In this virtual meeting, the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation briefed the Committee on the investigations at the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the measures to turn it around. She established the Advisory Committee on the Stabilisation and Efficient Functioning of the Water Sector. It would evolve to serve as a disciplinary committee to ensure it was able to respond to the Auditor General findings that DWS had no consequence management and that there was no follow-through on findings that were absolutely essential to correct. The DC started with 166 disciplinary cases and with its interventions, this had been reduced to 47 cases. The Minister commended the DC work which showed that it was possible for DWS to clean up its own house without waiting for investigative arms of government to point out what needed to be done. DWS had involved the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in some of its cases to be able to recover the money. The DC was positive that it would have concluded the remaining disciplinary cases by the end of 2021.
The Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee led by former Minister Susan Shabangu reported it was dealing with disciplinary cases from 2018 to as far back as 2012. No new material irregularities were identified in 2019/20. It reported notable progress around DWS internal controls. The introduction of consequence management assisted with this as officials were refraining from wrongdoing. She reported on the progress of cases. At Senior Management Service (SMS) level, 11 officials were found guilty; 2 officials were not found guilty; and nine officials resigned. An amount of just under R1 million had been recovered.
Members welcomed the progress and asked about a dedicated monitoring and evaluation unit in DWS to identify non-compliance and improper expenditure speedily in the future. Members claimed the public equated corruption with politicians and noted this report indicated public servants were stealing taxpayers’ money. They advised that those officials that resigned should be pursued and to communicate to the public widely how DWS was cleaning house. Members asked if the cost of the Advisory Committee was worth it if only R1 million had been recovered and if it was not duplicating the role of the Special Investigating Unit.
The Minister assured the Committee that there was no duplication and both the Advisory Committee and the SIU have been invaluable and essential. DWS had established a monitoring and evaluation unit to ensure efficient functioning going forward.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister and thanked Members for availing themselves during the constituency period. She requested a moment of silence for meditation and/or prayer. She hoped everyone was keeping themselves safe in light of the third wave of the pandemic. She cautioned Members to be very careful as they undertook their constituency work. Many Members were lost and many more people were being lost on a daily basis. Members should continue to educate the people to adhere to the regulations to social distance, sanitise, and avoid public gatherings where this disease could be contracted. Members should also adhere to these rules as they move around and continue to join government in educating people about the virus regulations.
Minister on DWS investigations & disciplinary matters
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu thanked the Committee for finally availing itself to hear an interim report from the Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee established to look into the irregularities reported by the Auditor-General (AG) and other institutions.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) came to Parliament and reported extensively on some of its findings. Meanwhile, the Minister established an Advisory Committee, which would serve as a disciplinary committee, to ensure it was able to respond to the AG findings over a period of time. The AG had been very emphatic that many departments had no consequence management, particularly the Department of Water and Sanitation. In its interaction with the AG, the AG said the DWS biggest problem was that there was no follow-through on the AG’s findings on matters it found absolutely essential to correct. This had the effect of eroding the AG’s confidence in the Department’s ability to run efficiently.
The Minister said in her 2020/21 Budget Vote on 23 July 2020, the Department established an entity that would be able to deal with these matters. She had said “we have heeded your calls to root out corruption in the Department”, because that was what was said on a regular basis in Parliament, “and we will report to you on this”. To stabilise DWS, it had to root out corruption. The acting Director-General, Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, established a Stabilisation Committee to ensure that while it had a disciplinary component to root out corruption, it would ensure DWS was stable. She clarified those two wings were established to ensure DWS was kept stable and running.
The Stabilisation Committee had a disciplinary unit within it that was dealing with 166 cases at the time, emanating from the AG audit reports over a number of years. These cases were in an advanced stage and ongoing. DWS put in place the necessary support structures to ensure there was no disruption of its work. The Stabilisation Committee was taking disciplinary action against officials who were implicated in forensic investigation reports. The outcomes of such cases following disciplinary action were as follows:
- 97 officials were under investigation
- 16 officials were found not guilty
- 24 officials resigned on their own.
The Minister said all of this had been given to the Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee Committee, headed by former Minister of Minerals and Energy, Ms Susan Shabangu, who was also the chair of the Disciplinary Committee. Minister Sisulu had regular meetings with the Advisory Committee to ascertain if they had sufficient support to carry through with the investigation.
This Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee (MADC) had provided the Minister with a preliminary report and she was very impressed with the work it was doing. She would like to use this in Cabinet to show that it was possible for a department to clean up its own house without waiting for the investigative arms of government to point out what needed to be done. The MADC would detail its terms of reference, the work it had done and what still needed to be done, as well as the support it required from the Committee and DWS.
The Minister said DWS would no doubt be in a difficult position due to those officials affected by the disciplinary process which was why it put in place a Stabilisation Committee. However, the process was now at an advanced stage where it would be able to have overcome the challenges, and any other problem encountered would be reported to the Minister and to Parliament.
The work of the SIU, Hawks, and the whole justice system had given DWS a host of irregularities that should have been dealt with over a long period of time, but DWS was currently doing so now. DWS was also supported by a report that came from the Minister’s panel of advisors. This report done by a non-government organisation (NGO) dealt with the extent of what the panelists thought was gross corruption. The document Money Down the Drain had been circulating and Members of Parliament had received it. DWS responded to those items that it believed had an adverse impact on its performance, on audit outcomes, on its delivery and on society's perception of DWS.
Ms Susan Shabangu, MADC chairperson, explained that the committee used to be referred to as the Stabilisation Committee at the beginning of 2019/20 which was comprised of different subcommittees. It was now focused on the Disciplinary Committee, which had been a subcommittee. The Minister believed that it should focus on irregularities and disciplinary matters in DWS which was where the committee was currently at. The Committee's last meeting about DWS investigations was in November 2020. This was progress it had made thus far. It was not an easy process – it was very tough. The DC was pleased that working with DWS, it was able to make progress and managed to push some of the matters forward.
The DC was happy there had been progress. What was key, was through the DC without relying on DWS, it managed to bring on board, through the Minister, presiding officers who would chair the disciplinary hearings and the initiators (prosecutors) as it had those cases starting from next week. The DC would not reveal that information now but from next week it would be starting the cases dealing with senior management in DWS. This was what it was currently busy with and it was seeing progress. This progress did not refer to matters to millions but referred to billions of rands that had gone missing in DWS. The report therefore indicated the involvement of SIU in trying to ensure DWS could retrieve the money that had gone missing as many irregularities took place in this Department.
DWS and the Water Trading Entity (WTE) are implementing a Financial Recovery Plan addressing:
- Performance and discipline/consequence management systems
- Institutional stabilization
- Capacity and transformation
- Sustainable service delivery
- Infrastructure maintenance and development
- Financial Management.
This has resulted in an improved internal control environment leading to unqualified audit opinions. No unauthorised expenditure and significant reduction in irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure. No new material irregularities were identified for 2019/20.
During 2019/20, proactive work was carried out by the Internal Audit Unit which managed to circumvent irregular expenditure to the tune of R1.360 billion. The same efforts in 2020/21 saved R750 million in irregular expenditure. DWS underwent an awareness campaign to ensure it reduced irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure, including fraud and corruption.
Summary of improper expenditure
Slide nine outlined unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure (UIFW) in the DWS main account and the Water Trading Entity (WTE). In 2020/21, accumulated irregular expenditure was nearly R10 billion. Progress was detailed on irregular expenditure condonations and consequence management (see document). DWS was involving SIU because if it did not use this route, it would not be able to recover the money. Some of the cases referred to procurement not being done correctly although the finances were spent properly. The DC was positive that by the end of 2021, it would have succeeded in concluding all of those disciplinary proceedings.
Root cause analysis on improper expenditure
The DC had to look at root causes and these risk areas were identified: supply chain management challenges; inadequate awareness; contract management including exceeding of contract value; HR irregularities; conflict of interests; implementing agent irregularities. DWS was ensuring people were aware of the regulations and the policies.
Ms Shabangu lost network connection and Ms Welekazi Dukuza, DC member, continued. It took time as these root causes had existed in DWS for quite some time. In supply chain management (SCM), segregation of duties amongst employees was introduced as well as and proper contract management.
Slide 15 indicated the material irregularities found by the AG. In 2019/20, no new material irregularities identified. The DC was dealing with four earlier material irregularities that came from 2018, and as far back as 2014/15. One material irregularity had been resolved with three as a work in progress. Ms Dukuza said there had been a remarkable progress around the internal controls of DWS. The introduction of the DC by the Minister helped a lot because now, for some reason, people refrained from the wrongdoing they had engaged in beforehand. Previously, no proper consequence management was taken against employees committing this irregular expenditure. The process introduced around irregular expenditure showed that it was working. All four cases were part of the disciplinary cases the DC was dealing with. When the Minister took over, she ensured a procurement process was followed and the Stabilisation Committee last year had ensured proper planning and that the budget was properly allocated, and so forth.
Forensic investigations and progress
Slide 17 illustrated a forensic overview as at the end of 2019/20. DWS engaged the Internal Audit Unit to do the forensic investigations and new human resources were engaged. The DC also had some forensic investigators amongst it assisting internal audit to complete these matters. There were initially 67 cases received by internal audit -- some came from the hotline and some from the irregular expenditure identified by the AG. Of the 67 cases:
42 investigations were completed
10 investigations were in progress
15 cases had not been investigated yet due to prioritisation.
The DC started with senior DWS management in the disciplinary process. It then moved to lower management and other employees and categorised these according to the losses DWS had suffered. Someone on suspension at senior management level was costlier for DWS than a junior employee. The DC also prioritised where monies stolen could easily be recovered.
Slides 18 to 22 showed the outcome of the investigations for 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the type of irregularities such as procurement or fraud which DC was dealing with in the disciplinary process.
In 2020/21, the 72 cases included the 67 cases from 2019/20 to show the Committee how many cases DWS was currently left with. The recent cases were not as serious as the earlier ones as internal controls had since been improved. Of the 72 cases:
30 cases investigations were completed
19 cases investigations were in progress
23 cases had not been investigated yet.
She emphasised the huge progress in 2019/20 compared to where DWS was at before the Minister took over. The internal audit unit, which dealt with the investigations, caused some of the delays because it was not properly resourced with human resources and skills. This was what the Minister was assessing, together with the DC. Slide 22 presented the outcome of the forensic investigations at the end of 2020/21. Compared to the previous financial year, there was remarkable progress as there were 15 fraud cases in 2019/20 whereas 2020/21 only had 1 case of fraud. In increase in procurement irregularities would include not producing a tax clearance certificate but not the billions found in earlier years.
Fraud awareness sessions were conducted by internal audit which were part of ensuring that internal controls were in place and employees and officials were aware to deter them from fraudulent activities. Some acts were committed because people did not understand the implications of fraud, or they were not trained properly on prevention measures. Senior management went through training on ethics. These were good communication platforms to communicate the successes to deal with fraudulent activities and irregular expenditure.
Consequence management and current progress
Of the 47 cases, 10 cases involved Senior Management Service (SMS) and 37 cases were from lower levels and the progress was outlined (see document). They included not only head office but came from the provinces especially the 37 cases at levels 2-12.
Slide 29 outlined the process followed to track officials that had left DWS employment. If an official moved to another department whilst there was still a pending disciplinary matter, the case would be transferred to the new department to conclude the disciplinary process. DWS would assist with that disciplinary process and ensure witnesses were available, the correct presiding officers were appointed, and that the initiators who could properly manage that case were appointed.
If an official resigned whilst there was still a pending disciplinary matter, no further action could be taken on the disciplinary side. That official could be pursued through civil and criminal court. There were several officials, including the former Chief Financial Officer, implicated in the investigations. The DC was following through with those civilly and criminally.
Summary of outcomes of disciplinary action
A summary of the outcomes of 143 cases of disciplinary action from forensic investigations covering 2012/13 to 2020/21 was outlined. At the SMS level, the DC checked that the sanction was suitable for the transgression such as the final written warning letters and to ensure there was no collusion between manager and official.
Slide 31 presented the financial recoveries for 2012/13 to 2020/21 with an amount of close to R1 million recovered by DWS. The DC anticipated a lot more recoveries. However, the Minister indicated it would not get much joy from other organs of State to assist the DC to complete those cases. The DC could have had more success if those cases were taken seriously and were properly investigated. This was a matter the Minister was looking into with the other organs of State to assist in finalising those matters. Civil cases had been initiated against companies and eight current and former employees. These matters were in process and these companies included SAP and EOH Holdings. A lot was being done to try to recover financially for DWS and this would be reported to the Committee as DWS succeeds. However, the DC was very positive about the work being done on recoveries.
Minister’s concluding remarks
The Minister interjected and asked if Ms Shabangu was back online. She spoke to slide 33 saying the Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee was appointed to advise, make suggestions and recommendations on matters around investigations, maladministration, backlog of disciplinary cases, general labour issues, as well as communication on investigations and disciplinary matters.
The report presented by Ms Shabangu and Ms Dukuza was work in progress and it was unfortunate there was load shedding otherwise they would have indicated its progress as the DC has worked hard to ensure DWS could fast-track this and show a turnaround so that it was able to give a different perspective of this Department.
When the Minister and the Portfolio Committee Chairperson took office in 2019, there were complaints about the lack of progress on the many problems reported to institutions that looked into corruption. The DC had done very well and she was proud of the work it had done. However, in terms of their appointment, they could only work so many hours a week, but she was looking into this through the Minister of Public Service and Administration to ascertain if they could change the terms of appointment so they could fast-track the work and conclude it. The would only be able to see the necessary change in that way in this administration. She was happy with their work.
Ms Shabangu said the DC had made a lot of progress. It was positive that these matters would definitely receive the appropriate attention, but it was satisfied with the progress made thus far. She thanked her team involved in these complex matters. She was satisfied with the cooperation from the team and their work and time as these matters were very important. She agreed the DC needed more time as it was dealing with billions of rands, and not only the department employees but also external people which made this a very difficult environment. When the DC returns, there would be real results because it was currently in the space of producing results.
Mr Duke Mgaga, Ministerial Advisory Disciplinary Committee member, said the Minister indicated the DC started with 166 cases and this number was down to 47 cases due to the efforts and interventions implemented. In the next two months, by the end of July 2021, at least three out of 10 cases involving SMS members would be concluded. Secondly, it was improving the investigation side of the DC as it needed to do investigations to ensure that it chased after these billions of rands both from DWS officials and service providers.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Shabangu and her team.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) said nine officials had resigned who were implicated in material irregularities. Did DWS open a criminal case against all nine officials, and what was the progress? Does DWS have effective mechanisms to monitor non-compliance to deal with irregularities before the annual audit takes place? Otherwise it meant recurring improper expenditure.
Ms Tseke said the DWS internal audit committee and the risk committee need to be capacitated to deal with non-compliance and thus reduce the number of audit findings.
She said the public equated corruption with politicians. She therefore welcomed the progress report which showed that the majority were public servants stealing taxpayers’ money. DWS should lead by example and ensure it disciplined all those officials and talk about them not only in Portfolio Committee meetings, but even on social media. The media statements should talk about the progress because DWS was perceived as a corrupt department so it should rebrand itself. She appreciated the progress thus far.
Ms Tseke noted the Minister had made a commitment in her budget speech. Most of the fraud cases presented were procurement irregularities. The AG and the Committee had been consistent about closing the gaps in the system. DWS should appoint a CFO and capable people who could deal with the finances, and a Director-General as accounting officer. The acting positions should end by appointing these two key positions.
Mr M Mashego (ANC) said it was key to talk to the public about the work the DC was doing to correct the wrongs of the past. In doing this, it would be rebranding DWS. He agreed that to the public, it was leading a very ineffective, corrupt, and basically bankrupt department. The DC was doing quite a lot of work but it was introverted in what it does. It should be more extroverted to indicate to the country and to the world what the DC was doing in addressing the ills. Fundamental to this was what Ms Tseke indicated that when corruption is raised, it is generally attributed to politicians and to an organisation called the African National Congress (ANC). He doubted those officials in the presentation were elected members of the ANC voters, but they needed to be discussed because billions of rands were taken by DWS senior officials, lower officials, and technical officials. The public must be informed about this because the narrative of the politicians or members of the ANC being corrupt, should be dispelled as a myth by providing facts of what happened. Listening to the input, there was a very bright light at the end of the tunnel of DWS succeeding but the time was now.
Mr Mashego noted the employment contract of DC members had minimal working hours so it would have to work a long time. The Minister should extend their working hours and shorten the timeframe otherwise the work might only be completed at the end of the Minister’s term. If their hours were extended to eight hours, this would shorten the time. The Minister indicated she wanted to revisit the conditions of employment and he implored her to do this as if it would benefit DWS, the country, and government.
He did not think that condonation should be requested for Giyani and War on Leaks where quite a lot of money must be recovered from those that have stolen the money. He questioned if DWS intended to recover those monies from officials and service providers. If employees resigned, they could not go through a disciplinary hearing. Was a criminal case opened against these particular officials? He was aware that once a case was opened, DWS might lose a lot of money in pursuit of a small amount of money. He referenced the DC budget and asked if DWS ensured that it did not use money supposed to be used for its programmes. To pursue these cases, it must ensure no repercussions for DWS.
Ms Mvana commended the progress from the 166 cases to 47 cases. This was a big stride. She was interested to check as there were cases reported on last year that could not be discussed as they were in court. How many cases were those? Of the nine resignations, did DWS manage to recover what was owed by those officials?
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said it was important to appreciate the progress reported on and that the Minister did a lot of good work. However, if the Minister made just one mistake, according to the public she was not doing anything. Giyani continued to be of concern. What happened in Giyani was a sin as government had undermined the people of Giyani. She said “government” because that was how people saw it and how the Committee also saw it, irrespective of who had done what to that community. If condonation was given to Giyani matter, she hoped the DC could get involved in that process because it was sad what sins those officials had committed in Giyani.
Ms Sihlwayi said DC did not mention Amatola Water Board in the Eastern Cape which was the talk of the town as well as Lepelle Northern Water Board. The challenges that came from those entities demanded public knowledge on what was happening in those entities.
The corruption distanced people from government and all citizens were able to see what was currently happening within the country. She was unsure which matters went to the State Capture Commission and which did not go to State Capture. Much of it emanated from the corrupt practices of some individuals. She agreed there was little the public knew about what DWS was doing, but it knew how corrupt this Department was. She hoped that in this meeting there were people dealing with communications so that they should reveal some of this information that the Minister was addressing.
The focus was on the SMS level but middle management was always utilised by senior management in the process of corruption. Since those officials were at middle management level, they continued to commit wrongdoing, yet they were excluded as the focus was on senior management who were the signatories. That was fine, but she wanted the DC to look also at middle management as that level was under siege as they had to comply with the bosses' orders.
Ms Sihlwayi said the administration should have an ethical process in dealing with budgets for communities and have very clear professionalism. The DC team or the Minister would be able to give very clear recommendations on the lessons learnt. It was important that the Committee and DWS knew the lessons learnt so it was able to bring back ethics to administration.
Ms Sihlwayi asked to hear about from the DC was how monitoring and evaluation of DWS could be strengthened because it should have a standalone unit doing that. It should not be within the role of senior managers. DC should inform the Committee how they would correct these challenges. She repeated to the Minister that the public should be made aware what DWS and Portfolio Committee was addressing on the concerns they have always raised.
The Chairperson welcomed the report on the good work done by the Minister and her team.
She requested that the good work done must be budgeted for so no concerns will be raised by the AG on the process that was implemented. As Mr Mashego raised, DWS should be very careful about avoiding a setback to this good work.
On communication, the Chairperson said the Committee was aware that some cases were still sub judice, but people needed to be aware of the progress that it was left with only 47 cases out of 166 cases registered.
On condonation, the Chairperson said the way Treasury operated was there should be consequence management before irregular expenditure was condoned. As the Committee received the report, that part was still lacking which might be delayed. She agreed that the DC team should be given enough time to finalise those matters, particularly those raised by Treasury, so that the condonations can be cleared.
The Chairperson asked the Minister to speak to the mitigation strategy to avoid the continuation of wrongdoing, especially in SCM as that was where the problem was located. It was evident in other departments they were confronting SCM challenges and putting mechanisms in place to expose wrongdoing by officials. The DC should check if DWS is on top of that as the problem was in SCM.
The Chairperson said the Committee extended its gratitude to the official who had done sterling work in stabilising DWS finances. May his soul rest in peace as the Committee could see the light today because he had done his very best to stabilise DWS. She thanked the Minister’s team. She noted that the financial recovery was hundreds of thousands which was concerning as the loss was billions of rands. She questioned if the DC was using a lot of money to recover a small amount when DWS had lost billions.
Ms Mokgotho asked to what extent was this Special Advisory Committee duplicating the work of SIU? How much did DWS pay to SIU for these investigations?
The Minister said Ms Shabangu would respond to the core issues and she would respond to the policy issues that underpin what DWS was doing. She noted the concerns as much as she was able to grasp the discussion, but for most of it she was not able to stay on the digital platform. She was certain Ms Shabangu would be able to respond to those questions as she was signed in on the platform for quite some time.
The Minister said she got back onto the platform when Mr Mashego indicated DWS was not doing much to communicate what it was doing. This was also emphasised by Ms Sihlwayi. She agreed and confirmed DWS was working very hard to ensure it finds a communication vehicle that would be sustainable to convey these particular successes DWS was achieving. The reason it was important to communicate was for society to see that something was being done and give confidence to the people that DWS was not simply looking away; it was actually doing something about it. That was what they expected of government and from each Member of Parliament.
DWS was doing what was necessary, which was a constitutional responsibility, because when something went wrong, it must ensure that it followed through and the necessary consequence management that the AG always talked about, was adopted. The Minister confirmed DWS would do something about communication. The Department lost a great deal of skills in the sector due to the ongoing investigations. It would probably lose some of its expertise because as it investigated, the tendency was to lose the people in those positions either because they resigned or they would have had to be suspended. That was the natural process in which public administration operated, but there were challenges with the essential management of DWS. The Minister was grateful that so many cases were concluded which meant that in those areas, DWS could return to a level of normality. However, the SIU, the AG, and so on were necessary as the Minister of Finance comments about this Department were very negative about the way government was not dealing with the losses, long before she took office in this Department. The Minister of Finance emphasised Giyani therefore DWS had to ensure it dealt with it, which was an isolated case and a blight on the work DWS was doing. Most people in DWS were doing a very good job, but that was overshadowed by these cases. The disadvantage was that DWS was in a situation where it did not have sufficient capacity. The Minister confirmed DWS would be discussing this concern with the Minister of PSA. When someone is put on 'special leave', there was supposed to be a six months limit but these cases would take a long time for condonation to enable DWS to employ people in those positions where officials were undergoing investigation.
The Minister said War on Leaks was a very complicated and delicate matter. COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and herself had called a joint MINMEC three times. The meetings were to indicate there were students who had been trained to ensure DWS could detect leaks from burst pipes or infrastructure, and it wanted those students to be placed in every district and municipality. On the three occasions, the municipalities said absolutely no. DWS was therefore struggling with this but government was seized with what to do about these students. In the first budget vote the Minister had, the Committee asked her to ensure that those students were placed somewhere. The only place they could be placed was at the municipalities as they could not be at national level because the leaks happened on the ground. There was no buy-in from municipalities because they were concerned that when these students were brought in, it would take away positions they had. DWS must therefore relook at how to deal with this or create some kind of additional capacity out of this. She would have to discuss if this was possible with the Minister of PSA.
The Minister agreed that the work DC was doing was in conjunction with Treasury. It would meet with Treasury and on several occasions, there was a great deal of consultation. The DC was led by the outcomes that Treasury and the AG had pointed out. It was working with Treasury, and Treasury was aware of the work done by this entity called the Susan Shabangu vanguard team.
The Minister agreed they were all very concerned about communication of the work done by DWS which remained unknown to the public. DWS was doing its best to ensure it could create a sufficient body of people around communication to be able to convey this. The Department accepted that complaint and apologised to the Portfolio Committee. People had been suspended and their posts kept aside for them as public administration policy required. DWS did not anticipate that it would be hampered to this extent but it was dealing with it as best as it could. She was grateful that Mr Mashego had urged DWS to find ways to extend the number of hours the DC was working as this would fast-track the process to reach earlier a levelling of the playing field.
The Minister noted the point about people’s rights in Giyani that had been undermined. This was true. However, SIU had already dealt with the matter and had taken the Lepelle Chief Executive Officer to court on two counts. SIU was responsible for serious crime. DWS had to ensure that it does not encroach but it is in touch with SIU. She confirmed Giyani was being addressed.
At the next meeting on DWS, she contemplated bringing in its legal unit to speak about the legal cases. Whilst there was this disciplinary process, there were also ongoing legal cases involving Giyani and many other matters found by the AG which needed to be taken through the courts. DWS was dealing with this and it had a very capable external lawyer who was on top of this, including Lepelle which was responsible for Giyani. The CEO had already been found guilty but there were several other cases he was responding to.
The Amatola Water Board case had been referred to DWS lawyers and to court and it would hear from the courts how it was dealing with that. It was taking long for some reason and she was also very agitated about it, but it was in the process of being finalised. Last week, the SIU Head complained that there were matters the SIU had found and referred to Amatola to deal with, involving a case against the Chief Executive and a case involving the CFO. The SIU Head complained very publicly that Amatola was dragging its feet on these matters under its jurisdiction and nothing had come of this. She was going to discuss this with SIU to ascertain how DWS could fast-track this. If the Amatola administration was dragging its feet, would it be possible for DWS to refer it to the DC or would that be in conflict with the law. DWS wanted to ensure that every step it took made a difference in its responsibility towards every single person who did not have water in their municipality.
The Minister noted the advice that DWS should be restructured and that something should be done about communication. It would do so as she had been talking with Human Resources (HR) that DWS needed to restructure. DWS had suffered a great deal of regression in its personnel due to these cases. It would however do something about this and create additional capacity so that this does not affect DWS work. It would be implementing a monitoring and evaluation unit which was not previously in DWS. It took this advice about a monitoring and evaluation unit.
In response to Ms Mokgotho’s question on how much the Special Advisory Committee was paid, the Minister said it could not be paid enough to make up for the money that DWS had lost. She emphasised this was an absolutely essential unit as Members noted the progress made and that DWS was recovering. It was able to ascertain from where the seepage of money came. It was more concerned about taxpayers’ money as that money ought to result in the advancement of people accessing water. However, if that did not happen because money was being wasted through corruption, then DWS had a constitutional responsibility to do something, even if the money that went into this unit was equal to the money that was taken. If it stopped any wastage of public resources, it was necessary. However, the money spent on this unit was in line with what the law stipulated. Mr Mashego said the DC must be restructured to ensure that the unit could work as much as possible to get to the bottom of this. The unit was constrained as it could only work for a certain number of days and do particular things, but that was what the public service regulations had put in place. She could make a special appeal that this was a special unit and DWS would like it to work 24 hours and it would then be paid for 24 hours as what was gained from it in terms of the integrity of the state was monumental.
The Minister hoped that DWS and the special unit had taken note of what the Committee said should be done and that the Committee was very appreciative as the number of cases had gone down to 47. She would request Ms Shabangu to respond to the other inputs as she had lost connection and could only respond to the ones she heard when she returned to the platform.
Ms Shabangu replied that the nine officials who had resigned had cases against them, and they were reported to the police. Whilst it had cases against these people, the biggest challenge was that there were many departments with cases reported to the police. She was unsure if the police took these matters seriously and because of the lack of follow-up from the police, reporting ended up being procedural as no action was taken. These were some of the concerns that perhaps the Minister could take up with the Ministers of Police and Justice, because as soon as DWS reported such matters, nothing would happen. All departments were facing the same challenge, and the Minister might want to raise it at Cabinet level. It was losing many cases, but DWS was chasing this. She agreed that digging deeper would reveal more officials who would have to be investigated. [Ms Shabangu’s network connection was lost due to load shedding].
It had become a norm in government that when officials left the department and it was reported to the police, no proper follow-ups were made. When those officials moved to another department, they were not being disciplined. The DC had identified the nine officials were part of that 23 cases not investigated. The DC needed to ensure it did the right thing.
On middle management, there were cases at this level the DC was going to take up because of its complexity. It indicated that the cases it was dealing with mostly involved billions. She clarified this was what it was looking at as it was not only looking at if it was a director, it was also about the level of the case and the level of the offense that needed to be considered because there would be a problem if it indicated it was not considering other levels. She explained that from level 2-12 for instance, there were around 47 cases and it was about the extent in which those matters were serious. That was the reason some cases would go to the DC, and some had already been referred to DWS to deal with those issues.
When it came to condonation, it did not mean no action had been taken. It was important to indicate this as the DC could not approach Treasury empty-handed without having engaged with the process and done the work and then seek condonation. It had to show Treasury that work had been done on the matter and consequence management had been applied for some items. [Ms Shabangu lost network connection]. Condonation went together with consequence management.
Ms Shabangu said the DC fully agreed with the Committee about the need for appointing capable people as it formed part of restructuring DWS. She hoped the Minister would come back soon to share this progress with the Committee. She was confident that the work done by the DC ultimately led to the restructuring of DWS to become a competent and capable department.
Ms Mvana asked a question about civil recovery.
The Chairperson asked if there were other team members that wanted to respond as some questions were not responded to.
Ms Dukuza replied about the number of civil cases in court saying the DC was mainly dealing with the disciplinary cases. However, DWS legal services dealt with the litigation matters. The DC was not certain about the total number referred for recovery. There were two disciplinary matter that the DC was currently dealing with that were linked to civil recovery. DWS would need to provide the total number.
Ms Dukuza replied that Ms Shabangu had talked to the resignations and how the DC would ensure the people who had resigned were pursued in terms of civil or criminal proceedings. The Minister had responded about the Water Boards as well as about monitoring and evaluation.
The appointment of capacitated people in the internal audit and risk management unit has already been done as the internal audit had issued a tender to supplement the investigation team. It was an open tender and it now had a panel of investigators that it could utilise whenever there was a need. However, the DC also had some investigators as part of its team. This was work in progress and was done by both DWS and the DC. There had been capacitation but perhaps in the long term, DWS would look into full-time employment instead of external resources.
On the progress of criminal cases against officials who had left, there were cases opened through the South African Police Service. As Ms Shabangu indicated, the DC needed to follow-up with SAPS because it was taking a while to investigate and complete them. However, the cases already investigated by SIU were ready for civil litigation and these were easy to proceed with.
Ms Dukuza replied that there was no duplication of SIU work by the DC. The SIU operated via a proclamation from the Presidency. The DC did work on what DWS had to investigate in the first place. The DC simply supplemented the functions of DWS to ensure proper investigations were done and all the disciplinary cases were completed.
On the cost of SIU investigations to date, the DC did not have those details at hand. However, it could get back to the Committee, through the Minister’s Office, with a response. DWS would have to get an accurate figure on how much had been paid to date.
Follow-up questions and responses
Ms Mokgotho said it was a simple question on how much DWS paid to SIU for these investigations. SIU was doing a good job, but if it was a secret that the Committee was not supposed to know how much SIU was paid, then DWS would not be able to answer. She raised again if DWS had an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism to promptly identify and analyse non-compliance to curb improper expenditure speedily.
The Chairperson pointed out that the DC explained that it did not have the SIU details and the Minister had to come back to the Committee with the exact amount. The Minister had also spoken about the monitoring and evaluation unit. She requested a further response on this.
Ms Shabangu replied that the DC was unable to respond on how much the SIU was paid by DWS. She proposed that Ms Mokgotho wrote to DWS about how much it was spending on SIU as the DC was not the accounting officer. On the second question, the Minister had responded about monitoring and evaluation, and Ms Shabangu also spoke to this to indicate that DWS was currently talking about its organisational redesign. The restructuring of DWS involved questioning what was relevant to make it effective. Monitoring and evaluation would form part of that questioning. The Minister would be able to present that when it was ready but the DC was not able to indicate what the new monitoring and evaluation unit would be like in the DWS organisational redesign.
The Minister thanked the Committee and Ms Shabangu’s team. In response to Ms Mokgotho, the SIU received its directive directly from the President. When the SIU detected a matter that it needed to engage with, the directive came from the President and DWS only received the invoice. DWS therefore did not determine what the SIU should go into nor does it determine how much the SIU is charged as this was prescribed by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the Presidency. It would be able to respond to that question when it sat down with DWS to ascertain how much it had spent on SIU investigations. However, the SIU had been absolutely essential for DWS because what it had lost in Giyani was indispensable for the people of Giyani who had been waiting for water. DWS was grateful the SIU made breakthroughs and it was hoping to understand how it was unable to deal with these matters in the past. As the case was unfolding, SIU indicated where DWS needed to strengthen its scrutiny and where it needed to restructure to protect itself.
On monitoring and evaluation, DWS had been restructured and a monitoring and evaluation component was being put in place to ensure these challenges did not recur. However, at the time the DC team was appointed, it was within the context of stabilisation and efficient functioning of the water sector. It therefore had an investigative part, which was Ms Shabangu’s unit, and one that stabilised DWS to ensure efficiency. This was only allowed by the Minister of PSA for one year, but DWS now had the new Monitoring and Evaluation unit as DWS had been restructured and its weaknesses were understood. This unit was in place and the Minister said it would be introduced to the Committee as soon as possible. DWS had identified what had gone wrong and identified the system weaknesses and it was implementing efficient functioning going forward.
The Chairperson thanked Minister Sisulu and Ms Shabangu and her team for their good work as the Committee had been pressing them on this. The Committee hoped the necessary systems would be put in place so that such matters do not come back to the Committee.
The Minister thanked the Committee for its concern and support. The Committee would be able to state later in life that it had made a difference in DWS.
The Chairperson took Members through the programme for the third term from 17 August 2021 to 3 September 2021 and asked Members to comment. There were outstanding matters of the nine Water Boards as the Committee did not deal with those Annual Reports or Annual Performance Plans (APPs). The Committee would need at least three days to deal with the Water Boards. She requested Members to suggest if these three days should be scattered such as end of June, one in July and the other one in August before the third term opens. The portfolio of this Committee was big but the number of days available were very minimal to deal with the statutory matters only, let alone other issues it was supposed to engage on such as meeting with stakeholders or holding public hearings on a Bill.
Ms Tseke said Members were fine with the programme, but they needed to identify those dates for the Water Boards. The Committee wants to use three days within the constituency period to deal with the matters. She proposed identifying the dates in that period so Members could work around these as they were all committed to party organisational work and other constituency work.
Ms Sihlwayi agreed but Members should check their current organisational responsibilities do not clash with those meetings dates so they do not absent themselves from those meetings. Besides these statutory matters, the Committee had made a decision on oversight visits to different provinces which did not happen, particularly in the Eastern Cape. She proposed this could also be accommodated.
The Chairperson recalled that the Committee was supposed to have gone to the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. It was still in the pipeline. However, the term of the Water Boards ends in June, similar to municipalities, and the Committee did not deal with its budget or annual report. She was requesting Members to provide their three dates.
Ms Mvana proposed July 2021 as August would be very congested with other work.
The Chairperson asked if Members agreed with 6 to 8 July 2021.
The Committee agreed to this with two meetings per day from 09h30-13h00 and 16h00-17h00 to deal with the annual report and APP of three water boards per day.
The meeting was adjourned.
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