The Committee received a progress report from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on the status of disciplinary cases in the Department. The Minister committed himself to fight corruption and fraud. Fraud and corruption weakened the pillars of democracy and were anti-revolutionary. South Africa was a perculiar nation which arose from the ashes of the Apartheid era and transitioned into democracy. Corruption was destructive by nature and deprived people of their rights. The articles published by the Daily Maverick condemned corruption and criticised the Minister and Department for ignoring corruption. The Minister argued that the articles used corruption allegations from the previous ministry to criticise the current leadership in the Department. The meeting was an opportunity for engagement and for the Department to clarify the various allegations made against it.
The Committee appreciated the Minister’s transparency and commended the Ministry for calling the meeting. Members were however concerned about the slow pace at which the funds were being recovered. Members believe that the sooner funds were recovered, it would mean better service delivery could be offered to the public, particularly in rural areas like the villages in Giyani where water services were desperately needed. Members expressed disappointment at the mere R300 million recovered by the Department in comparison to the R37 billion which had been lost. They urged the Department to collaborate more with law enforcement agencies to encourage the speedy processing of investigations. Members were concerned about the funds spent by the Department in relation to the creation of four advisory committees between the 2019/20 and 2021/22 financial years which amounted to over R63 million. Members alleged that these Committees performed duplicative work and added no value to the Department. One Member commented that there were communities and unemployed youth struggling to find employment yet money was being paid to officials who were doing duplicative work. Members supported the Minister’s decision to terminate the Advisory Committees and to allocate those funds towards service delivery.
The Committee wanted the full report from the disciplinary advisory committee to be made accessible. The Department responded that a letter of demand had been sent requesting the report within a certain time frame and if it was not received legal action may be pursued. Members urged the Department to strengthen its internal audit and risk management process. Members also noted that officials who resigned following fraud and corruption allegations needed to be tracked and civil or criminal cases should be pursued against these officials. Members wanted to know whether the Department had any power to hold the officials responsible for creating the advisory committees worth R63 million accountable. The Department responded that the appointment of the advisory committees was not irregular and was regulated by legislation. Where there was evidence of criminal activity the Department would refer those cases to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for investigation.
Members noted that the presentation failed to cover and bring clarity to the Amatola Water corruption and nepotism scandal. Members noted that over nearly three decades approximately 60% of the budget allocated towards water and sanitation in all three tiers of government had been wasted. The Committee felt that it needed to intervene even though it was not appropriate for it to interfere in operational matters. Parliament had allocated nearly a trillion Rand towards water and sanitation following the end of Apartheid and most of the money had been wasted. A Member commented that “corruption was a crime against humanity and a sin”. The Minister and the Department committed to using all of their power to fight corruption and to engage with the Committee. Water was a right and sanitation dignity. The media was also acknowledged for its important role but was urged not to become a tool used to spread propaganda.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming everyone. Many complaints had been received urging for this discussion to take place and so this was an important meeting. This would be an opportunity for the Minister and his team to respond to various complaints. The Minister needed to thoroughly take the Committee through the progress report. A moment of silence was observed for mediation and prayer. It was important for the meeting to be open to the public. The Chairperson apologised for not being visible during the meeting, he was affected by loadshedding. The Minister was invited to speak.
The public was not permitted to engage in the discussion - only Members of Parliament because the virtual meeting was akin to a sitting in Parliament. The public was however encouraged to contact the Chairperson and Ministry after the meeting if they had any questions.
The Committee was urged to engage with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to get an assessment of the progress of cases it was investigating. Regular updates were needed on the progress of criminal and internal disciplinary cases to enable the Committee to perform effective oversight.
Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr Senzo Mchunu, acknowledged Deputy Minister David Mahlobo and Deputy Minister Dikeledi Magadzi, who were present. The public was also acknowledged and welcomed. Sincere gratitude was expressed to the Chairperson for inviting the Department to present the progress report. This would enable the Department to directly account to the Committee and to all citizens. South Africa had thus far been a democratic state for 28 years. It would generally take a long period for democracy to entrench itself within a country. This was particularly true in South Africa, a country which had to “arise from the ashes” of the Apartheid era and transition into democracy. It would take a while for democracy to settle and become entrenched in South Africa. Democracy depended on the will of the people and their commitment to ensuring its entrenchment. Pillars were needed to ensure the entrenchment of democracy as well as time to enable democracy to mature. South Africa’s democracy was maturing but was still in its early stages. It was important for all citizens and for organs of state to assist in strengthening the pillars of democracy so that it grows stronger and survives. There was a desire to ensure that the current trajectory of democracy continued. One of the most important pillars of democracy was to combat corruption and fraud. Democracy could not be entrenched in a country where fraud and corruption were prevalent without accountability.
Anti-corruption and anti-fraud stances were important pillars to ensure a healthy democratic society. South Africa had become a signatory to and was active in various international and continental conventions. Being active in these conventions would help South Africa develop its internal democracy. It was important to adopt the pillars of democracy to ensure all people benefited and that there was justice and fairness in the distribution of resources. A positive example would be the appointment of Judge Raymond Zondo (now Chief Justice) to lead the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector including organs of state. Taxpayers had to pay for this Commission and it was an expensive process. Corruption was destructive by nature and deprived people of their rights. The Constitution guarantees the right to access to water. This was a right which should be enjoyed by all. In the absence of fraud and corruption, people would be able to enjoy the rights contained within the Constitution. The mantra in the DWS is “water is life and sanitation is dignity”. The Department needs to live up to this mantra. The Department needed to live up to this mantra and the constitutional imperatives. The current meeting was requested in response to two articles written by Mr Angus Begg and published in the Daily Maverick. The articles condemned corruption and criticised the Minister and Department for ignoring corruption. The article used previous corruption allegations within the Department to criticise the current management. The articles allege that the Minister, directly after his appointment into office, dissolved the disciplinary advisory committee. There were four advisory committees. According to Mr Begg’s article, the disciplinary advisory committee had been appointed and was hard at work fighting corruption and produced two million files, 90 000 folders, 100 000s of documents and more than two terabytes of data on an external server. The article further read that after the dissolution of the disciplinary advisory committee, the new management within the Department was inactive in probing corruption. Accusing someone or an institution of being ignorant towards corruption was akin to labelling that person or entity as a “spy” under the Apartheid era. Being labelled a spy would insinuate to the community that the person was not an ally. Saying that a person or entity ignored corruption was a very serious statement to make and would fuel ill regard towards the person or entity particularly given South Africa’s history of various corruption scandals.
The Department had participated in an interview with Mr Begg responding to the allegations. Shortly thereafter a second article was published which was no different to the initial one. In this second article, the same allegations were made against the Minister and the Department which had been addressed and thoroughly explained during the interview. It seemed as if Mr Begg had approached the Minister and Department with a closed mind refusing to listen and making sure the Department remained flooded with the “corruption sludge of the past”. The Department was not ignoring corruption. Mr Begg made reference to a whistleblower. The whistleblower should have taken the information to a law enforcement agency. The allegations were being kept in a “dark corner” and used to cast doubt on the stance against the corruption which the Department had. The Department denied all allegations. The manner in which the articles cast the Department was incorrect. The Department had addressed the allegations by referencing facts not using rhetoric. This meeting represented the efforts made by the Department to explain itself to the Committee and the public with respect to the allegations made within the two widespread Daily Maverick articles. The articles would not detract the Department from fighting corruption. The Department felt that it needed to respond to the allegations because of the rife context of corruption within South Africa. People needed to be made aware of the fact that not all Government officials and Departments were corrupt. The Department would take legal advice in pursuing an investigation into the information and files referenced in the articles. Letters had been written to the (dissolved) disciplinary advisory committee because there was a link between the Committee and what was being said by the whistleblower. The Department would do everything within its power to obtain the files and information from the advisory committee because it did not have all of that information. This was important in order for the public to know the contents of the two million files, 90 000 folders, 100 000s of documents and more than two terabytes of data on corruption and fraud alluded to in the articles. If the legal representative advised the Department to approach the courts to obtain this information it would do so because this was a serious matter.
The Minister advised the Committee that Dr Sean Phillips, Director-General, DWS, would take it through the presentation about the state of the Department in relation to corruption and the measures being taken against corruption.
The Chairperson asked Dr Phillips to be direct, factual and to fill in the gaps during his presentation.
DWS briefing on status of disciplinary cases
Dr Phillips started with the presentation. The presentation would cover the Daily Maverick allegations, the advisory committees appointed by the former Minister, the status of financial misconduct cases referred by the SIU and the impact of fraud and corruption on water and sanitation service delivery.
Allegations in the Daily Maverick
- The journalist, Mr A Begg, indicated that he was in possession of documents that implicated officials in corruption and financial mismanagement related to water and sanitation projects.
- There were approximately 65 official charge sheets, this information along with two million files came from investigations conducted by the disciplinary advisory committee
- It was alleged that Minister Mchunu within a week of being appointed closed down the disciplinary advisory committee and its work
- The articles also indicate that Minister Mchunu and Dr Phillips should both answer why they did not continue the investigations left by the disciplinary advisory committee.
Advisory Committees appointed by the former Minister
- In November 2019, the former Minister appointed a ‘Stabilisation and Efficient Functioning of the Water Sector Committee’ for the purpose of advising the Minister and the Director-General (DG) on amongst others, general HR, labour relations matters, including the fast-tracking of outstanding, pending and new disciplinary cases. Members were appointed in terms s99 of the National Water Act. The Committee consisted of 14 members.
- The R36 million referred to in the Daily Maverick articles refers to the cost of all the advisory committees appointed by the Minister between 2020-2021 including the Water Advisory Committee, the Water Services Committee and National Rapid Response Task Team (see page 11)
Status of the disciplinary cases referred to in the Daily Maverick articles
- Of the 41 cases in the hand-over report from the former Minister to Minister Mchunu in August 2021, 21 had been finalised
- Of the 63 cases, 43 had to be concluded either through resignation or retirement. Six were withdrawn due to lack of evidence, three were found not guilty and one was found guilty and 33 sanctions were implemented.
Disciplinary cases related to financial misconduct in the DWS since 2013 – 2022 (the past 10 years)
- There were 147 cases of financial misconduct involving employees of the Department since 2013 (see page 18)
- 118 cases had been finalised; 115 were found guilty, one was found not guilty and two cases were not pursued because of a lack of evidence
Impact of fraud and corruption on water and sanitation service delivery
- Unreliable water and sanitation services
- Poor water quality due to non-treatment of water and wastewater plants
- Inability to raise low-cost debt finance for investment in infrastructure
- Negative country outlook through credit rating agencies
- Contractual disputes leading to litigation and interruption of projects in communities
The Minister and DG are dedicated to uprooting fraud and corruption in the Department. The Department had initiated a review of all past financial misconduct disciplinary processes which were closed without initiating disciplinary action. Where it was found that the cases were closed when they should have been pursued, they would be reopened. In total R270 million had been recovered and an additional R622 million had been saved by the Department since 2014 as a result of civil, legal and criminal actions resulting from cases of corruption and financial misconduct.
The Chairperson gave the Minister an opportunity to speak and thereafter the floor would be opened for questions.
The Minister said that the R36 million referenced in the articles was in the form of salaries as Dr Phillips had mentioned. The impression created in the article was that it cost the taxpayers R36 million to do investigative work but this was not true. The R36 million was salaries for the Committees. Mr Begg in the article persisted that the hand-over was verbal, whereas it was virtual. In August 2021 the Department did not have a DG, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or a Deputy Director-General (DDG) in Corporate Services. Presently these positions have been filled with fully appointed members. The day prior to the meeting, Cabinet approved the appointment of the DDG in Water Services Management and there were negotiations for the person to start on 1 June 2022. Cabinet also approved the outcome of interviews for a DDG in Regulations, Compliance and Enforcement. The only matter at issue was a disciplinary case which would be finalised in respect of the DDG in Infrastructure. This case was finalised and at mitigation level. The outcomes were expected soon. As soon as the case was concluded adverts would be sent out for the post. No cases, whether investigated by the SIU, SAPS or the Hawks, had been “shuffled” or ignored. The Department monitored the development of the investigations and engaged with investigative bodies through meetings. The Department looked like a police station with all the cases it had. There were many cases but none of them was being shuffled or ignored. The Department was aware of these cases and would deal with them. The Department did not have the information alleged in the two articles. This was a serious matter which the Department was looking into. It was not understood why the information alleging corruption had not been handed over to a law enforcement agency for investigation instead of to the media. The Department could not deal with issues it had no knowledge of and access to. There was a difference between not knowing about a matter and ignoring a matter. The Department did not want to continue being accused (without credible evidence) of ignoring criminality.
The Chairperson opened the floor for questioning, recognised Members for questions and noted a record 100 attendees in the meeting.
Mr L Basson (DA) thanked the Minister for being open with the Committee and the DG for a comprehensive report. Most of the cases mentioned had been brought before the previous Committee. The SIU had met with it several times to give updates on the corruption allegations. The biggest problem was that these cases had been dragged out for many years. The cases needed to be finalised but if ligation was involved it could take years to finalise. Many cases had been finalised and dealt with. Where did the money from the German multinational software company SAP kickback go? Would this money be paid back? If SAP paid a kickback it would be their loss. It would be interesting to know who received the kickback. Was it someone in the Department or politicians? The media would be focused on monitoring the Department and transparency was important. There might be many cases that were not investigated which should be. Mr Basson had laid charges against the former Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, with the Public Protector in respect of the Giyani water project. This investigation still needed to unfold. He confirmed that through eight years of experience working as a Committee Member, he observed that most of the issues following the previous leadership continued to be addressed by current leadership in order to reach resolution.
Ms E Powell (DA) welcomed the presentation saying that it was long overdue. Whilst serving on the Committee, she had made requests for former Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to appear before the Committee to report on the appointment of all external s76 advisory committees and her rapid response task teams. However, the Minister did not respond. The establishment of the s76 water services advisory committees was referred to the Pubic Protector. Although the Public Protector acknowledged the referral in 2020 the matter had still not been handled. Everyone was now informed that the R63 million in total had been spent on the parallel advisory bodies that were set up. These bodies duplicated the functions which already existed in the Department. A hashtag ‘anti-Sisulu, anti-corruption' campaign had been rolled out at an exorbitant cost and investigated the cases that had taken place during the term of former Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. A letter had been written to the Chairperson requesting that former Minister Sisulu account to the Committee. The media became involved and a number of media statements were now the subject of defamation claims when the alarm was raised on individuals like former Minister Susan Shabangu who had been appointed to head disciplinary advisory committees despite taking into account her previous conduct in government ministries and Parliament. Minister Mchunu was welcomed for coming before the Committee and being transparent. The misery and anger which had unfolded over the past weeks caused by media reports could have been avoided if the Department had provided this information sooner. It was important for politicians to take the media seriously and to take the opportunity to respond with transparency when asked questions by the media. It was good to see that the “Watergate” stories had been exposed and that Parliament was receiving a full brief from the Department. This brief was due two years ago. If the Department had provided these 63 disciplinary cases to the so-called advisory committee, why did the Department simply not brief and advise the Minister at the time directly? This question was directed at Dr Phillips and might place him in a difficult position because he had now finally been appointed as the DG whereas former Minister Sisulu had kept her DGs on an acting rotational basis to ensure that they did not have security of tenure and could not act decisively. Why did the Department not brief and advise former Minister Sisulu at the time directly? Why did former Minister Sisulu require the advisory committee at an additional cost of R7 million with the four committees totalling R63 million? The Committee extensively relied on the Department’s own internal forensic investigations and risk reports. Were all cases being heard at the Disciplinary Committee or were they referred by Departments themselves? What legislative provisions did the disciplinary advisory committee rely on to duplicate the work of the Department or were they acting outside of the provisions of the law? Where did the terabyte files mentioned in Mr Begg’s articles come from? If the disciplinary committee of the Department provided these files to the disciplinary advisory committee then the Department should have this information. More information was needed on the origin and content of this information. How could the public or Members of Parliament (MPs) retrospectively hold the former Minister and the advisory committees accountable for the large sums of money spent on the scope of work that they were mandated to do? What accountability mechanisms should be followed? This was a discussion which needed to take place within the Committee. Directing the question to Minister Mchunu, Ms Powell asked if the R63 million had led to no value for the DWS, will this money be written off as fruitless, wasteful or irregular expenditure. How does the Department intend to deal with that and how does the Auditor-General (AG) intend to deal with this R63 million? Was value derived from these appointments? The corruption in the Department had been endemic. What measures were being taken to pursue criminal charges against officials who had resigned?
There were a number of officials who had been investigated for fraud and corruption allegations and simply resigned. Would the Department pursue criminal charges against those officials who resigned? How many new cases had been reported and logged since Minister Mchunu’s term commenced? The Chairperson was asked to outline the remedial action that would be taken by Parliament in the hearings called by the Chairperson in conjunction with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to deal with fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure. In conclusion, she said more meetings should be called before Parliament. The transparency would avoid “political messiness”, promote access to information and an open flow of information which was very valuable.
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) said that Ms Powell had mentioned most of the questions she had wanted to ask. She thanked the Minister for making proactive decisions and for ensuring progression in the Committee. The acting positions (which were now filled) disturbed the Committee because they enabled the spread of corruption and made accountability difficult. She was hopeful that the next financial year would show improvements. On page 14 of the presentation, covering information on the handover report from the former Minister, the third and fourth bullet points mentioned that the Department requested a detailed report from the disciplinary advisory committee in August 2021. Did the Department conduct a follow-up between August 2021 and 3 May 2022 in respect of the report? Since no response had been received, a letter of demand was sent to the former chairperson of the disciplinary advisory committee, requesting the report. Could the Department clarify the letter of demand, what it meant legally and why there was a reluctance from the disciplinary advisory committee to hand over the report?
Mr T Mpanza (ANC) said he was not participating in the meeting in his capacity as a Member of Parliament but as an interested stakeholder representing the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). Before engaging, he wanted to confirm whether stakeholders could participate. There were a number of stakeholders present in the meeting with concerns. SANCO had developed a deep interest in the issues related to water and sanitation. He had previously communicated with the Minister on the issues because there were a number of complaints and concerns raised by various structures throughout South Africa. Would stakeholders be given an opportunity to speak after Members had engaged?
The Chairperson said that under ordinary circumstances, stakeholders would be invited to observe a Committee meeting. Members of Parliament could attend Committee meetings and had the right to speak but had no voting rights. Ms Powell and Mr Mpanza were recognised when they indicated they had questions because they were Members of Parliament and had speaking rights. There was no clause which permitted the public to participate during a Committee meeting. The Chairperson did not want to create a precedent by allowing the public to participate in the meeting. This would open the floodgates for many stakeholders to engage, comment and respond. For instance, the Daily Maverick may feel the need to respond and many more interested persons. Only Members of Parliament could speak. Stakeholders could contact the Chairperson after the meeting for engagement. The meeting was equivalent to a meeting in Parliament where the public merely observed and only Members participated during the sitting. Persons who were not Members of Parliament would not be permitted to speak during the meeting and engage in the discussion.
Mr Mpanza thanked the Chairperson for clarifying everything. He wanted to be transparent about the “cap” he was wearing which was that of a SANCO stakeholder and not in his capacity as an MP. The Chairperson’s explanation was accepted. He would listen and observe and would engage when a public debating platform was made available.
The Chairperson noted that Ms Tseke was experiencing loadshedding and would speak after Ms Sihlwayi.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) thanked the Minister for performing follow-ups on some of the investigations. The Minister was not the only one who was being attacked for being corrupt. All Members including government were being attacked and accused of corruption. The Minister mentioned that government was being perceived as corrupt and lacking accountability. This undermined the people who voted Members into Parliament. There was a need to strengthen the internal structures to address the issue of mismanagement of funds in government. There was a lack of effectiveness from structures like internal audits and risk management. This lack of effectiveness gave the impression that government could not manage the funds of the South African people. It was inappropriate for an entity to “have a hand in the funds” that it had to administer. The empowering Act needed to be revisited and “tightened”. There was a need for a proactive rehabilitation of officials. It was not appropriate for an official who had no experience in handling large sums of money to handle those amounts without receiving some form of training. The presentation failed to cover and bring clarity to the Amatola Water corruption and nepotism scandal. The Amatola Water process was missing from the presentation and if it would still be reported on in future, this was fine.
The Chairperson disconnected but urged Ms Tseke to continue.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) thanked the Minister for taking the “bull by the horns” in responding to the recent articles published by the Daily Maverick. Last year the Committee had received a progress report in respect of the disciplinary cases within the Department. SIU had also presented to the Committee. The Committee was on track in terms of performing its oversight and the Department was on track in terms of providing updates to the Committee. Presently there were communities that were without water, especially in the villages of Giyani. There were learners roaming the streets who had been trained under the War on Leaks Programme. A lot of money had been spent on this programme. Hopefully, SIU and the Department would hold all those involved accountable. Corruption was a crime against humanity and a sin. The R63 million paid to the advisory committees was a large sum of money. It took time for the Department’s projects to come to fruition yet officials were being paid lots of money. The Committee did not receive a report detailing what work had been done to justify the R63 million expenditure on the advisory committees. What powers did the Department have to make sure that the structures which had been created with the R63 million would be held accountable to the Committee and the public? Was it possible for the President to intervene in order to make sure that the structures would hand over the two million files which had been investigated? There were communities and unemployed youth struggling to find employment yet money was being paid to officials who were doing duplicative work. Too many structures had been appointed to perform duplicative work and this represented corruption at its best. The issue had been brought to the attention of the Department but no clarity had been received. What was the best way to hold those involved in the R63 million expenditure accountable and to make the alleged two million documents available to the public?
Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) mentioned that he had experience dealing with labour disputes and was familiar with the disciplinary dispute process. It was shocking to note the number of disciplinary cases in the DWS. This was however water under the bridge even though the people did not get the water. The levels of corruption were so high it seemed like an impossible task even for the Minister to rectify. The Committee was responsible for helping the Minister rectify things. The presentation gave the Committee a clear idea of where the loopholes and areas of development were. The goal was to rectify the loopholes before the next financial year to ensure that the budget would be used to provide water to the public. The media needs to play a more active role and practice investigative journalism because it has better access to the public. The structures of Parliament with all its oversight and audit committees had miserably failed the nation. Approximately 60% of the budget allocated towards water and sanitation in all three tiers of government had gone down the drain. Mr Hendricks said that the water must not go down the drain; it must go into people’s taps. The Committee needed to be more involved. Although it was not appropriate for the Committee to interfere in operational matters the Committee had to take up that responsibility if everyone else has failed the country. The Committee may need to take up extra responsibilities and facilitate the processing of the disciplinary cases. Parliament had allocated nearly a trillion rand towards water and sanitation following the end of Apartheid and most of the money had been wasted. This waste was anti-revolutionary. Parliament had allocated the money but once released the money would not be used appropriately and those responsible for its administration failed Parliament by not noting the corruption at an early stage. During an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape, the anxiety of being caught could be seen on the faces of certain officials. Even the person who tested the water. The Minister faced a great challenge in leading the Department and Committee through this period.
The Chairperson noted Ms Powell’s hand but asserted that the Minister and his team needed to respond to the questions first because the meeting was pressed for time.
Ms Powell said that it was important for the Committee to make recommendations instead of concluding the meeting after the response from the Ministry.
The Chairperson said he would in future be open to clarifying any information given by the Minister if this was needed for those who did not understand and sought updates from the Committee. This would ensure that the public would not be misled and claim that they were lied to. There were however concerns that from 2012 to the present date R37 billion could not be accounted for. The recovery rate of the money had not reached billions but was at R1 billion out of the R37 billion. There was a case where someone had signed documents giving authority to spend R100 million claiming to be a Director when said person was not a Director. Was this person’s signature being used without their knowledge and if so who were the perpetrators involved? The good work done by the Department was acknowledged but more needed to be done. The recovery of R300 million out of R37 billion was not sufficient.
The Minister thanked everyone for their questions. Dr Phillips was given an opportunity to respond followed by the Deputy Ministers and then the Minister would conclude.
Dr Phillips said he would answer a few questions and asked the CFO to answer some of the others. In terms of the SAP case, the SIU had briefed the Department on this issue and indicated that the kickback could not be traced. It was unknown to who the kickback was paid. Evidence had been handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further action. The Committee needed to invite the SIU for direct information on the SAP kickback matter. In respect of the role of the Advisory Committees and the payments made to them. The legal prescripts for disciplinary action do not allow a disciplinary advisory committee to take action. The terms of reference for the disciplinary advisory committee did not indicate that they should take action. It merely read that they should support and advise the Minister and DG. It was Mr Begg who made this assumption in the articles he wrote. He changed the term disciplinary advisory committee to disciplinary committee which was misleading and indicated that the committee had a mandate to institute disciplinary action. This information was incorrect. The terms of reference for the disciplinary advisory committee were legally correct. Ms Powell asked where the files referenced by Mr Begg in his articles came from. The Department did not know. Mr Begg had been asked to provide the information either to the Department or the SIU for verification but did not do so. The Department therefore could not confirm whether the disciplinary advisory committee had those files. The appointment of the advisory committees was not irregular because both the National Water Act and Water Services Act permitted the appointment of advisory committees. Throughout the years, auditors had not found the expenditure on advisory committees to be fruitless and wasteful. The role of these committees was to provide advice and support. The committees were remunerated on the basis of timesheets. Where there was evidence of criminal activity the Department would refer those cases to SAPS for investigation. If the SAPS investigations reveal that there were grounds for criminal action then the matter would be referred to the NPA. This was the process being followed. There was no criminal investigative capacity within the Department therefore the process of referring cases to SAPS and the NPA would be taken. In respect of what the letter of demand sent to the former chairperson of the disciplinary advisory committee meant legally, within the letter of demand a period was given for the chairperson to submit the handover report and if the report was not submitted within that period legal action would be taken. In terms of the question which asked how many new cases had been reported since the beginning of Minister Mchunu’s term, the internal audit unit had received 22 new allegations mostly related to financial misconduct. A number of these cases had been completed, some were still in process and others would be disciplinary cases. The CFO would respond to the question which asked what action the Department would take and what control mechanism it had to reduce the risk of corruption and irregular expenditure in the future.
Mr Frans Moatshe, Chief Financial Officer, DWS, said the Department had implemented various control systems, particularly around its delegations and policies. The Department had reviewed policies and delegations both internally and those relating to the oversight and monitoring of the implementing agents. The Department worked hard to ensure the implementing agents adhered to procurement processes. Staff (procurement committees and evaluation committees) were being trained before they served on committees to ensure that they would comprehensively consider decisions when taking them. In terms of the irregular expenditure which amounted to billions, the disciplinary processes were ongoing. There were investigations that the Department was in the process of concluding. National Treasury also had certain processes which required losses to be accounted for. There were various measures the Department had in place; the aforementioned were the highlighted ones currently being implemented by the Department.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo thanked the Chairperson for permitting the Minister to set up the meeting and to present the report. The Minister’s determination for accountability should be acknowledged. Corruption prevented the Department from achieving its mandate and objectives. The Department through its presentation wanted to demonstrate its commitment to accountability. The Ministry wanted to confront various issues to eliminate the low levels of confidence South Africans had in the Government and the Department. The Department had capacity and institutional capabilities. It would also closely work with law enforcement agencies like the SIU and the Hawks to ensure investigations of fraud and corruption were expedited. Individuals who were being investigated for fraud and corruption had the tendency to resign only to join a different department or sector. The Department would liaison with the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA) to ensure that those being investigated for fraud and corruption allegations would not fall through the cracks and merely resign to join other sectors. The media had an important role to play. It should, however not be used as a tool for propaganda. The Department had nothing to hide and the figures given in the presentation were the records which the Department had. The Minister emphasised integrity, ethics and morality within the Department. Where money had been wasted no efforts would be spared to pursue a thorough investigation. Mr Hendricks was correct when he stated that citizens deserved water. This was the perfect platform for the Department to report to the public and be held accountable. It would remain transparent in dealing with the issues it faced. “Together we can clean up the Department”. Some of the capabilities the Department had were cutting across other entities that the Minister was leading. The Department would need to investigate some of the issues that were happening on water-related matters that had to deal with local government. These were issues where money just disappeared when it was meant for service delivery with respect to water and sanitation.
Deputy Minister Magadzi thanked the Minister, Chairperson and the Committee. It was exciting to note that people would be exposed to the truth in respect of the developments within the DWS. The Department exposed the challenges it had and the work that had been done. The Department did not only consist of challenges but work was also being done with SAPS, SIU and various other institutions to ensure that corruption and fraud were dealt with. It was important for media reports to represent nothing but the truth. Reports that were incorrect brought the country into disrepute. When reading the articles published by the Daily Maverick the impression it gave was that the Department lacked leadership. The legality of everything that was said in the articles needed to be investigated to determine the way forward. The message was not that the media should stop reporting on organs of state but that the media should be an informative tool that could be used by citizens. Now that the Department had laid bare everything the expectation was that the media would use this information to correct the incorrect assumptions and statements it may have made. Out of the presentation, Parliament would have a report and be able to have resolutions which the Department would be able to implement based on the guidance of Parliament and the Committee. The comments from Members were appreciated. Water was a right and sanitation was dignity.
The Minister concluded by stating that those who engaged in criminal activity while employed in the Department and thereafter resigning would be tracked and pursued criminally or in terms of civil claims. The Department would go so far as targeting the personal estates to retrieve the lost funds. The Department was willing to go all the way with the assistance of law enforcement agencies. How would the Department recover money that would have been used and which was clearly a duplication? The Department would need to review this matter to determine whether there were possible claims. The Department would review this with the Committee because the amount lost through duplicative functions was a serious concern. Media had an important role to play as depicted in the political history of South Africa. It was important for the media to remain independent, fearless and accurate when reporting. The media had a role to play within South Africa’s democracy and needed freedom but they should reflect on the truth and publish accurate information. The issue of R37 billion was something the Department needed to unpack. The Department needed to determine whether this was money which had accumulated owing to poor accountability or no accountability. The cases that were being investigated did take a long time to resolve but the Department would engage with law enforcement agencies to find methods moving forward.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and his team. He noted Ms Powell giving her two minutes to speak.
Ms Powell said that she wanted to make a recommendation. There was a draft terms of reference for the establishment of a commission of enquiry into the functioning of the DWS that came from SCOPA in February 2018 and this enquiry was blocked. The recommendation was for this enquiry to be re-established because it was necessary. This would give the Department the opportunity to unpack further the cases and what was being done to root out corruption in the Department. If action had been taken sooner the Department would not be in the position it was in now. If Parliament had done its jobs in the past two years we would not be here. She thanked the Minister and Dr Phillips. The Daily Maverick required protection because the media formed a critical part of the pillars of our democracy.
The Chairperson thanked everyone who took the time to attend the meeting. Where someone sought clarity, they were welcome to reach out and call the Ministry and the Chairperson.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.