In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the Department of Water and Sanitation and its entities on the progress made on the Giyani Water Project and the Vaal River Water Project. The Minister and the Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation were present.
The Minister of Water and Sanitation said that he felt very small reporting on the Giyani Water, as the project should have been completed two years ago, given the amount of money spent on it. Investigations have been launched with the Special Investigative Unit from the beginning of the project to recover misappropriated funds. There were serious problems in terms of implementation, as the project design was problematic – neither optimal nor efficient from a water-resources planning perspective. This resulted in indecisiveness in design during implementation. Project-management planning was also inadequate. Under Lepelle Northern Water and the old Professional Service Provider, pipelines were laid and paid for in full without being tested; this was one of the main causes for revising the percentage progress down. Contractors were appointed on the basis of incomplete designs. Designs were not ready when required by the contractors. There was a lack of stakeholder involvement and support, including by the Mopani District Municipality.
The Minister invoked Section 63 of the Water Services Act to take over water and sanitation services from Emfuleni Local Municipality. On 05 March 2021, and revised on 06 July 2021, Rand Water was appointed as the implementing agent. Rand Water will operate assets owned by Emfuleni, reporting directly to the Minister, who will then inform Cabinet. Rand Water was expected to manage identified Emfuleni assets. There was a governance structure of 46 organisations to ensure proper coordination and collaboration, chaired by the Deputy Minister and the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The structure includes government across the three spheres, business chambers, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations and environmental groups in Vaal and Gauteng. This briefing came in handy wherein some wards experienced work stoppages by some councillors and workers of Emfuleni Local Municipality, citing lack of information and job security. Rand Water resolved to remove its workforce until matters were sorted out.
The Rand Water and Emfuleni have a team of professionals managing the plant, especially the telemetry, and taking of effluent sample to Rand Water laboratory. Challenges remain, with respect to security of infrastructure, especially vandalism and theft. Security has been increased by Rand Water, and communities will be involved as part of the holistic security plan.
Members, though they appreciated the Department’s turnaround strategy, felt the Department had failed the people of Limpopo. They were concerned with the anarchist approach of some councillors in the Vaal, who stop sewage and waterworks.
Members also expressed concern about the sustainability of Section 63 interventions, as Emfuleni Municipality remained bankrupt. They were also concerned that assets handed over on conclusion of intervention may be attached. More so, the municipality may not have the technical and human resources capacity for water and sanitation.
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming the Members and reading out the agenda for the day. He also welcomed the Minister, Deputy Minister, and officials from the Department as well the Rand Water delegation.
Briefing by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS): Giyani Water Project
Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Water and Sanitation, said he felt very small reporting on the Giyani Water, also known as the Tzaneen Project. The project should have been completed two years ago, given the amount of money spent. Investigations have been launched with the Special Investigative Unit from the beginning of the project. People still do not have water in 55 villages. Two companies had been appointed and they did water for 12 months, and now Rand Water has been appointed to do the work. The Department was cleaning up, and making corrections. At the time of his appointment, the project was at standstill – there was breakdown in communication between the Department, communities and traditional leaders. Mopane communities also prevented contractors from getting to work. People have been relocated so that the project could be completed, and an understanding with traditional leadership was now there. The conceptualisation of the initial pipeline was problematic. The Department does not envisage any other hitch from the contractor, communities and consultants. The end of year is the delivery date of the project; it has also overlapped with reticulation in village 12 to 18. All corruption cases will be pursued relentlessly.
Mr Moshodi Motebele, Acting Deputy Director-General: Infrastructure, DWS, said that the Department initiated the Giyani Water Services intervention in August 2014, with the intention to address water services challenges experienced by the communities in Giyani. The project was initiated as a Ministerial directive to Lepelle Northern Water (LNW), for immediate intervention in Mopani District, to address water challenges. The project was initiated to address water services challenges in Giyani due to failure of infrastructure perpetuated by drought conditions that affected the yield of both the Nsami and Middle Letaba Dams. The intervention included the refurbishment of existing water and sanitation infrastructure, including pump stations, repairs of leaking pipes and reservoirs, borehole development and installation of package plant for immediate supply to social facilities (Nkhensani Hospital). There was the construction of 1.5 Ml/d Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) to augment existing Giyani WWTW, and the revitalisation of 154 boreholes to augment water supply in 55 villages around Giyani. Lastly, there was the replacement of inefficient bulk pipelines that supply water to 55 villages around Giyani (about 325 km of pipeline).
In 2019, Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) was appointed as Implementing Agent (IA) on the project terminated, for both contracts with Professional Service Provider (PSP) for Nandoni-Nsami pipeline and the Turnkey service provider for Giyani Water services but continued with Vharanani for the pipeline. At that stage, the pipeline was reported to be 50% complete by LNW but later verified to be only 35%. Similarly, the additional works were reported to be 92% complete, but subsequent investigations by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) indicated that the project progress was only at 48%. Currently, the pipeline is being constructed by the Vharanani with a new PSP as the Engineer; this is at 38 % complete. The additional works are being completed by the DWS Construction unit with the new PSP as Engineer and assistance from LNW for procurement of materials; this is at 58% complete. Clearly, from the progress since 2019, there were serious problems in terms of implementation. Water resources planning for this project was inadequate. As a result, the conceptual design of the project, as it is currently being implemented, is neither optimal nor efficient from a water-resources planning perspective. It also resulted in indecisiveness in design during implementation. Project management planning was also inadequate. Under LNW and the old PSP, pipelines were laid and paid for in full without being tested; this was one of the main causes for revising the percentage progress down. Contractors were appointed on the basis of incomplete designs. Designs were not ready when required by the contractors. There was a lack of stakeholder involvement and support, including by the Mopani District Municipality. Lack of progress has been caused by:
- Poor and untimely decision-making by LNW (especially with regard to dealing with service providers and contractors)
- A lack of oversight and support by DWS for the project
- Due diligence by DWS should have been done to ascertain LNW capacity before and during project implementation
- Poor performance of contractors
- Poor performance of DWS construction unit due to weak SCM and logistics management in DWS
- Poor performance by the old PSP as Engineer.
The final technical solution was that:
- The Nandoni to Nsami pipeline will be a raw water pipeline, which will join the existing canal system;
- The supply to Malamulele will be potable water supplied via Mavambe;
- Upgrade the Water Treatment Works WTW at the Nandoni dam by 60 Ml/d to serve the communities along the pipeline and other areas in Vhembe;
- Repair/refurbish existing (old) WTW plant at the Nsami dam to operate at design capacity;
- Rebuild the new WTW plant to design capacity increase water supply to Giyani villages;
- Villages in Giyani will be further served by water from Nwamwitwa Dam when it comes online;
- The Mopani DM will be assisted to take advantage of the WSIG money unspent over the years, to extend reticulation in the villages and synchronise with completed sections of the pipeline;
- Communication will be made to the new PSP via LNW to finalise designs based on the above.
DWS will provide strong project management support to LNW in order to strengthen its role as the Implementing Agent, by assigning an experienced Engineer in the capacity of a Chief Director to the project. The DWS Chief Director will assist in the decision-making on the project, and advise the LNW on challenges and actions required. The Chief Director has already been assigned to LNW to commence in this role. In line with standing contractual relationships, the DWS will intervene through LNW. An escalation route for unresolved challenges has been established, and the Director-General and Minister are to intervene if required.
Briefing by Rand Water
Minister Mchunu said that the Department needed to go back to basics in tackling problems experienced by communities by removing sewerage. When it inspected the infrastructure it concluded that the municipalities were not in a position to solve the problem. Rand Water was appointed. Deputy Minister David Mahlobo was leading to ensure that the environment was cleaned, and political problems were solved. The Vaal situation was causing embarrassment to government.
Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, said that there was an existing governance structure of 46 organisations to ensure proper coordination and collaboration. The Premier and Minister assigned DM David Mahlobo and Gauteng MEC Maile to chair the committee that has about 46 organisations. The structure includes government across the three spheres, business chambers, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations and environmental groups in Vaal and Gauteng. They have been meeting frequently to guide the work through the implementing agents. The new municipal leadership of Emfuleni and Sedibeng were fully briefed by MEC and Deputy Minister. The Chairperson of this Portfolio Committee, Mr R Mashego, also joined the briefing. Additional engagement was organised by the Premier of the Province, Mr David Makhura, over the past two, weeks wherein all Mayors, MMCs and Speakers were fully briefed on section 63 interventions. This briefing came in handy wherein in some wards the Department works with experienced work stoppages by some councillors and workers of Emfuleni Local Municipality, citing lack of information and job security. Rand Water resolved to remove its workforce until matters were sorted out. The matter has been successfully resolved, and Rand Water has resumed its operations. There was significant progress made on removal of sewer from homes, and streets and the water treatments that were upgraded from 100ML/d to 150ML/d have started to receive sufficient inflow of effluent estimated at a peak of 135ML/d.
Rand Water and Emfuleni have a team of professionals managing the plant, especially the telemetry and taking of effluent sample to Rand Water laboratory. Communities, where sewer has been removed in the homes and streets, are very grateful to President Ramaphosa and government. Challenges remain, with respect to security of infrastructure – especially vandalism and theft. Security has been increased by Rand Water, and communities will be involved as part of the holistic security plan. Additional capacity has been mobilised by DWS and Rand Water to fast track the implementation of the project, in order to compensate for the lost time due to delays. Risks remain on the basis of the community seeking employment and others demanding procurement opportunities.
Mr Sipho Mosai, CEO of Rand Water, said that the Minister invoked Section 63 of the Water Services Act to take over water and sanitation services from Emfuleni Local Municipality. On 05 March 2021, revised on 06 July 2021, Rand Water was appointed as the implementing agent. Rand Water will operate assets owned by Emfuleni, reporting directly to the Minister – who will then inform Cabinet. Rand Water was expected to manage identified Emfuleni’s assets. This entails a revenue-enhancement strategy, with the aim of ensuring sustainability of the assets long after Rand Water has completed the handover process after a period of three years. Rand Water will have to draw on internal resources, largely human resources. It is important that Rand Water staff are aware and expect to play a role.
Ageing Infrastructure, sewage spillages into the Vaal River and demand that exceed the design capacity of the wastewater treatment capacity in the Sedibeng Region have all necessitated the implementation of the Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme Project (for both Midvaal and Emfuleni Local Municipalities (Sedibeng Region). The objectives of the projects include delivery of an effective solution that will eradicate pollution in the Vaal River and its tributaries, and eradication of water and sanitation service delivery challenges, inhibiting both social and economic development in the region. This involves revitalisation and refurbishment of the WWTWs (Wastewater Treatment Works) to current design capacity, revitalisation and refurbishment of the existing 44 pump stations in the Emfuleni catchments, to current design capacity.
Other objectives include the pipe-replacement programme, to eliminate pipe bursts and pipe collapses; leaving sustainable and operational sewage infrastructure, thus preventing future pollution within the Vaal River catchment; implementation of the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (thus creating additional treatment capacity to meet current and short term future demands. Progress to date has been the unblocking, and bio-solids work has been ongoing; site visits have been done, and progress has been monitored. A total of 195 high pressure unblocking and cleaning operations have been logged in the Sebokeng Catchment, 101 in Leeuwkuil Catchment and 100 in Rietspruit Catchment. There was also the appointment of seven contractors to refurbish the collapsed pipes by 04 February 2022.
Ms G Tseke (ANC), though unhappy, was comfortable that some work was being done in Giyani. She appreciated the appointment of a chief director who was an engineer. She asked about the role of the provincial director. Are the completion dates for reticulation of just pipelines?
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) appreciated the turnaround strategy and asked if the Minister was comfortable with the turnaround strategy. The Department must be a paramount authority to oversee projects. She noted that the Minister declared the conceptual design inadequate. The people of Giyani have been failed – including elderly women pushing water in wheelbarrows.
The Chairperson received water from Nandoni, and, at one point, met them in Limpopo. They complained about loss of mealie meal fields and pipes going through their yards. Somebody must account for things that happened under the watch of the Department. Was the Department envisaging communal taps or house to house, given that the houses are sparsely distributed?
Deputy Minister Mahlobo explained that, when Ministers get appointed, they assume assets and liabilities. The people of Limpopo have been disappointed. Some contractors were overstating their achievements, hence SIU being appointed. Certain people registered with professional bodies were doing what they were not supposed to be doing. They started work with no designs, licensing or environmental assessments. The people of Limpopo were humans too, with rights to water. The presentation has dealt with much of the Members’ concerns. Every household will have its own tap – no communal taps.
Mr L Basson (DA) was concerned that, when section 63 interventions was completed, the project must not be handed to a municipality that does not have the technical and financial capability to maintain the infrastructure.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Basson that assets handed to the municipalities may be repossessed as they were in debt. More so, some officials in those municipalities were receiving high salaries when compared to the affordability of the municipality.
Ms Sihlwayi said the presentation was giving hope to the people. However, the anarchist approach by councillors cannot be accepted. The disciplinary code must be followed.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo responded that the aim was to ensure that the people of Emfuleni lived under conditions that the Constitution promises. The environmental degradation and pollution of rivers were what guides the Department. The Department was doing whatever it takes to remove sewer from homes and streets. From time to time, some community members come with certain people who must be appointed. A number of individuals who have companies also want to get work. There was a process that Rand Water followed, and it was presented to the Department before.
In cases of community disruptions: the Department goes to communities and makes them have a choice of either living in a community with sewer in their homes, or their children and family members exposed to health risks. They will choose life to live in a clean environment. The Chairperson assisted in addressing councillors. Rand Water has credibility and capacity and the plans presented were technically sound. The plan presented by Rand Water has a breakdown schedule of what must be done by who and when. Interventions must be sustainable. The Department was looking at what will make assets of intervention remain property of national government. The authority for water lies with national government. When some of the spheres of government were unable to provide water, they were resisting interventions. Some of them refuse on the basis that they will not have control over tenders. All water boards and their capacities will be placed at the disposal of municipalities. From time to time, the Department will come to report back on progress on issues in Giyani and Emfuleni.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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