Department, in 2018, saved R166 000 but when Parliament paid the oversight visit it had already been paid for. He then discussed the R133 000 that was used for the work that was done. Where did most of the money go to? Project management cost R50 000 and engineering fees were R14 320. There was hardly any money spent on the actual job. Everyone else got paid and made a meal out of this contract. That was his concern. He was not satisfied with the findings of the Department. The Department had not interrogated the matter to the extent that the Committee wanted. Nowhere was the Committee told that the Department had done other work. When a budget was allocated for a specific job and the funds were not used there then there were specific processes that needed to be complied with to shift funding from one project to another. He was not satisfied with the information provided by the Department. The more documents and information he received from the Department the more he was convinced that something untoward had happened around this contract. He did not want the Department to answer any other question because he was not satisfied that the Department could provide any proper responses. He wanted the original documents, the bill of quantities, who was the contract awarded to and all the relevant information surrounding the contract. All of that information needed to be provided to the Committee and then the Committee would decide what the way forward would be.
Ms D Peters’ (ANC) questions were on the Vaal River water quality and the distribution of the water tankers. What was the Department doing to deal with the forecasts that stated the next major crisis in South Africa would be a water crisis? One day the country might have to do ‘water-shedding’. There was currently a problem with the water quality provided by some of the municipalities. She provided an example of the water provided by the Sol Plaatje Municipality in Kimberley that left much to be desired. What support was the Department providing to municipalities to ensure that the quality of the water provided is good? Appliances, like geysers, were being damaged by the water flowing through the system. There were often damages or leaks in the system. What was the Department doing to support municipalities with regard to water provision? She then discussed Covid-19 water intervention supply. Was the Department able to inform the Committee which of the recently installed water tanks were functional? What were the plans to address those water tanks that have been vandalized because those communities were still going to have challenges with water? She then raised the matter of the Vaal River system. She was happy that the Department said it would be doing an assessment in some of the provinces to deal with the challenges of the Vaal River water system. How long were the municipalities in the Northern Cape, North-West, Free State and other parts of the country going to wait for? There were serious challenges in the area of Mahareng. She was happy that the Minister’s National Rapid Response Team did visit Mahareng but the problem was still going to be there for a while. There was a problem with the water treatment plant that was malfunctioning that was creating serious environmental challenges. It was, therefore, important for the Committee to hear when this intervention was going to happen. There was a need for a feasibility study to be done. Currently, there was untreated water flowing into the national resource and it was important that that matter be addressed. She then discussed the sustainability of the water board. Was the Department able to provide the Committee with information on which municipalities owed water board and how much each municipality owed the boards? She wanted information on the duration of the set debt and if there was a payment plan in place. Was there any water intensive user, like mines or other industries that owed the water boards? For how much and for how long has this debt being going on? It was important that the Committee received this information from the Department.
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) focused on the Nongwandla Village Scheme. He said that the Committee should take a decision to either convene an urgent meeting with both DWS: Eastern Cape and the stakeholders of that municipality or the Committee should have another oversight visit. He raised this issue because he took an oversight visit to the area to see the water issues there. The report of the work that was done was on the desk of the Acting DG to sign it off and unfortunately that report does not correlate to the information given during the presentation. A lot, he was told, has been done. He said it was reported that the Nongwandla Village Scheme needed to be looked into and that the ANDM had set aside some funding. Could the Department confirm if that information was correct? Could the Department confirm if the procured water tankers were actually working because there were reports of procured water tanks but no water. Some tanks were without taps. There was also a problem with the Amatola Water. He wanted the Department to look into the matter. Has the Department taken an independent assessment on the work done in assessing whether there was value for money in the Nongwandla Village Scheme? The ANDM had set aside money to work into the Nongwandla Village Scheme. How was the Department supporting that municipality develop a water systems development plan to ensure that all households have access to water? Currently, at these local municipalities which were supposed to be serviced by the scheme, there were households whose water was rationed because of the shortage of water.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC) asked if the Department did thorough research when it bought the water tanks. Some of the water tanks were empty. The money of the Department did not do the work to assist the needy. The researchers of the Department needed to be truthful on their findings. She then discussed the R306 million roll-over that the Department ended up assisting the Northern Cape Province. Why did the Department allow the roll-over to happen? There was a lot of work that needed to be done with this money. For the Department to not use funding that it was supposed to use created problems for themselves. Why did the Department decide to allocate the money to the Northern Cape? What method did the Department use in making that decision? South Africa had nine provinces so why did the Department not share the money? If a Department was allocated money then it should try and use all the money it has been allocated.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) said that since the declaration of the state of disaster by the President and the commitments made by the Department work was done. That work of the Department needed to be evaluated by the Committee. The reports of all the roll-overs did not present a very good picture of the Department. In the Free State there was a promise of delivering of 5000 water tanks to cover the QwaQwa area but only 600 water tanks were delivered. This indicates that there was a problem in the Department that it could not fulfill its commitment and this could cause some dissent among the communities. What happened to the 5000 tanks? He raised this question because in the President’s recent statement it was re-emphasised that South Africa might be dealing with this for a long time. This meant that delivery of water to communities and maintaining water infrastructure needed to be improved. If the Department was not able to fulfil the promises it made that was a real problem. In the Free State there were seven water waste plants that have become dysfunctional because of water pipe bursts and leakage while at the same time there was a programme on leakages. There has been a commitment by the Department to look at those matters but the communities never receive visits. He also noted the pipe bursts in the Vaal River System. The Department must go back and attend some of the commitments it made and did not fulfil. The Committee needed to perform oversight on some of these areas as has been mentioned by members.
Mr D Joseph (DA) said that the project of the Department of Water and Sanitation was to bring dignity to the nation and financial accountability. He wanted to know the value for money of the water tanks. Was the Department satisfied that the water tanks were value for money? The Committee appreciated the urgent intervention by the Department to support the communities and the schools where the tanks went but was the Department confident that it received value for money? The water tanks were a short-term solution but the Committee also needed to know what the long-term solution was? He then discussed the Vaal River Systems pollution. He was concerned about the mines or whichever industry pollutes the river system. The Committee needed to know how many fines were issued and how many of the fines were paid. What was the Department of Environmental Affairs doing about the situation because the responsibility of the matter also lied with them? The Committee appreciated the Department’s intervention to assist in getting the infrastructure damage of the Vaal River System fixed. It was a work in progress. The Committee needed to make sure that the over role-players also got involved and were held accountable.
Mr O Mathafa (ANC) had a question on the water tankers and the work done by the entities owned by the municipalities or water boards. What was the interface between the Department and these particular entities? There was a situation in Hammanskraal, in the city of Tshwane where the water reticulation was being fixed by intervention by the municipality as well as provincial and national assistance. In the same city there was an area called Winterveld. This was one of the oldest areas in the city. It did not have water and relied on a reservoir that usually fed into ward pipes. It does not feed into the ward pipes anymore and one of the entities tried to rectify the situation. After the 2016 elections that project stalled because there was a new administration in the city. There was a challenge of continuing roll-overs. The reason he asked about the interface is because of the work that has been stalled and only halfway complete. Maybe the Department can assist these entities to expedite these particular projects. He then discussed pollution. Does the Department know how many water-use licenses were granted? If the Department had a proactive approach in terms of where licenses were issued and there was consistent monitoring, then water population could be prevented.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentation. He appreciated the responses of the Minister and Deputy Minister to the questions that were raised. He appreciated the work done by the Department in the area surrounding the Jozini Damn where the people from that areas also wanted access to the water. He noted that without water there was no life. It needed to be ensured that water reaches the people of South Africa. This Department was one of the most important Departments. There was no agriculture or food without water. The lives and livelihoods of South Africans depend on this Department. He wanted the CFO to confirm that most of the underspending in the Department was because of lockdown? Having looked at the performance of the Department, it said that 40% of targets were achieved. Was that 40% achieved over the whole year or only quarter two? What was the projected end of year performance of the Department? He then discussed some of the positions that had not been filled in the Department. What would the implications of not filling some of those posts be on service delivery?
He then moved onto the Vaal River System. What does the issuing of notices and directives mean? What were the notices and directives saying? He said it was important to enforce the polluter pays principle because of the damage polluters cause to the water eco-system. It should not be the government or the tax-payers who pay for that. The person who caused the pollution should be the one who pays. How much have the polluters been paid? Have they been taken to task?
He then raised concerns over water in rural areas. People in rural areas were the most disadvantaged when it came to water. Their livestock do not have access to water and they themselves do not have access to water. The water there was not suitable for human consumption. There was a tendency amongst officials to not to go to those areas. The Department should find a way to monitor officials to make sure that they do go to rural areas and interact with the people who do not have access to media. Those people often remain muted in democracy. The people in rural areas need access to water for themselves and their livestock. In Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, there was a dam there called Woodstock Dam. The Woodstock Dam was one of the most beautiful and big dams in that area. When Parliament visited the area the people said that they would block the water because the water went to Gauteng. They had agriculture but there was no reticulation to speak of. He used this as an example because there were many such areas with a reservoir of water but the people in that area do not have access to that water. Did the Department have a list of those areas? Did the Department have any plans in place to make sure the people who reside in those areas may also benefit from that water? He then discussed sanitation. When will the Department be able to say that the bucket system was finished for good? How many areas still use the bucket system? There was an indignity that came from using the bucket system.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo reaffirmed the point that water was very important. Without water it was not possible to live. The Department confirmed that South Africa remained a water scarce country. Climate change has created more challenges for South Africa. The sources of water in the country mostly remain surface water. There was a huge potential for ground water in South Africa because it has not been overexploited. In certain areas where there were a lot of human settlements, including mining and industrial activities, there has been a contamination of ground water.
The Department confirmed that the network industries infrastructure in South Africa was well developed. For various reasons, most of the water network industries were sent to the centers of mineral deposits like in Gauteng. The water from KwaZulu-Natal goes through Free State until it enters the Vaal River System. Most of these water networks were coming to one center for economic reasons. Most of the rural communities were neglected. In December last year, the Ministry visited Bergville to address the issue. The Department has been able to support that district municipality so that those particular problems were resolved. The integrated Vaal System was supported by 14 schemes from all over. The Presidency and Ministry had also intervened in the area of QwaQwa. The message from the Department was that the situation could not continue where water infrastructure bypassed communities and support economic centers and the neighboring communities were neglected.
He provided information on the Jozini Dam and how the municipality was being assisted by the Department. In rural communities and rural provinces infrastructure remained one of the biggest issues. There were many infrastructure projects being run by the Department of Water and Sanitation. Without water the economy would not be able to be stimulated. One of the biggest challenges facing the Department was the roles it performed in different spheres. The role of water services authorities was performed by municipalities. A number of municipalities were struggling severely in discharging their water services function. A lot of money goes to local government for regional infrastructure build and water and sanitation related projects were not being spent. In rural provinces, where there are no metros, they still have the benefit of the Human Settlement Development Grant. These were some of the monies available for basic infrastructure and network industries. In some of these municipalities there was an increase in population. These municipalities decided to connect on the existing infrastructure without upgrading it. The bulk upgrade of infrastructure caused these problems. He provided an example of municipalities in Tshwane where water treatment plants were developed to treat a certain amount of water per day but because the population has grown the sewerage that goes to that plant is too much for the system to handle. That was why the systems were overflowing. Some of the interventions made were not helping the situation. The same thing occurred with the interventions in Gauteng. In many of the municipalities their waste water treatment works were not managed well and there were no investments in operations and maintenance. These municipalities, in the main, do not plan for development. The Department was able to support these municipalities in many of these projects to upgrade the particular plants. The contribution of the Department was limited because it was more responsible for water resource infrastructure and the municipalities were responsible for the water services infrastructure.
The Department had a regulatory function. The regulatory function, apart from supporting and providing guidance, meant that if those water uses did not discharge their functions in terms of the license conditions then the Department would have to protect the water resource. In a number of municipalities, the thing the Department did was send a notice to say that there were problems with the functionality of the systems. The Department gave the municipalities a chance to produce a remedial action plan. Sometimes the municipalities make commitments and produce the plans but do not deliver against the plans they have made. The Department would then follow up with a directive. Ultimately, some of them will open cases. Certain municipalities have already been taken to court. He provided an example of how in the North West Province the Department took a municipality to court because its pollution was affecting certain farmers. Those were some of the actions the Department took because polluters were meant to pay. It was not only municipalities that were polluting. Some of the biggest polluters were industries. In the Vaal River System there has been damaged caused by mines, specifically acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage was one of the biggest problems. The Department was working together with Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Department of Environmental Affairs. Some of the mines were abandoned and heavy metals have been left there. The water there can still be treated. The Deputy President set up a team to deal with the pollution in the Vaal River. The pollution in the Vaal River was a very serious problem because it also affects South African’s international obligations. The Northern Cape actually pollutes the water sent to Namibia. It was embarrassing and the Department was addressing those particular issues. There was a National Water and Sanitation Masterplan. The Department was starting to implement some of those particular elements. Various provinces were developing their own masterplans and the Department needed to support them to ensure the protection of water supply. Black people cannot continue to be denied access to water and the economic benefits that come with the access to water.
Mr Balzer discussed the difficulties of where the Department was situated within the value chain. Often issues relating to water was the local government’s responsibility and not the Department’s responsibility. He noted the concerns raised by Mr Shaik Emam and the Department would access the contract documents from the municipality. He was not sure if the Department was able to access and remove the originals but the Department would get copies of the contract documents.
Mr Moatshe responded to concerns about the roll-overs. The members were correct. Roll-overs were discouraged. With the specific roll-over of R306 million it was an intervention programme that was implemented in the last quarter of the financial year. The Department only managed to conclude on contractual agreements with the service providers towards the end of that last quarter. Hence, the Department had to apply to National Treasury for a roll-over. There were measures that were put in place to ensure that there was not a recurrence that had to do with the realignment of the Department’s planning and recovery plans that were referred to earlier on.
He then responded to the question of whether underspending was related to lockdown. Lockdown did play a significant role in underspending; however, there were other factors that contributed to the low spending. There was low spending in capital projects because of community unrest. An example of this was the Vaal River Systems project where unrest had occurred. The disruptions to projects delayed the issuing of invoices for the carrying out of the project. The Department had put together empowerment plans and stakeholder engagements to ensure that there were less occurrences of those incidents across all the projects.
He discussed the 40% spending. That was the spending to date. The projections of spending at financial year end was quite complex. It has always been the Department’s intent to maximise the resources it had at its disposal. Currently, due to all of these delays the Department has put together a plan to make sure that it has 90% or more spending by year end. In September, the Department was sitting with 37% of the budget spent. The Department has reprioritised the budget to realign the projects to the stage of readiness. The Department has also put together a plan to accelerate the capital commitments. All this was done to ensure that the Department has spent most of the remaining budget. He was positive with the current capital book value of over R4 billion management has put together a plan to prioritise those projects that can be expedited between now and the end of March. This would be done to ensure that there was no increase in roll-overs. All efforts were being made by the Department to ensure that it maximised the utilisation of the budget.
He discussed the impact of the unfilled posts on service delivery. There were areas where service delivery was affected by the high rate of vacancies. The intent of the new organisational structure that has been approved by the Minister was aimed at aligning the human resources of the Department with the mandate of the Department. While the Department might have short-term under-expenditure the prospects of the efficiencies that will result out of this structure have been recorded. It was noted that high rates of vacancies did have an impact on service delivery especially on the regions where most of the work is carried out. He then discussed the interface between the Department and its entities. There were interface sessions.
The Department did have an oversight role over the entities like the water boards. Those reports were available and were a part of the project management processes as well as the compacts that the entities sign with the Department annually.
On water boards debt, the Department was having joint meetings with Cogta. There were plans to try and deal with systematic issues around the challenges faced by the municipalities who were not paying the water boards. That has created some serious challenges for the water boards in terms of their sustainability and their ability to support those municipalities and continue to provide those necessary services. The plans were there to ensure that, together with Cogta and the municipalities, the root causes that were affecting the municipal debt was dealt with. The Department was hopeful that the interventions and ministerial support that it was providing will help turnaround the current issue of municipal debt.
Mr Balzer added on the matter of water boards debt. Because of the non-payment of water boards by municipalities there were four water boards that were under financial distress. These four water boards were Amatola Water, Bloem Water, Magalies Water and Sedibeng Water. The Department was looking at a temporary relief package to make sure that those water boards were kept in business while negotiations continued to find some sort of settlement agreement with the municipalities that could meet the cash flow requirements for the water boards. This was an ongoing process. The Department was engaging with National Treasury, Cogta and various other role-players on the matter. The Department was dealing with the matter but it was not yet resolved. The engagements were ongoing.
Mr Manus responded to the water tanker related questions and the link to the sustainability project going forward. He further responded to the question of value for money for the water tanks. It was firstly important to note that the tanker system was temporary and was in place to address a specific need during a specific time of the Covid pandemic. It was a first barrier against Covid for people to wash their hands and therefore it was urgent to get water sent to those vulnerable communities. The Department focused on those vulnerable communities that needed to be given water but it was expensive getting water to people in terms of long-term operations. Value for money was achieved through this intervention noting the number of people who got water. It was reported through the implementing agent that up to 1335000 cubic metres of water was catered up until the end of August through all of the tanks that were installed. Unfortunately, it did not go as smoothly as it could have gone because of various reasons. When taps were stolen from the tank it put that tank out of service for a while because it cannot be filled. There was also the breakdown of trucks or where there was a high demand and the trucks could not keep up with that demand of filling water. Those were some of the challenges that were faced during this process. The Department was working on scoping all of the strategically placed tanks to get those tanks connected to a sustainable source of supply. The tanks could be connected to either a borehole, spring or water main that might be close by. The tanker part of the service will be taken away and that would ensure that it was more sustainable and water could be provided at a lower cost.
He discussed the QwaQwa matter. The figure that was presented on the Free State did not include the drought intervention that saw the tanks that were given in the area of QwaQwa. The 500 tanks was the intervention as per the Covid funded that was done through Rand Water. It was in addition to what was given in the area of QwaQwa.
He addressed Ms Peters’ question on the Sol Plaatje Municipality. It was a municipality that has committed its own municipal infrastructure grant to see the conversion of the tanks that were installed into a more sustainable form because there were water mains in the area that were nearby. The office in the Northern Cape was working closely with the municipality to see that the conversion being done was successful. This was work that was ongoing and would be reported on in the next engagement with the Committee.
Mr Mthembu responded to the Winterveld and Hammerskraal concerns. The Department was aware of the water shortages in the Slovo area of Winterveld. The Department had engaged with the city of Tshwane to prioritise water provision in that area. The Department wanted the extension of the water tankers system in Hammerskraal to the Winterveld area. The difficulty with the metros was that the Department did not have direct funding that it could make available to the metros. Metros have the urban settlement development grants which they use to cover some of the water and sanitation budget shortfalls. The Department had raised this matter with the administration of the city. The USDG was always underspent in the city yet there were people who were not served with water. He then responded to the question on the assessment period. The Department had gone out on tender for the assessment from Mpumalanga all the way to the Northern Cape. The advertisements would come out next week and then the Department would have engineers who would help with the detail assessment. The Department would start that assessment in March. The Deputy Minister and the Political Steering Committee wanted the Department to begin the assessment period sooner and for it to be done speedily. It was initially anticipated to take eight months but once the engineers were appointed the Department would find ways of shortening the time.
Mr Anil Singh, Deputy Director-General: Water Sector Regulation, DWS, responded to the regulatory issues. He emphasised that the Department was holding the polluters accountable. Various cases were opened to hold the polluters responsible. The polluters ranged from industry to local government. In terms of the polluter pay principle the Department was holding polluters accountable. The Department would update the Committee on the progress that has been made. The difficulty is that this matter concerned inter-governmental relations in which national government is taking action against local government for the pollution of the water resource. The water resource was the most precious of all the resources and that was why the Department took the enforcement action very seriously.
He then discussed other interventions. All the municipalities that were polluting the Vaal River will be held accountable and punitive measures would be put in place to make sure that they do not pollute. The municipalities will pay for the cost of rehabilitation. The Department was so running and implementing the waste discharge charge system. It was a levy that the Department wanted to enforce. The Department was applying anti-pollution measures. The Deputy Minister was leading the anti-pollution task team which was doing good work in coordinating the national pollution problem and to ameliorate the effects of this pollution. The task team would also look into dealing with the nationwide problem of acid mine drainage. He undertook to come back to the Committee and report regularly with the progress on these matters. The main regulatory model that the Department had was the green and blue drop programme. The programme had gone quiet over the last few years but it was being revived by the Department. The Department was consulting with the sector partners. The Department wanted to champion the roll-out of the revitalization of the programme. The Deputy Minister was leading that programme. The main aspect was to put together the assessment modalities to be able to assess the waste water treatment works. There was a detailed presentation on that. There has been public outcry as to why those programmes went dormant but now the Department had the leadership of the Minister and Deputy Minister who have supported the revitalization of the programme. The Department was busy with a procurement process to bring those programmes online. The procurement process would be concluded very soon. The service provider would be appointed very soon and the Department would come back to inform the Committee on the progress. He thanked the Committee for its support and undertook to give the Committee regular progress reports on all the anti-pollution measures. The Department wanted to give the Committee an assurance that it was dealing holistically with the issue of regulation of pollution. The blue and green drop programme was an incentive-based regulatory performance tool. He compared it to coastal cities having blue flag status for their beaches. In the past if you drove through a town it would have a billboard saying that that town has either blue or green drop status. Blue drop dealt with the drinking water quality and the green drop dealt with the waste water. That programme was running for some years in the Department but after 2014 the programme became dormant and now it was being revived. The programme would support local government in managing drinking water quality and waste water. The programme was quite technical but the Department would share the information with the Committee. It was being put in place to instill confidence in the people of South Africa that the drinking water is exceptional and that South Africa has one of the best drinking water in the world. The challenge was to help the Department deal with the waste water. This programme was intended to support local government in managing waste water in a careful way. The detailed documentation on the two programmes would be shared with the Committee.
Ms Makhanya responded to the questions relating to the Alfred Nzo District Municipality. She discussed the funding model of the Ludeke Dam. The dam was constructed by the Department which provided the bulk infrastructure together with the upgrading of the treatment work to service the area. The main issue around the funding model is that the dam has been constructed. However, the communities surrounding the area have not been realising the benefits of the dam because of reticulation still outstanding in the greater parts of the area. The Department has always tried to fast-track the issue of reticulation. MIG which funds reticulation was overcommitted at the municipality and it was a real challenge to roll out reticulation infrastructure. The Dam Safety Office was looking into the matter and the Department was fully aware of the crack in the dam. It was a joint that had been created to allow the concrete to breathe so that it can expand and respond to weather conditions. It was not necessarily a crack on the damn wall itself. Umgeni Water and the Department were looking into that matter. There was a dam safety report and it stated that there was no immediate threat of that crack. She then discussed water tankers. The Minister and Deputy Minister attended an exco meeting in the province and supported the province during drought. The Minister made R230 million available, through Amatola Water, to assist municipalities. This was one way the Department was assisting municipalities in getting water to communities. A war room was established in that province. In that war room the municipalities came forward with all of their requirements of tanks as well as tankers. It needed to be noted that the Eastern Cape was one of those provinces that still needed to deal with the huge backlogs. There were more than 2000 villages that do not have any form of infrastructure. These tanks had been requested by municipalities and were deployed in strategic points in those villages. Amatola Water had installed them in strategic points. This was a short-term intervention and not a sustainable one. That was why there was the follow up project of sustainability. The Department already had its construction unit in some of these villages which it had to prioritise. It was not easy during this period of the pandemic to eradicate the backlog overnight. There were a number of villages that did not have access to a water supply and the funding being made available did not all the Department to reach everyone. The Department had to prioritise ten villages in the Eastern Cape. These municipalities were priority municipalities as pronounced by the former President. Instead of prioritizing ten municipalities from the Alfred Nzo District the Department had prioritized 20. The Director-General, in consultation with Treasury, has allowed these municipalities to look at the funding that was available at their disposal to reprioritize funds so that they could purchase tankers where it was feasible to do so and replace some of the faulty tanks. More than 100 tanks were attached to households in the Alfred Nzo District that needed it. The Department noted that it was a challenge to reach all of the tanks given the limited number of tankers and resources available. The municipality had received over 600 tanks at the various strategic points.
She discussed spring protection and groundwater development projects. The funding available to the Department in these needy provinces did not match the demand. The Eastern Cape needed R121 billion to eradicate its backlog and it received an average of R4 billion per year. There was still more that needed to be done.
She discussed the issue of rationing. The schemes the Department had reached their maximum capacity. The communities have moved from just getting water from standpipes. People have built mansions and were willing to pay for yard connections and some have done so illegally. That has interfered with the current schemes capacity and the pressure within the systems. Sometimes only a part of the village was being served because the others had an illegal connection. Illegal connections were a sensitive issue that also needs attention because if the Department disconnects illegal connections then the village would have water at the standpipe level. It was an issue that also involved local government and reticulation.
She discussed the Nongwadla Village Scheme. She admitted that there had been a communication issue. The information requested was provided by the Department in July. The Department would, however, repackage the information and resend it to the Committee. There was an advertisement that had gone out, there were closing dates, there was an appointment letter of the service provider and the start and end date of the project. The area that was visited was a slopey area that was prone to erosion. When learning that the Committee was coming to visit the teams naturally went out to the projects. When those teams saw the pipes exposed, because of erosion and animals grazing, the work was done quickly with wet concrete. A correction needed to be made. It was a project that was completed the previous year. It was a project that refurbished an existing scheme. The work that was done when the Committee was there was because of exposure that was detected when the teams went out and felt that it needed to cover the exposed section. It was not work that was done for the spring to be functional. At the time the spring was functional. It was mentioned in the presentation that there was a further upgrade on another spring uphill because it was gravity fed to service the other areas. Nongwandla village was still experiencing challenges because of illegal connections and some vandalism that has happened on the newly constructed stream. The municipality was aware that work needs to be done to improve the access to Nongwadla.
Mr Balzer discussed the issue of the Mahareng water treatment plant. There was a Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant project which commenced in May this year and will be completed in June of 2021. It was to upgrade the water treatment plants up to a 7.6 megalitre capacity per day. R91 million has been allocated towards that project.
The Chairperson asked the Department to respond to the issue of the 500 water tanks installed in QwaQwa.
Mr Manus said that the 500 noted in the presentation was what has been provided via the Covid-19 phase one intervention. That was the report on the R336 million that was spent on the Covid-19 phase one intervention. The 500 tanks did not include the other tanks that were approved as part of the drought intervention for QwaQwa. The presentation today only focused on the additional tanks that was provided through the intervention.
Mr Balzer said that the Department had a team in QwaQwa today, preparing for the Deputy President’s visit there. The additional details he would get from the team would be provided to the Committee.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo indicated that oversight visits to the Northern Cape could happen before Christmas and the Committee could check on all the burst pipes.
The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister what were the projections and possibilities of finally doing away with the bucket system. He spoke about certain Department’s only having certain responsibilities and mandates. The people of South Africa did not see Government in that way. It was up to Government to sort out the administrative structure of the Departments. The different Departments needed to understand that they had the same clients which were the citizens of South Africa. The portioning of Government into different layers and sections was one of the challenges. The Executive needed to attend to this matter because it tended to stall the delivery of services when Department’s wanted to protect their small fiefdoms.
Deputy Minster Mahlobo said that the President has undertaken to improve Government coordination across the three spheres through the District Development Model and that it was very helpful. The Department was using a hotline in order to support municipalities. Support was an injunction by the Constitution. The Department took the money it had to support the municipalities. The Department was able to interact with municipalities. The Department went to the municipalities and did the interventions themselves. Water was a human rights issue. The Department made the decision that even the municipalities that owed money to the water boards would have access to water during Covid-19. The fight against Covid-19 through handwashing would not be successful if there was no water. There were unintended consequences of water boards subsidizing and municipalities not paying. He provided the example of the Department not declining water to Mangaung and the water bill was going up. He provided other examples of municipalities owning large sums of money to the water boards. He noted concerns over the weakness of local government. Local government was everybody’s business. There were many people who could afford to pay but were not paying for services. A team of Ministers was working on how to deal with the debts owed by municipalities. Municipalities needed to be paid on time so that they could pay others. The issue of the backlogs and the bucket system was very inhumane. The Department did put money aside January last year and sent construction units mostly to the Free State and Northern Cape. The projects were nearing completion. The Department was just sorting out the few remaining issues surrounding reticulation. Because South Africa was a water scarce country, going forward the question of sewered sanitation versus non-sewered sanitation needed to be discussed. Non-sewered sanitation was not an inferior service because there was no water involved. He asked the Department to send that information to the Committee so that members could see how far the Department had dealt with that particular issue. The District Development Model has been deployed everywhere and the Ministers and Deputy Ministers should be able to attend to those issues. He then discussed the blue drop and green drop programmes. South Africa was a member of an international standards organisation. South Africa always prided itself that it was a part of that international body. When it came to water and waste water there were certain standards that needed to be met. If South Africa had a blue drop certificate, there was an ability to drink water at any tap in the country. How many South Africans had the confidence to drink water from a tap? Drinking water from the tap was important for those who do not have access to water and it was also important for investment. Ratings agencies considered the water use licenses. This programme had two elements. Every holder of a water license must be able to report to the Department on an annual basis on how it was managing its water balance. The Department would then act as a type of auditor general. The Department would do some sampling and certify that the water use meets the requirements of the South African standards of raw water use. It was an important issue that the Department should follow according to its regulatory mechanism which included incentives. He thanked the Committee for their work in communities and always alerting the Department to any issues in the various areas. Water cannot be politicized. Water knew no boundaries. Water knew no ideology. As soon as water was politicised then conflicts would arise like has occurred in other parts of the continent. All the unanswered questions asked would be answered to in writing and provided to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and his team for presenting to the Committee. The issue of water and sanitation were intwined with the dignity and life of the people of South Africa.
Adoption of the minutes
The Committee considered the minutes of the meeting on 12 November 2020.
Mr Mathafa moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Joseph seconded the adoption of the minutes.
The Committee considered the minutes of the meeting on 13 November 2020.
Mr Qayiso moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Mlenzana seconded the adoption of the minutes.
The announcements and correspondence by the Committee Secretariat
The Committee Secretariat said that the meeting on Friday had been cancelled because of a sitting of Parliament. The next meeting would be the following Tuesday with the Department of Transport.
The meeting was adjourned.
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