Implementation of Strategic Framework for Water Services: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

18 February 2004
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Meeting report


18 FEBRUARY 2004

Documents handed out
Strategic Framework for Water Services: Joint presentation by the Deparment and SALGA
SAAWU Views on the Implementation of the Strategic Framework for Water Services: Presentation
SAAWU Cape Town Commitment
National Water Week 22-28 March 2004: Presentation
Rand Water: Boards of South Africa

Chairperson: Mr D Maimane for Mr J Van Wyk

Teams from the Deparment, SA Local Government Association (SALGA) and the SA Association of Water Utilities (SAAWU) presented views on the Strategic Framework for Water Services (SFfWS) and Mr Babs Naidoo (Deparment) gave a short presentation on the upcoming National Water Week from 22-28 March. The Deparment, SALGA and SAAWU need institutional reform and transfer issues to be workshopped and resolved at a meeting planned for the near future.

Mr Abri Vermeulen reminded the meeting that the Strategic Framework (SF) was now the official national water services policy. His presentation highlighted the key issues of implementation. Municipalities would be the key to water and sanitation delivery and the Department's function would be changed to that of national regulator and sectoral support. Messrs Freddy Mamoremi and Lehasa Maloi (Department) explained the way forward for the implementation of the SF and the challenges faced to effect the transfer process.

Mr Neil Macleod (SALGA) said that municipalities had started the process of Section 78 assessments to comply with the requirements of the Municipal Systems Act. The assessment process was expensive because it required extra funding and expertise. With respect to sanitation, they were faced with the problem of pressure on municipalities to deliver sanitation while related policy had not been finalised and sufficient funding for effective delivery was not forthcoming. Another serious problem was the refusal by certain communities to pay for basic service delivery. This action apparently stemmed from distorted messages received from certain politicians.

Ms Beverly Pretorius (SALGA) applauded the Department for appointing consultants to assist with institutional reform and transfer challenges. SALGA would persist with an attitude of joint approach in dealing with the sector's challenges.

Ms Patience Nyakane (SAAWU) referred to the 'Document of Commitment' (attached) signed by their members. They had prioritised their need for support that would enable municipalities to deliver water and sanitation services more effectively. Hence, the need for the Department to realise that regional interest for water services should transcend local interests. Decisions for reform had to be in the best interest of the consumer. Although they accepted the interim regulatory role of the Department, SAAWU encouraged the formation of a "multi-regulatory body" that would include the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and National Treasury (NT).

Mr P Camay (SAAWU) confirmed their intention to ensure the smooth transition of responsibility from the Department to SALGA and SAAWU. In the interim period, water and sanitation service delivery had to continue uninterrupted, efficiently and effectively.

Mr J Van Wyk expressed concern about the persistent pleas by representatives from Limpopo to the Department to investigate problems. He suggested urgent intervention by the Department.

Mr E Sigwela (ANC) asked if information about the current transfer agreements was available. What was being done about learners who were inconvenienced by the lack of water and sanitation services at their schools? What preventative measures were being employed to prevent water contamination due to bad sanitation practices?

Mr Mike Muller said he would provide the list of transferred and currently negotiated agreements. He agreed that a school without e.g. a toilet, desk, roof, etc. was incomplete, but emphasised that the SF document (p20) categorically clarified who should take responsibility and fund such facilities. He assured that the Department monitored the pollution of rivers and apprehended offender/s. Unfortunately, the Department was constrained by the Constitution from prosecuting municipalities and could only offer support to them to rectify the situation.

Mr T Kalipa (SALGA) added that the problem of sanitation and water would be addressed in the joint planning processes with Ministers and MECs.

Ms T Leshika (ANC) asked if all municipalities were now members of SALGA, and Mr Kalipa confirmed this. Communication with members was good.

Mr J Van Wyk (ANC) asked why water cut-offs continued in Gauteng; for clarity around the policy of sanitation in dense areas; comment on the manner in which the Department was going to deal with the transfer of excess staff and how this might affect SALGA; and how the free basic water policy was being communicated to communities.

Mr Muller said that policy allowed for disconnection. However, it was important that due process be followed. Misuse and mismanagement appeared to be the main cause of disconnections. Regarding basic services, the current recommendation allowed for Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets because it met the technical need. It was simply impossible, financially, to supply flush toilets throughout the country, not even in the distant future. Servicing dense areas would remain a problem until a changed approach to settlements was found.

He said there was no intention to dump excess staff on local government. Staff would be transferred as needed. He was aware of the misunderstanding of the FBW concept amongst certain communities. To some, it meant consuming as much as they possibly could from the system. It would pose a management challenge to local government that would have to be addressed at every possible level.

Mr Macleod added that the SF policy now clearly stated that domestic disconnection was no longer a consideration. However, water supply would be limited in cases where a consumer defaulted.

Ms M Komape-Ngwenya (ANC) vented her frustration with the Department's lack of delivery. She believed that there was a lack of communication with communities and asked how the Department applied the principles in their credit control policy. She asked how the Department planned to deal with transfer challenges because these had remained obstacles since 1994. She repeated the plight of the Limpopo province and suggested that the Department was now keen to transfer old problems to local government.

Mr Muller said that there was a clear process in place with regard to the transfer of schemes. Reality dictated that these schemes could not be transferred in an absolutely new state. Instead, it would be upgraded to a level it would have been if it had it been well maintained. Funds had been made available for this purpose. With regard to the problem of over-/understaffing, he said it was well-known that they had an excess of underskilled staff and a shortage of high-level technically-skilled staff.

Mr Muller said Limpopo had special challenges because it had more staff and schemes than the other provinces for historical reasons among others. Secondly, there were more large schemes that were complex to operate. Thirdly, there appeared to be an institutional mismatch because the institutions were not managing the water pumped into the system properly. He would also not blame the local department manager for the state of matters in the province because he too, found himself in the middle of a transition and found it difficult to respond to complaints appropriately at all times.

Mr D Maimane (ANC) asked what options for financial support had been explored to assist funding institutions.

Ms Nyakane said the fragmented situation in the sector made capacitating municipalities very expensive.

Mr M Phala asked why the Department was not monitoring its departmental partners, Education and Public Works regarding the problems of sanitation and water in schools. He added to the voices of frustration of earlier speakers regarding the neglect of Limpopo province by the Department.

Mr Kalipa said that SALGA had requested a meeting on 24 February with the Committee, the working group and stakeholders to solicit solutions. With regard to Limpopo, the Department was still responsible, not SALGA. However, they understood the concerns and would take on the Department head-on if necessary.

Ms R Ndzanga commended the Department for the 'Wash Campaign' in schools. However, although the campaign had a positive outcome, learners were burdened with having to carry their own water to schools where there was inadequate water service delivery. She requested that SALGA assist with the situation. She blamed the ant-privatisation campaign for the confusion in Gauteng regarding the misinterpretation of FBW policy and suggested a media counter-campaign that would explain the policy in as many languages as possible.

Mr D Mabuyakhulu asked that the origin of distorted FBW policy be made known.

Mr Macleod said that irresponsible people - particularly certain politicians who were campaigning for elections across the country - were spreading the wrong message.

The meeting was adjourned


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