The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Department of Transport (DoT) explained how the funds, appropriated by the Adjustment Appropriation Bill, would be used. The Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation was present and responded to questions.
Committee members said DWS needed a campaign to drive home the message about the value and importance of water that cannot be wasted. They asked DWS about water and sanitation challenges such as the Vaal River, Hammanskraal and the Giyani Water Project; how many polluters had been brought to book as polluters had to be penalised; the impact of the under expenditure; the extended CFO vacancy; how the R582,2 million rollover is going to be spent and about the former War on Leaks programme. Members asserted that DWS needed to prioritise eradicating the bucket system and ensuring all citizens had access to water. The right to life and dignity in the Constitution demanded this from the Department. Members spoke about an incident when Rand Water had refused to work on site until MPs left for which the Deputy Minister apologised as officials should follow Batho Pele principle and know that public representatives were representing the ordinary citizen.
The Deputy Minister admitted that there were areas in which DWS performed poorly in the past despite the immense investments in infrastructure. Currently it was running more than 262 projects. These projects were normally not finished on time or within budget. The main issue which contributed to leaks was the outdated networks and pipes. The Department committed itself to resolving the challenges the Committee highlighted and professionalise its operations.
In the discussion with the Department of Transport (DoT), Members asked about the future of the vandalized railway infrastructure and security plans; the Road to Rail Strategy; the Rolling Stock Programme; Main Line Passenger Services; the underspending in 2021/22; the effect of Metrorail challenges on workers; congestion at Beitbridge and the Mozambique border; valid taxi operating licences and the taxi recapitalisation programme; and the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant did not address areas where roads did not exist. A detailed written response would be given to the Committee.
The Acting Chairperson said the Adjustment Appropriation Bill debate would take place the following week. The Departments of Water and Sanitation and Transport which were Adjustment Appropriation recipients would brief the Committee on the reasons for the appropriation and reply to a number of concerns the Committee had raised with the Departments.
Apologies were noted from the Minister of Water and Sanitation; the Minister of Transport was travelling abroad and the Transport Deputy Minister had a bereavement in the family.
Department of Water and Sanitation appropriation briefing
Ms Nthabiseng Fundakubi, DWS Deputy Director General, Corporate Services, said that the Acting Director-General was not able to join the meeting because she had a pressing matter to attend to.
Mr Frans Moatshe, DWS Acting CFO, DWS, led the presentation and explained how the Adjustment Appropriation Bill funds would be employed on the remediation project to resolve the Integrated Vaal River System. This would expand the funding received by DWS from the budget facility for infrastructure. An overview was given on how the additional funding would be used for the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. The DWS Quarter 2 performance was outlined showing how it had progressed with its 2020/21 budget allocation (see document).
Ms D Peters (ANC) thanked Deputy Minister David Mahlobo for joining the meeting. The Committee appreciated the Deputy Minister for always availing himself and for being so committed. She reminded the Committee at the start of the energy challenge in South Africa in 2008, the country was informed that the next challenge it would face would be water. South Africa had not appropriately planned to deal with the management of water and water usage. The country was unprepared despite major master plan strategies in DWS. One of the biggest challenges was having South Africans appreciate the value of water which would only be understood once the water was gone. When there is water, it is not saved. DWS needed to invest in a massive campaign, one akin to the 49M Campaign which was driven through the Department of Energy. This campaign was aimed at mobilising society for energy efficiency. Solar water heating systems were even installed in households. Water infrastructure management became a key discussion point through the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. Where did the state fall short in ensuring that people understood the value and importance of water in South Africa?
There were recent water shortages in Gauteng with Rand Water and the community strongly responded to these challenges. The media played a disappointing role in the matter because they were “hyping up” the community to respond vehemently. Two weeks prior to the shortage a notice had been sent indicating the dates when the community would be without water due to rehabilitation of infrastructure. DWS and municipalities needed to invest in a massive public education campaign about water management and usage.
DWS had launched the “War on Leaks” programme where young people were trained to be plumbers. They would look for leaks and fix them. There were however major leaks which they were not qualified to fix or identify. In Alexander township in Gauteng people were doing their laundry under a running tap. For many years the people of Hammanskraal have had water challenges. The demarcation challenges made the situation all the more painful for Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West. Providing access to a reliable water source was a challenge which needed to be dealt with. This was particularly important in rural areas where rural communities needed roads, water and electricity in their homes. People have built their own houses in rural areas but need the infrastructure to support that.
What was the role of private contractors, the Deputy Minister, DWS senior officials and municipalities for water interruptions? In Magareng,the municipality repaired pipes and in less than a day the pipes were broken, parts were stolen and another area was broken. DWS needs to investigate, together with security companies, how it was possible for a new repair to be damaged in less than 24 hours. The community might be responsible for this damage but Ms Peters suspects that private companies may play a role and that there is foul play at work. It was discovered that certain individuals in suburbs were stealing water from the municipality. What they were billed for did not accurately reflect their water consumption. The war on leaks should not only focus on small communities but should also focus on eradicating the waste of water in affluent areas. Do DWS and the municipalities have the mechanisms to penalise culprits?
The relationship between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and DWS is important for water use licences. It was disheartening to see DALRRD allocate farms to emerging farmers only for those farmers not to have access to water use. One might find that the original owner still had the water licence. How does one ensure that the allocation given to the original owner gets reviewed?
What was the DWS plan and financial implications for avoiding a future recurrence of the latest water challenges? In 2019 this Committee requested DWS consider the entire Vaal River System and other rivers for augmentation of interventions that were being done. How many polluters were ever brought to book for the damage of the Vaal River System? Members had made it clear that polluters must be penalised. They have yet to witness publicly a polluter being held accountable for the mess caused in the Vaal River System. Which municipalities in this system were capacitated? Is the capacity done by consultants or by in house support? On slide 15 DWS had 25% under-expenditure. How did this affect households with limited water and water cuts? On slide 18 DWS mentions a “favourable balance”. To whom was this balance favourable? What were the implications on consumers? Had DWS realised savings due to the new normal of remote work? How much did DWS owe municipalities? How would DWS remedy this? This information was important to the Committee.
Ms N Hlonyana (EFF) was disappointed in the apology of the Minister of Water and Sanitation. The Deputy Minister arrived late and the Acting Director-General was not present in the meeting. It disappointed her that DWS was “on auto-pilot”. She welcomed the DWS presentation. The question about the state of the Vaal River System was not answered at all in the presentation. “I still feel like the Vaal River is still a mess”. She had expected an explanation on what must be done, how it would be done and how the Vaal River challenge would be resolved. Was the Department aware that certain white farmers were redirecting rivers to their farms? If the Department was aware of this, what were they doing about it? Water lost was water one would never get back. South Africa could not afford to lose even a litre of water because of leakages. Leakages were reported in almost every part of the country, “water is just running around on the streets”. In Mangaung water was just running around, it had been running around the whole time and it was not a leak, it was like a river. No one did anything about it. Who in the Department was responsible for making sure that Magaung had its affairs in order particularly when it concerned water leakages and sewage control?
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) welcomed the presentation and Deputy Minister Mahlobo. The Committee would have loved to have the Minister present but accepted that material conditions did not allow that. He asked why there were consistently acting positions within DWS. Someone in an acting position would shy away from taking decisive decisions hence we see the gipe (good idea poorly executed). He asked for specifics on how the proposed rollover of R582,2 million will be spent. Who are the main stakeholders in this project and their specific roles? All this information was asked as “we have learned the hard way from Eskom”. The Committee is told the plans, "only to find that money gets chowed whilst you do not see the output”. He wanted to know about the implementing agents as the Committee needed to receive all those details. Was Rand Water capacitated to help complete the Vaal River project? The Committee needed to know what the starting point would be, by when the project would be done, the cash flow projections and everything the project needed. The Department needed to table this information to the Committee.
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) said the DWS Acting CFO had been in that acting position “forever” since 2019. To address this, the Committee went to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and thereafter DWS been given a deadline to sort this out. What prevented DWS from appointing a permanent person to the position? We have been talking about this for so long and "every time they come with stories, we are sick and tired of stories”.
The challenge of leaks was very important which fall under the jurisdiction of the municipality. The Department spent a lot of money on leaks in the past where people were trained to deal with the leaks. Where were those people trained to fix leaks? A lot of money had been spent on that project. At the meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in the second quarter, there was mention of steering committees being established to address the challenges with the Giyani Water Project and the Vaal Gamagara Regional Water Supply Scheme. Were these internal steering committees or would the appropriated funds be used to hire consultants? How effective would the adjustment appropriation be if after years of intervention the challenges remain in Giyani, the Vaal Gamagara and the Vaal Integrated System had remained? Was there a historical report specifically on the project, the cost thereof, to fully understand how and why new interventions and allocations would not fail again.
The BRICS Development Bank, through the Development Bank of Southern Africa, was providing much needed loans for infrastructure development in South Africa. How was DWS utilizing these funds from DBSA? Lastly, the ruling party has been advocating the District Development Model (DDM) which was promoted in DWS as the panacea to deal with inter-related matters. Has there been a case study of DDM implementation in the water sector to address basic needs of citizens?
Mr O Mathafa (ANC) said the presentation really assisted the Committee in doing its work going forward. He would emphasise some of the points which had been raised. The first was in the form of a comment and a plea but also to underscore what Ms Peters had said about interaction of the entities, communities and public representatives under difficult times. He had a similar experience to that of Ms Peters with the communities in the Laudium area of Centurion. The experience was not good. He pleaded with the Deputy Minister and DWS management that there should be some sort of induction on how government officials interact with communities. This was based on the experience MPs had encountered just before the local government elections with Rand Water when water interruptions were experienced. The City of Tshwane took MPs to the site to indicate that the problem was not on their side. After a few days eventually Rand Water was on site. The first demand Rand Water made was that they were not going to speak to politicians, if politicians were on site they would leave. This was worrisome because politicians reside in communities, they form part of those communities. MPs do not represent government in communities; they represent communities in legislatures. When communities experience service delivery challenges, the first point of call is the MPs and councillors. When Rand Water said “no politicians or they will leave”, this was unfortunate. MPs took on the responsibility that they would represent their communities, this function should be understood by government entities.
On Slides 14 and 15, he asked if there was a correlation between the fruitless and wasteful expenditure which resulted in losses as well as the underperformance there with only 21% spending on Water Service Management and 50% of its set targets achieved. This was core business. Some of the fruitless and wasteful expenditure listed was accommodation and compensation of employees. There was a commitment that an investigation was unfolding. How far is the investigation and who was being investigated? Who had been charged and what measures were there to recover lost monies? How many funded vacancies remained unfilled and which were critical? It was concerning to see DWS underperform while having vacancies.
On transfer and subsidies, there was the withholding of grants to municipalities. The budget cycle waits for no one. When funds are withheld, these funds are either used, rolled over or returned to the national fiscus. What measures was DWS taking to assist municipalities to be compliant with the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) requirements? Insisting on compliance but jeopardizing service delivery was shooting oneself in the foot. Where we withhold funds and withhold service delivery it is an injustice to the voters. He asked if there were capacitation measures and if they were bearing fruit and how if they were overseeing these measures. He hoped that he had not offended anyone but he felt that it was important that such platforms were used to be able to raise issues that affected constituencies.
Mr S Buthelezi (ANC) said that the appearance of Deputy Minister was appreciated. Deputy Minister Mahlobo was always in the Committee whenever called upon. Most of the concerns raised were political and they needed political intervention. The reasons for the Minister not being present were accepted by the Committee. There had been departments which had tried to come before the Appropriations Committee without senior leadership and the Committee requested them to go back. The absence of the Director-General was not well taken. He had been covered by most of what the other Members had said. He asked the Deputy Minister what would be done to resolve Hammanskraal water challenges? People do not understand the spheres of local, provincial and national government or their agents. People simply expect government to respond. The Department of Water and Sanitation was the one at the head and the Committee would like to hear exactly what was going to happen and by when because “we cannot have a country where we have scientists who can discover Omicron before the West does but we cannot solve this simple issue of water". What would be done to ensure water in Hammanskraal and many other places?
We sit in this Committee and approve budgets and one department that we always ensure gets money is Water and Sanitation. From our side we have played our part as Parliament so when would DWS be solving this problem. This is one answer which the Committee needed. The Vaal River pollution was a perennial problem. There was a R582,2 million rollover which was not understood. It had implications for service delivery. The Vaal River was a long standing matter and the SANDF had to be deployed at some point. When would this problem be solved? It was very clear that along the Vaal River there were private sector polluters, industries and negative externalities. Have we identified those industries polluting the Vaal River, what are we doing about them? What are we going to do to ensure they pay for the pollution and to prevent pollution? A lot of dams had been built but communities surrounding those dams do not have access to the water. What was happening about Jozini Dam and the Woodstock Dam in Bergville. There were a lot of emerging farmers around that dam but they had no access to the water. It was important to ensure that the communities had access to the water. In Bergville the people say that one day they will close that dam because the water goes to Gauteng but the local residents have no access to this water. There are areas with lots of water but local communities have no access to this water. What was the plan around this challenge? Rollovers for these types of projects were definitely not welcomed by the Committee.
The Chairperson gave Members the opportunity for a second round of questions.
Ms Peters asked about the capacity challenges of the water boards and other water agencies. When our people do not have water, they run to the MPs and councillors and yet DWS agencies do not have an appreciation and respect for the role of public representatives. DWS needs to give its agencies an induction course on understanding the role of public representatives. We are elected by the public to take their interests to heart and any state agency that we as Parliament or municipal council appropriate money for, should respect and honour that.
Ms Hlonyana said that water was life. Failure to provide South Africans with access to water “simply means that we want to murder them”. Without water you die. So if we do not provide water, we are simply saying that our people must die. The Department needed to take water seriously. South Africa was rich enough to ensure that every citizen in this country had water.
Mr Mlenzana asked DWS to provide the Committee with an audit action plan for implementation of internal controls and the financial recovery plan. The Department did not clearly speak on the programme for the eradication of bucket toilets. This had been haunting us for too long.
Ms Mohlala asked how DWS would react if class action was brought against it for not meeting its constitutional mandate.
The Acting Chairperson also raised bucket toilets. Government had been speaking about a bucket eradication programme for years. The bucket system had stripped South Africans of their dignity. It was still a story which captured headlines. Part of the performance in contracts with DWS should include an element which encouraged eradication of the bucket system. This should be written into contract to help with eradication progress. There was 75% progress that had been reached due to a massive programme.
People were still struggling to get access to water when they had rivers running next to their towns. We should not be having such challenges. At some stage there were problems as the “zama-zamas” (illegal miners) disrupted the water infrastructure. The new infrastructure which had been invested in could not be protected because there was no security. What was DWS doing about protecting infrastructure and getting security guards? Without security, the water infrastructure gets disrupted through damage and theft. Access to water helps to enhance economic activity but in the absence of security and protection of infrastructure, it becomes a serious problem.
Deputy Minister response
Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr David Mahlobo, said that DWS welcomed the input and guidance of the Committee. The Department did not take lightly the continued support from the Committee because water was the only matter in our Constitution and the environment that comes out clearly. South Africa was a democratic state in which government was responsible for providing water and sanitation without fail. He agreed that DWS should do whatever it took to ensure that these constitutional rights were realised. Massive challenges were being dealt with. Significant progress had been made in the last 27 years. It was important to contextualise and look at the historical imbalances in the rollout of water infrastructure and sanitation services. South Africa had done well compared to many countries who were in a similar situation during transition into democracy. “As a Department and as an ANC led government we are the first ones to agree that there is still more to be done”.
There are communities who do not have water at all but there are also communities where water is not reliably available all the time. Sanitation services had been rolled out to many South Africans.
The Constitution places emphasis on the right to life and dignity. The right to life had no limitation clause. Water is life, Ms Hlonyana was correct, because without water you could not live. The other injunction in the Constitution is dignity for all of our people. When it comes to sanitation and inhumane conditions there had been sanitation challenges across the country.
On the capacity of the state, he admitted that DWS had been having instability at an administrative level over a number of years. The Department did not have an accounting officer since 2017. Since DWS became a new ministry, the Ministry agreed to stabilise the top. On 5 August the President gave it permission to advertise the post of Director General. Interviews had been conducted and it was moving with speed. If the discussion between the Ministry of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) went well they would want to go to the last Cabinet meeting on 8 December with a suitable candidate as it was an important position. The Department had been undergoing restructuring. It did not have a substantive head of Corporate Services. Ms Fundakubi would now formally be the Deputy Director General for Corporate Services. The other important position was to support municipalities in their water services function. This position had been advertised. The position of DDG: Water Infrastructure could not be filled due to a labour relation matter which unfortunately had been going on for nearly four years.
In the last engagement with management two days ago, DWS had made the decision to advertise the post of the Chief Financial Officer. The DWS budget is more than R30 billion and for this reason it is looking for substantive chartered accountant who is registered with a professional body as DWS places more emphasis on prudent management of the purse. The team had done its level best on this particular issue.
DWS had over 8000 employees and only 10% were scientists, engineers, technicians. They would prioritize that because the ratio was not correct. It had been a big issue not only for DWS but also for the infrastructure related areas. The Department tried to rebuild the professionals responsible for planning, development, construction, management, operations and maintenance of the “nation's life support system”. There were areas in which DWS performed poorly over time despite the immense investments in infrastructure. Currently DWS was running more than 262 projects . These projects are normally not finished on time or within budget. The Department would attend to the capacity around project management, contract management and engineering. Some of the problems DWS had, has everything to do with design. The water boards were of different strengths. The strength in Rand Water, a company over 100 years, was very strong and big as well as Umgeni Water board and Mhlathuze Water Board but other water boards are struggling in terms of capacity, governance and leadership. There were challenges with Lepelle Northern Water where there were many investigations. He noted Ms Peters' recommendation. South Africans do not appreciate water. For “every drop we waste someone is looking for that particular drop”. We need to do much better. There were campaigns but they were not elevated to the extent Ms Peters had experienced when she was in Energy. DWS would make it a priority to educate South Africans so they understood the value of water and that we cannot pollute. We are going to make it a priority about civic education generally, not only teaching in school where it is in the school curriculum under life sciences. The Department would improve on its communication and civic education. Water should become everybody’s business.
There were a number of reasons why water leaks were happening. In the main, the project called “War on Leaks” DWS spent more than R3 billion on. The youth were trained. This project had good intentions but the roll out project had unintended consequences. As we speak, the Special Investigating Unit is looking at some of the wrongdoings that happened in this project. The war on leaks goes beyond fixing leaking taps. The main issue was the outdated networks and pipes.
A lot of money and investment must be used to replace all the old pipes including the old technologies. We will have to do that because there are people who used to have water yesterday who do not have water. Some of the towns, dorpies and townships were more than 170 years old. We have reached a point where the systems are failing. Whether you go to Maloti, Welkom or the Vaal, water is running in the streets. The biggest problem was not about deploying young people to go and fix the leak, the problem was that infrastructure had reached the end of its lifespan. This was one of the biggest issues that South Africa had to undertake.
Vandalism and attacks on critical infrastructure was a new phenomenon raised by the Committee. This problem was not only a security matter. Illegal miners were causing most of the damage where they wanted to use the sewage water to extract the remaining gold in former mines. Government had put a team together working in Matjhabeng with the Free State provincial led by Minister Mchunu and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy. Government was of the view that the mining sector needed to be formalised so communities from those towns could benefit. The mining houses were able to take all the high grade minerals. There were still low grade minerals that could be mined which would enable money to go back to the fiscus through the revenue service. The team included SAPS because there were criminal elements involved who vandalised and interfered with the infrastructure. These individuals were armed with high calibre ammunition. In one province there were more than 11 000 people congregating and trading in minerals which essentially was a large business. A master plan had been finalised to intervene in these illegal trading networks. This matter must also be solved by resolving challenges around trading. Where people steal copper, ferrous and non-ferrous material are also being stolen. They are able to convert copper here in South Africa and put it in another product and start to export it.
Communities must also play their part. Some of the vandalism and theft of infrastructure was because some state employees had no integrity and were exposing our infrastructure to these people who damage and steal. He noted the example Ms Peters gave of those involved in tenders and state employees inform them where the valves are so they start interfering with the valves and also steal from those pump stations. It is a big problem that some politicians and officials are involved. DWS would like some time to share its comprehensive strategy with the Committee.
This plan would have a social component where society must be involved and a technical component around the kind of technology to deploy so that the infrastructure cannot be available for people who want steal it. There is also a security component where DWS would need to run operations, prosecute these people and send a message that criminality does not pay. This will also include the element of a new phenomenon with the emergence of criminals and mafias who are stopping projects and making demands for the 30% set aside for local empowerment.
The Deputy Minister noted the Committee's inputs about many projects not finishing on time which DWS should look at as well as the stealing of water via illegal connections. There was also the stealing of water through legal users especially where people constructed illegal dams. These people were selfish. There were implications, the water must flow for environmental reasons and for those living downstream. DWS compliance monitoring was working very hard but society should also report illegal dams and water being stolen.
There were also challenges with accuracy of the billing system and most systems are not actually working. Water licensing and water resource support to poor farmers was important. There was a relationship now with DALRRD. The Deputy President was chairing the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and DWS was party to this.
One of the problems was emerging black farmers when they get the land is that they had not been in a position to have water. Recently the transfer of the water use licence from one owner to the other became an issue as the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled against DWS. For transformation reasons, DWS is of the view that it does not want to permit water use licence transfer. Others are saying that DWS must not appeal this judgment but its legal team would advise DWS shortly. If DWS did not act on this all efforts of land reform would result in persons having land but no water. Transformation was a constitutional injunction to address the injustices of the past.
The Deputy Minister agreed that there had been some difficulty about how government had been intervening in the Vaal. The problem in the Vaal had started as early as 2005. One of the challenges in the Vaal was that the communities, the population and the economy had grown. There was a lot of pressure on the infrastructure hence that intervention to upgrade the infrastructure. The SANDF was also deployed. Ultimately DWS used section 63 of the Water Services Act and had taken over the management function of water services in that municipality. They could only do that because a Section 139 intervention was invoked. The Vaal intervention had been supported at the highest level. The Deputy President is convening meetings in the main that involves Mpumalanga because the pollution starts there and Gauteng which is the epicentre contributes to the pollution as well as Free State. The Northern Cape was also being polluted. The Vaal pollution is impacting international relations and cooperation as we are polluting Namibia. There was a visit to the Northern Cape, Free State and all these areas. We have developed a plan to know who are all the polluters – business or municipalities – around the Vaal. We are busy with that report right now. We have a number of environmentalist stakeholders we are working with. Even the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has been here and produced a report and other people have taken us to court. We have now appointed Rand Water and he can confirm that Rand Water has the capacity. For the first time, we have people who know what needs to be done to stop the pollution. Rand Water's mandate is to stop sewage flowing into people’s homes and their streets. There is nothing more unbearable than to make our people live in inhumane conditions. We are very ashamed as government to have subjected our people to those conditions. Secondly, Rand Water must stop untreated waste water from getting into the Vaal.
The money you see right now and the rollover we are asking for is to ensure that Rand Water does that. Rand Water had produced a detailed implementation plan. The Deputy Minister said that he can say, without any fear or favour, that for the first time the scientists know what needs to be done. “I am a retired scientist and I can assure you they will solve the problem". The Minister appointed Deputy Minister Mahlobo and the Gauteng Premier appointed MEC Lebogang Maile as the principals to share coordinating a steering committee of stakeholders that includes all the Vaal municipalities, environmentalists, community organisations and the SAHRC. The Committee would be given the detailed plan including the Rand Water implementation, the budget and the jobs that will be created. This must be resolved once and for all because nobody must live in those inhumane conditions. We cannot fail the people of the Vaal who had endured this since 2005. We do agree that polluters must pay. Municipalities are polluting because waste water treatment works all over the country more than 800 of them are not in good condition. We will be able now to conclude the waste discharge charge system to charge those who are polluting.
The Deputy Minister said the City of Tshwane had been denying that there was pollution at Hammanskraal. Ultimately the Deputy Minister went on site with the SAHRC and they were able to prove that the water was coming from Temba Water Treatment Works because the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works was not in a good condition. However, we want to report that the City of Tshwane had already put some people on the ground to fix the problem and a detailed plan was submitted to DWS and we are looking at that. Subsequent to that, SAHRC produced a report on the eve of the elections. Premier Makhura and Minister Mchunu had received the SAHRC report which contained a number of recommendations and injunctions. The Department was currently looking at that plan. They were pleased to report that after the Minister intervened with the Mayor the people of Hammanskraal continued to receive water from a system coming from Magaliesburg, another from Rand Water and Tshwane City itself. The solution of providing water through tendering and other means was not sustainable. We want a long term solution where citizens receive water through their own taps. There was a need for a pipeline so that Hammanskraal would not continue to be subjected to the pollution that has happened.
The Deputy Minister conveyed his sincere apologies as no DWS official or entity was permitted to treat people in an inconsiderate and disrespectful way, whether a public representative or an ordinary citizen. DWS officials are expected at all times to provide accurate information to all citizens without prejudice and more importantly according to the Batho Pele principle. The incident one of the Members referenced was regretted.
Whenever there is a problem, our Ministry intervenes. We have intervened in Hammanskraal, as a Ministry. The Minister and the Premier intervened in Laudium where the reservoirs were very low and this was regrettable. The long term solution for Laudium is the need for a pipeline so that we can increase capacity so Laudium and other parts of the City of Tshwane do not run out of water. The Committee had also raised the Jozini project and he confirmed the problem we have is how government synchronises its planning and implementation. DWS through Mhlathuze Water were able to build the bulk infrastructure including the reservoirs and water is available in the reservoirs. However, Umkhanyakude municipality has never been ready. It required DWS to divert resources to start the reticulation so that the people of Umkhanyakude and all those around that dam can have access to water. A team of experts had been deployed led by the Acting DDG for Infrastructure. There was a plan for Umkhanyakude and DWS should be able to intervene because ultimately, even if municipalities were responsible, the custodian of water and sanitation in South Africa remains the Minister Mchunu’s responsibility. The Department would support municipalities but where municipalities were unable to do what they were supposed to do due to internal problems, DWS would not shy away from its constitutional obligation to ensure that no South African is left behind without water. The plan would be shared with the Committee.
The Deputy Minister suggested that the outstanding answers be sent to the Committee in writing. In Giyani the work is progressing. People were stopping because the traditional leaders were short-changed by DWS on the basis of relocation. They were not paid for more than 22 years. We have opened up that matter and there is an acceleration plan. We should be able to provide a report on all the key projects we have supported to bring water to our people, whether bulk infrastructure or sanitation services, including the eradication of the bucket system. He had dealt with the issues which needed to be responded to politically. The CFO would respond on finances.
Mr Frans Moatshe, DWS Acting CFO, replied about the correlation of the costs which could not be charged or taken to the projects. Those costs which could not be capitalised were related to the DWS construction unit within the DWS Water Resource Management sector and not the Water Services sector. There was no direct correlation. The Department could expand on its response in writing on the Expenditure tables. In reply to the impact of the under expenditure, this was covered under the Non-Financial information. The under expenditure resulted in the delay of certain projects and had an impact on service delivery. The Department would, in the Financial Recovery Plan, provide additional information in writing to Committee questions on DWS finances.
The Deputy Minister said that DWS would share many of its reports with the Committee. This is important because DWS must be held accountable in particular where more money is requested to implement projects. Those projects must be implemented on time. Detailed reports would be sent to the Committee covering everything mentioned so when Members conduct constituency work it has the answers about where the money goes. The coordinates would also be included in these reports to enable Members to physically investigate if the money had been invested into projects or if the money had been stolen.
Ms Mohlala asked for a response on the DBSA loans for infrastructure.
The Deputy Minister replied that DWS was working with all institutions. The state – within the fiscus –was unable to fund all infrastructure investment for domestic and economic development. This was why Infrastructure South Africa existed. DWS was also working with DBSA and other financial institutions including other governments. All of these interactions would be subject to Treasury regulations and in compliance with the Constitution for those particular loans. DWS would mainly be using the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) to handle this. Wherever a project is funded through a domestic or international loan, this would be disclosed.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister. The point of eradicating the bucket system should be high priority on the DWS agenda. He would appreciate serious progress on this when the Committee meets with DWS again. Answers to those questions not responded to should be submitted to the Committee in writing. The Committee would appreciate this as Members were passionate about water. The Committee appreciated the presentation so Members know how to move forward based on the information and responses received.
Department of Transport (DOT) appropriation briefing
The Acting Chairperson noted that he had hoped that the Minister of Transport would be present.
Mr Chris Hlabisa, DOT Deputy Director-General, Road Transport, rendered apologies on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Acting Director-General. The Minister had sent in his apology; he was travelling abroad so was unable to make the meeting. The contract of the Director-General, Mr Alec Moemi, had ended last month so DOT had an Acting DG who was also abroad with the Minister. The process for filling the DG position is underway. The Deputy Minister also sent in an apology as she was dealing with a family bereavement. The Department, however, was present in full force to respond to the Committee. It had prepared according to the agenda. Additional information had been included on public transport and rail transport as requested by the Committee. We are also having a discussion that would be forwarded to the Committee.
The presenters were Mr M Matlala, DOT CFO, Ms Khibi Manana, Chief Director: Public Transport Network Development on public transport and Mr Ngwako Makaepea, Acting Deputy Director General: Rail Transport, would assist on the follow-up question submitted to the Department the night before (see presentation). On the SANRAL questions, Mr Hlabisa had relayed a message to the SANRAL Board Chairperson and the engineering executive – they were having a board meeting today – to give detailed information to enable DOT to respond accurately to what the Committee had asked. DWS requested the Committee to indulge in a seven day period for a report back on that matter. Once the SANRAL Board had concluded on the matter it would furnish DOT with a full report that would be submitted to the Committee.
Ms Peters said earlier she had noted to the Department of Water and Sanitation to encourage economic development in rural areas, there needs to be good road infrastructure and water and electricity supply. Coming from a province like the Northern Cape, there are three areas that the custodians and of roads infrastructure that DOT should take note of. DOT should by now have a road infrastructure funding model to deal with municipal, regional, provincial and national networks. We always find fault with the potholes in roads. The Department launched a “war on potholes” project and left it in the hands of municipalities which do not have the capacity unless supported by provinces.
The Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant did not address the challenge in the areas where roads do not exist such as . For example in John Taolo Gaetsewe Local Municipality in the Northern Cape communities kept their children out of schools for about four months due to the poor condition of roads. The Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal face similar challenges. When addressing the Provincial Road Infrastructure Grant or the S'hamba Sonke programme, it is important we look at those concerns. From time to time in the Klerksdorp area between Kuruman and Daniëlskuil there are sinkholes due to mining operations. She noted the damming of water on the R31road from Barkly West to Kimberley. Major accidents are waiting to happen. Calling on SANRAL for help, it indicated that if the municipality or Department to call on SANRAL to help, they would be able to help. That road is also being pounded by trucks carry manganese and iron ore which damages the road. It is important to look at this particular road infrastructure.
On regional integration, what is South Africa and Zimbabwe doing about the Beitbridge development? The congestion is worrying – between Mozambique and South Africa, there are kilometres of trucks on the road transporting ore to Mozambique ports as well as those transporting goods between Zimbabwe and South Africa through Beitbridge. What is the role of the Border Management Authority in supporting SANRAL and DOT on this?
Ms Peters referred to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) and asked what is DOT doing to build capacity for municipalities for this roll-out. In our constituencies MPs have been informed by municipalities that they will not be able to implement unless National Department gives them the necessary support, infrastructure and resources. Are all the provinces ready for this roll out?
On taxi recapitalisation, why can taxi operators not meet the requirements? They seem to be contributing towards the slow uptake. What is DOT doing to ensure all operators have the requisite requirements in place? One cannot have DOT saying it understands why the taxi industry is not responsive because the taxi operators do not meet the requirements. One cannot merely sit and preside over taxi operators who are not meeting the requirements. What is the problem? Is it the licensing authorities at provincial and local level? It is important that this challenge be attended to.
She was happy to hear there was progress on the protection of the rail network in the interest of commuters who were supposed to be ferried by Metrorail. These commuters are important contributors to the economy so we need to ensure that the rail infrastructure is protected. This also applies to the rail reserves. What is to be done about informal settlements encroaching on the rail reserves? She pointed to the theft of rail infrastructure and asked what DOT, PRASA and Transnet are doing to protect this. What is happening in our country? What is law enforcement doing? Are we not able to protect rail infrastructure? The dilapidated train stations are crime havens. Why not demolish them if they are no longer in use or rent them out to small businesses to operate from these stations. She asked that DOT and Transnet attend to the rail infrastructure getting submerged under the Flamingo Dam water at Kimberley because it is a disaster waiting to happen.
Mr Buthelezi wanted to check if DOT counted the transfers to agencies as "spent" irrespective of the agency spending it all or not. He asked for an update on the new Rolling Stock Programme. Has Gibela Rail Transport complied with the conditions when the contract was awarded to them? Have the conditions changed in any way? The Rolling Stock Programme was not just about the provision of trains; there were a lot of other benefits that the programme had. The Rolling Stock Programme was the biggest in the world at that time so there were a lot of benefits the country was looking at deriving from it. On Main Line Passenger Services (MLPS), during festive season this is the time the Shosholoza inter-provincial long distance train becomes active. What was the position of Shosholoza at the moment? He noted the underspending. Are the agencies going to be able to do what they were supposed to have done in the past six months in the remaining few months of 2021/22? Was DOT not worried about fiscal dumping and fruitless expenditure?
Mr Mathafa noted the under-spending due to unfilled vacancies. Are these managerial, supervisory or technical vacancies? It would be empowering to know what classification they are and what DOT is doing to ensure that the posts, particularly those funded, are filled. He referred to the under-spending on transfer and subsidies due to legislation non-compliance by the recipients. He asked what measures are in place to assist those not complying with legislation. The Committee holds the view that non-spending for whatever reason affects service delivery quality and can deprive citizens of services. What measures are there to ensure non-compliance is eradicated and those funds are released, spending happens and the service is delivered?
The Acting Chairperson asked about the road to rail strategy and taking trucks off the roads. Has it been taken seriously? The damage to roads is due to keeping trucks on the road and there are huge financial consequences. What guarantee are you giving us about underspending? Millions of poor working class people are reliant on rail transport and are economically punished when the trains are delayed.
Mr Hlabisa, said that he would cover the questions on vacancies the levels as well as the classifications of those vacancies, particularly the funded one. A detailed report needed to be given when the interest of time was being looked at just to classify and categorise them as such so that we give the vacancies a proper analysis throughout DOT and look at all the levels particularly on the smf level, which ones had been vacant and all that. Details would be given to the Committee as to what has happened in each and every category. The report given would be very precise and to the point. On the issue of non-compliance with the legislation and depriving citizens of service delivery, and the measures that would be taken, Ms Manana would cover this as well as the question on capacity building with the local sphere of government. In terms of taking trucks off of the roads, there was the Road to Rail Strategy which is encapsulated in terms of the National Transport Master Plan. DOT was now dealing with the issue of hazardous cargo, which was being taken off the road networks. DOT was working closely with Transnet and making sure that hazardous chemicals are taken off the road networks. This was a working process to ensure that hazardous cargo is not on the road networks. This would fall under the Road to Rail Strategy. The question on the TBS initiative, Ms Peters was still Minister of Transport when she launched the TBS initiative is still continuing, the initiative encouraged self-regulating of the trucking industry so that they are not found carrying wrong commodities on the road networks. DOT is working closely with the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to ensure enforcement. The CFO, look at the spent transfers look at what does it mean when the receiving authority is not spending. The Gibela Rail Transport compliance issue would also be dealt with. Everything would be put in writing in the interest of time.
Mr Matlala, DOT CFO, replied about the transfers to its entities, the provinces and municipalities. With the entities there are also conditions that are given to the entities from our side immediately they have complied with transfering the funds to our entities and on quarterly basis they report to DOT about their revenue and expenditure because our public entities are following Standards of Generally Recognised Accounting Practice (GRAP) reporting system. At the end of the financial year if they have a surplus they will have to request through DOT to National Treasury if to keep that surplus or not.
Mr Buthelezi asked if once DOT has transferred the money it counts as money spent.
Mr Matlala confirmed that once DOT had transferred the money to one of its entities, it would reflect on DOT's side as money spent. However, if the recipient of the funds has a surplus at year-end, the entity would need to request through DOT to National Treasury to keep the surplus. Provinces and municipalities get the money in terms of the Division of Revenue Act and there are conditions attached to apply for a rollover for unspent funds. If the rollover is approved they would be able to use the money to complete those particular projects. If an entity or a province does not comply, the relevant project managers assist those provinces to fulfill their requirements.
Mr Makaepea replied about the implementation of the security plan for rail infrastructure. They got additional capacity internally with 3 100 security guards in PRASA deployed at strategic places. Additional security had since been appointed to prevent attacks on infrastructure. In high risk corridors we are at the final design stages in production of the welding programme to close in those corridors to deal with that. Transnet and Eskom are having problems with cable theft as well as DOT. They have monthly meetings with each other on strategy and work on these same security challenges.
On the train stations vandalized during COVID-19 lockdown, PRASA had started with the programme where those dilapidated stations would be demolished and would be prepared for the next level of delivery. One of the elements DOT is considering is how to rationalise the old stations in our corridors based on new demands. The Department would engage with Transnet on the rail infrastructure at Flamingo dam and will provide details in writing on that.
The Rolling Stock Programme was running with a few challenges. COVID-19 happened and the factory had closed and therefore the delivery of the rolling stock had slowed down. There were other elements such as the supply park challenge and the partner building the park. Engagements are underway to look at alternative options of building the supply park to meet the targets. There was a Rolling Stock Committee composed of all role players which had quarterly reports on all those particular elements.
The Main Line Passenger Services (MLPS) was a challenge; it was currently not running services. The rolling stock became a court matter as DOT and PRASA were trying to see how to resolve this with the liquidators. There was a programme for leasing the locomotives through Transnet but Transnet had withdrawn from the programme. There is historical debt that needed to be settled with Transnet.
On the move from Road to Rail, the rail sector was identifying certain corridors which it believes it would be able to put out for concession to run rail services where government is not able to deal with that. They are putting on the table the introduction of third party access to national roads and the rail network which was noted by the President as part of the Economic Recovery Plan.
Ms Manana replied about the taxi operators who do not have operating licences. Originally there were supposed to be 135 000 vehicles scrapped but only 77 000 had been scrapped. DOT had been working to understand what was going on with the other 58 000. DOT was able to determine that most of them did not have valid operating licences. These vehicles were those 2002 old vehicles. With some of them you find that the owner did not scrap the vehicle but instead took the operating licence and transferred it to a newer vehicle and they are operating with that operating licence in the newer vehicle but they did not scrap the old vehicle. DOT found that these old vehicles were not scrapped but were still active but they do not have an operating licence. Even though the operating licence had been transferred to another vehicle or sold to another operator, operators must be still allowed to scrap these 2002 and older vehicles. DOT would like to take the matter to MINMEC so that the political principals can make a decision on that matter.
On capacity building, DOT runs a programme in the municipalities where every year we identify graduates from universities who are recruited for a two-year internship at municipalities with the understanding that municipalities would give them permanent posts. DOT is in joint collaboration with National Treasury on the Cities Support Programme, where they provide technical capacity to municipalities to assist them with the implementation of integrated public transport networks. As part of the Cities Support Programme there is a work stream that looks at capacity building. It does a needs assessment in municipalities that DOT funds through the Public Transport Network Grant (PTNG). DOT works closely with CSIR and National Treasury and a number of interventions were to be implemented such as training, formal education and knowledge exchange. DOT was going to design a national capacity building programme which would look at capacity at national, provincial and municipal level. Capacity is not only required at municipal level, there were glaring gaps at provinces as well as national. A tender had been released to design that programme but due to unforeseen circumstances in DOT, the tender was not approved. DOT would go on tender again to design a national capacity building programme to benefit all spheres of government.
The Acting Chairperson handed over to the Chairperson to officially conclude the meeting.
The Chairperson thanked DOT saying it was a worthwhile engagement. The Appropriations Committee constantly had to consider the competing interests of different departments and entities who fought for their budgets. The Committee operated within a very constrained space. The country was running on a deficit and money needed to be borrowed to make up that deficit. At the moment the interest rates and the cost of capital was very high. The Committee did not welcome departments and entities who asked for money but did not use that money. This meant that people would be deprived of service delivery. The President had identified infrastructure as a catalyst for inclusive economic growth. Departments could be compromising inclusive economic growth by not spending the money allocated. Employment opportunities are compromised. The employment numbers reported by Stats SA looked bad. It should not be easy for departments to say they have not spent money. DOT’s definition of spending was transferring money from itself to its agencies. Does the money eventually reach the ultimate beneficiaries, the public? He requested that DOT reply in writing before 3 December on how far its agencies have spent their money transfers? This would help the Committee establish the bigger picture to determine if the intended beneficiaries are benefitting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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