The Portfolio Committee convened in Parliament to receive a briefing by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on progress regarding the status of disciplinary hearings, including cases being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and an update on the Hammanskraal cholera outbreak.
The Department said it had been implementing a turnaround and financial recovery plan to address financial and other administrative controls; expenditure control; consequence management; billing, revenue collection and debt collection; and collaboration with law enforcement agencies. The Department’s finances were now in a sound position, its financial management had greatly improved, and its levels of irregular expenditure had greatly reduced.
Meetings with the Director-General (DG) took place quarterly to track progress made on individual cases, and there were also monthly engagements with the SIU. The total number of cases reported over the past five years was 86, with 114 people implicated. 66 of the cases had been finalised, with 116 people implicated, and there were 20 pending cases, with 28 implicated people. The nature of the cases included improper -- unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful -- expenditure, gross dishonesty, gross dereliction of duty, theft, fraud, and misuse of state property.
The Committee appreciated the work done by the Department, considering its history, but called for a sustainable solution to ensure that the issues that had resulted in the several investigations being conducted did not recur in the same manner in future. Members also questioned the progress of the War on Leaks project, which was a pressing issue as young people had spoken to the media, complaining that they had not been compensated for the project. The Committee was also uneasy about the request for the condonement of R8.3 billion by the Department, citing that it had been an unforgiveable misuse of state money.
In his update to the Committee on the Hammanskraal matter, the Minister said the source of cholera was still under investigation, and various agencies and departments had done their investigations, including Tshwane, which had said their results on the Themba Reservoirs had come out negative for the disease. The Rand Water supply line and Magalies supply line, which supply Hammanskraal , had also detected no traces of cholera in the water.
A team led by the Deputy Minister would, in the next few days, lead the process of synthesis by everyone in the public sector who had done the tests. They would appoint the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Water Commission to do the analyses and syntheses to come up with reliable information for the public. They would also approach the private sector parties which had done some investigations to publish the results on their own, without the involvement of the Department.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr Senzo Mchunu, the Director-General of Water and Sanitation, Dr Sean Phillips, and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) delegation. He said the physical meeting was important, because some matters needed to be discussed in depth and virtual platforms usually did not afford the Committee the leeway to do so effectively. The Committee would ensure that more of its meetings were physical, as the current period in Parliament required more groundwork to be done.
The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation was concerned about the state of the country because of what was happening in Tshwane, and, most recently, in the Free State province, as 23 people had died because of a situation that may be related to the DWS. There should be concerns around this matter although there may be interventions undertaken to circumvent the situation.
A moment of silence for meditation or prayer was observed in remembrance of the 23 people who had passed away.
Minister’s opening remarks
Minister Mchunu said there had been better accountability since the beginning of 2022, when the DWS started filling most of the vacant positions. This was in line with the Department’s view that when there were no proper accounting officers in a department, the lines of accountability become blurred. The DWS was bound to become like a police station because of the number of case dockets due to investigation bodies such as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the Hawks conducting investigations in the Department.
After the vacant posts were filled, the lines of accountability were clarified, and the Department had invested in developing a common understanding: that it would adhere to all the prescripts of the law, and it would deal with all those who were implicated in wrongdoing decisively through the Director-General (DG)and the relevant Deputy Director Generals (DDGs). There had been significant progress in that regard. However, there were instances of sub-cultures developing within the DWS, where some individuals or groups took opportunities to participate in corruption, but the Department was dealing with them.
DWS on status of disciplinary hearings
Dr Philips, DG, DWS said several years ago, the Department had been in a dire financial situation because of weak financial management. It also had very high levels of irregular expenditure, and a large number of corruption investigations being undertaken by the SIU, which put the financial sustainability of the water sector and water delivery at risk.
The Department had been implementing a turnaround and financial recovery plan addressing financial and other administrative controls; expenditure control; consequence management; billing, revenue collection and debt collection; and collaboration with law enforcement agencies. The Department’s finances were now in a sound position, its financial management had greatly improved, and its levels of irregular expenditure had been greatly reduced.
Meetings with the DG took place quarterly to track progress made on individual disciplinary cases. The last meeting with the DG took place on 24 April, and monthly engagements with the SIU were also taking place. The total number of cases reported over the past five years was 86, with 114 people implicated. 66 of the cases were finalised, with 116 people implicated, and there were 20 pending cases, with 28 implicated people. The nature of the cases included improper expenditure (unauthorised, irregular, fruitless, and wasteful), gross dishonesty, gross dereliction of duty, theft, fraud, and misuse of state property.
There were two articles by Angus Begg in the Daily Maverick regarding disciplinary processes related to financial misconduct in the Department of Water and Sanitation, published on 9 and 30 April 2022. The articles indicated that DWS was not taking 63 financial misconduct cases forward. To date, 56 of the 63 cases have been concluded as follows:
- Six cases were finalised where the employees either resigned or retired;
- Six cases were withdrawn due to a lack of evidence or where the representations by employees were sufficient to not pursue disciplinary action;
- Four employees were found not guilty;
- Seven cases were pending, with three hearings having been concluded and outcomes awaited, and four were pending the leading of further evidence.
- 40 cases had been found guilty, with sanctions varying from counselling, suspension without pay, and dismissal.
The Department was dealing with a large backlog of internal audit investigations, and was employing service providers to assist it to deal with the backlog. Once the backlog was addressed, the Department would go back to relying largely on its own internal audit staff to carry out investigations.
Mr Mpho Ratshisusu, Director: Legal Services, provided an update on the status of recovery on the civil and criminal cases.
The Chairperson said the information on page 24 was privileged information and should not be used elsewhere outside the meeting because it was pending legally, and the Committee should not compromise the Department’s position on the case, thus members should avoid using the information.
Minister Mchunu said some matters were old issues that the DWS could not escape. One of them, which the Department would report to the Committee in writing, involved the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF's) involvement in Emfuleni local municipality issues.
Mr N Myburgh (DA) wanted to know what EOH was, and in the new allegations raised by the SIU on the War on Leaks, Drop a Block, and the Sedibeng Water Board, he wanted to know the monetary value of the alleged wrongdoing. Who had appointed Fumile Advisory Services, and had they been held responsible, because, on page 22, it states that even the appointment was in contravention of section 217 of the Constitution. If the individual who appointed Fumile had left the Department, were they being pursued to take accountability?
The downward trend in irregular expenditure pointed to an improvement and change of leadership within the Department. However, unless progress was made in the protection of whistleblowers, the culture of corruption would continue to persist within the DWS. He appreciated the progress being made in ensuring that people were not afraid to become whistleblowers, as whistleblowers had reported several cases. There also needed to be an improvement in consequence management in the Department and a strong message had to be sent to those who were found guilty of wrongdoing. He appreciated the progress made by the Department thus far.
Ms M Matuba (ANC) also appreciated the progress being made by the Department in the disciplinary hearings and investigations, but wanted to understand whether the workers who were suspended without pay were a combination of the 19 indicated on page six and the 12 indicated on page seven of the presentation. She also wanted to know how much the Department was paying for suspended workers. How did the Department deal with illegal suspensions in the case of employees who were proven to be wrongfully suspended?
Regarding the progress of the forensic cases, she wanted to know whether the Department had appointed a single service provider to conduct the investigations, or multiple service providers. Was any audit plan put in place by the Department to ensure that the services of the service provider were phased out soon? What becomes the relationship between the Office of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), and the Department in investigating cases? At what point were the AGSA and SCOPA brought in to be part of the investigations?
Arising from the SIU report, what other steps were taken by the Department against service providers, besides recovering funds? Did the Department embark on a blacklisting process for the implicated service providers? In most instances, service providers tended to get away with their crimes by paying refunds, which meant they did not face consequences for their actions. How did the Department deal with officials who knew that certain services were not rendered in terms of the service level agreements by specific service providers, but continue to pay them for the service?
On the status of recovery on civil and criminal cases, she was excited that there were 91 awareness programmes in the Department, as that sends a message to employees about the standard of work expected from them. However, she was concerned about whether the Department was preparing to have an in-house capacity to do financial statements, instead of outsourcing them. This was one of the functions that tended to expose departments on the capacity of their finance programmes. She welcomed the report from the Department, noting that it showed that a lot could be improved with the appointment of executive management.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) was unsure if the information on slide five of the presentation was a summary of the information provided on the following pages.
The Chairperson explained that the total number of cases reported over the past five years was 86, with 114 people implicated. 66 of the cases had been finalised, with 116 people implicated, and there were 20 pending cases, with 28 implicated people.
Mr Tseki said he understood what the Chairperson said, but he wanted to know whether the cases mentioned in the following slides were included in the total number of cases. He also wanted to know if some of the people implicated in the cases were also implicated on multiple occasions or in other cases. For example, could a person implicated in improper expenditure also be implicated in fraud? In the absence of the report by the Daily Maverick, was the Department going to do the investigation of the 63 cases? Was the Daily Maverick the Department's main source for this investigation, or did it already have the investigation underway? Did it have state witnesses for its cases?
He said in a previous meeting, a Member had raised concerns about the balance between those who were found guilty and those who were dismissed after disciplinary proceedings in the Department. He said this was normal, but warned the Department about the possibility that individuals who were prosecuting could weaken cases intentionally. He requested the Department to use individuals who had no interest in intentionally losing cases for the Department. He asked if the Department had whistleblowers in the SIU cases, noting that the situation of whistleblowers in South Africa was not strong, as some people were killed, and some could not find employment. Did the Department use whistleblowers, and did it protect them?
He noted how the figures shown on slide 10 of the presentation for irregular expenditure in the 2018/19 financial year equaled the entire budget of the Department, and said it showed how far the Department had come since then to lower the figures to what they currently are. On page 11, the Department said nine cases with a total value of R8.3 billion had been submitted to National Treasury for condonation. His understanding was that condonation meant t they were requesting Treasury to pardon or waive that amount, which was concerning.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) appreciated the work done by the Department, considering its history, but did not get a sustainable solution to ensure that the issues that had resulted in the several investigations being conducted, did not recur in the same manner in future. In administration, there was data management of DWS programmes, with integrated management as a centre that oversees what was being done, but which may be against the planning of the Department. This was a systematic programme that helped the DWS upfront and limited the negative activities that happened in the Department. Did the DWS have such a strategic management centre?
The Chairperson said the Committee felt that the money lost in the DWS in the past financial years had been lost intentionally because the Department did not want to appoint executive management. The outlook of the Department had changed convincingly through filling the executive management positions, even though there was still work to be done, and the Committee must be careful not to praise a fish for swimming. Perhaps the Department should clarify the meaning of the word ‘condonation’. Why was condonation necessary, when must it be done, and what was it going to address? When the Department tries to recover money from service providers, did it do prior research on whether the service providers could afford to pay back the money?
When the War on Leaks issue was introduced to the Committee, the Committee did not understand it to be a legal issue, but former President Jacob Zuma had expected that there would be budget for it to continue in the following financial year. The debt incurred on War on Leaks was supposed to have been condoned. How far was that process in the Department, because it seemed there was still going to be a legacy report on the exit of the Sixth Parliament with a pending status on the War on Leaks because of work that the Department did not do? He asked if the Department was not considering changing the misconduct charge on the people responsible for R8.3 billion debt, because that could not be considered a misconduct. It meant that those people had sat and planned how they would defraud the Department of close to R9 billion, and the first offender principle should not apply to those people. The Department should display a stronger response to such cases.
Minister Mchunu acknowledged that there had been a culture of malfeasance and corruption in the Department ,and that they had not succeeded in removing it to the point where they could say they had completely uprooted it. There were elements of that culture that still existed within the Department, and it was steadily fighting it as it also included the failure to produce clean audits, consistent underspending, and failure to spend. The head of internal audit in the Department had spent over two hours presenting on the War on Leaks and Drop a Block about two years ago, and it had churned everyone’s intestines to hear it. It would take time for the DWS to turn things around and uproot the culture of malfeasance and corruption, and it would have to work hard to ensure that there was a semblance of accountability.
One of the things the Department needed to do was to tighten up on the expected outcomes of the disciplinary hearings, and that would require the assistance and understanding of the Committee. In the case of the DDG, whose case took three years to conclude and who was found guilty and dismissed, the procedures and the law of South Africa allowed a person to go to the Chamber to appeal their dismissal, which they did, meaning the case was no longer completed. However, the payments to that DDG were stopped as soon as the verdict to dismiss them was made. Some people tended to appeal on outcomes that were a slap on the back of the hand.
On the balance between initial charges and final outcomes, he said the verdicts that were made, whether they were dismissal, suspensions without payment, suspensions of salary for a period, etc., reflected the seriousness of the charges.
The Daily Maverick had not been the source for the Department in the 63 cases -- in fact, they had a political agenda which the Minister could only speculate about. They apparently had some information of the cases that the Department was dealing with, and it was shortly after a Cabinet reshuffle, where they said the Department had swept those pending 63 cases under the carpet. Using the Cabinet reshuffle, they were driving an agenda that President Ramaphosa wanted to sweep those cases under the carpet.
He could only associate this with the teams his predecessor minister set up, as she had four advisory teams dealing with disciplinary cases. In South African law, it was not allowed for a Minister to appoint a team of advisors to advise her on disciplinary matters, because procedures must be followed during disciplinary hearings. The Daily Maverick referenced those advisory teams in their first article, and followed with the 63 cases thereafter. The DWS had taken this seriously, which was why it had requested a public meeting to be convened by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation so that it could do a presentation, because the Daily Maverick had not produced any new information.
He said a sustainable solution to deal with the corruption culture or sub-culture was to tighten up on the accountability of one's department by first appointing an accounting officer as the first person who could be held accountable to the executive authority. If the accounting officer did not account for anything, that was where the problems would begin, and the Department had acting accounting officers, who could not be held accountable as they were only acting in their positions and could not effect changes nor a new culture because their positions were not permanent. People must be appointed to positions so they could also hold the ones below them accountable and create cultures of accountability and systems to maintain and monitor accountability. It also helped to appoint competent people.
He said he did not think condonation would apply to the R8.3 billion because the internal audit had produced the report on the matter, and because the SIU was already investigating it. The War on Leaks project had been approached in the wrong way from the beginning, because the Department had implemented the concept wrongly, as it had taken people to universities to be trained, and expected them to be employed by municipalities. Municipalities had their own systems and budgets and could not take an influx of people who were coming straight from universities to go and close leaks in their water systems.
Dr Phillips said EOH was a South African information technology (IT) company that specialises in the provision of technology services to businesses and the government, so they were a service provider appointed by the Department for IT services, and SAP was also involved. On the monetary value of the new allegations, he said the Department did not know what the new allegations were, as the SIU had not informed them. The Department held people responsible even if they paid off their debts and money was recovered from them, and those who had already been dismissed were also followed up on to recover the Department’s money.
Financial misconduct was a generic term, but people were not charged with that specifically. They were either charged with fraud, corruption, gross dishonesty, theft, or improper expenditure. Different types of actions could lead to a person being charged with a financial misconduct-related charge, and some of them involved cases of clear and deliberate wrongdoing, like fraud or theft. Some of the charges may relate to an administrative process that was not properly followed, where an official was responsible for doing an administrative procedure and did not do it properly, without the deliberate desire to be fraudulent or corrupt.
The legal framework for disciplinary action was the decision of the presiding officer, and the presiding officer could not be told what verdict to give. However, the Department must send a strong message that it had zero tolerance for fraud and corruption, and that there would be consequences for any persons found participating in wrongdoing. He said there was an overlap between the cases presented on slide five and the cases in slide seven of the Daily Maverick, but they just wanted to go in depth with the specific details of the specific cases in slide seven.
On the suspended officials, he said the Department wanted to run its labour relations activities regularly and completely regarding the prescripts. It suspends people according to the prescripts, and having investigated, officials working may have legitimate risks as it may jeopardise the investigations or they may pose a threat to other officials. There was a backlog of internal audit investigations in the Department because there was a period where the internal audit team was under-capacitated and had mostly acting leadership, which was when the backlog of investigations built up. Although the Department had filled its internal audit positions, it had to deal with the backlog. It had appointed service providers to do so.
Sometimes when the AGSA does investigations, it finds indications of wrongdoing by the Department’s officials and informs the internal audit unit, which leads to investigations by the internal audit unit in collaboration with the AGSA, which could lead to any of the actions, such as disciplinary actions or criminal charges, etc. He said it was possible that one person might be involved or implicated in several cases, and the DDG who was dismissed was charged in several cases. The Department follows up on civil action or criminal actions where necessary, and when officials resign to avoid disciplinary action.
The SIU’s website on the front page encourages anyone with information to become a whistleblower, and a major source of the investigations they do were based on information from whistleblowers. The SIU investigates the information it receives from whistleblowers. If there is a substantial need to further investigate from the initial investigation based on the whistleblower’s information, they conduct the investigation. The Department also had a system for whistleblowers, and it protects them.
He said the most important thing the Department could do to ensure that the culture of corruption did not persist in future was to tighten the controls around supply chain management (SCM) and procurement. The DDG for Corporate Services had also done a lot to strengthen the Department’s human resources (HR) controls to ensure that appointments were made regularly. They also ensure that there are checks and balances so that if something is done the wrong way, it is checked by other officials before the final decision is implemented. It was also important to have a Director-General and a CFO who were connected and were committed to doing things efficiently, which had been the strength of the Department. It was also important to have a strong and independent internal audit, which the Department had. Lastly, consequence management was also needed, and the Department was well on the way to implementing it convincingly.
Condonation was an accounting term, but it basically meant the irregular expenditure would remain on the Department’s financial statements until the end of the accounting year and for that to be done, various processes needed to be followed to show that the Department had dealt with it in terms of consequence management. On whether the Department did research before trying to get its money back from service providers, he said the Department pursues legal actions against companies if they cannot settle the money.
Mr Ratshisusu said five officials had been responsible for appointing Fumile, against which the Department was pursuing civil litigation, and those officials had been sentenced. Regarding the disciplinary processes, some officials resigned, and some were still within the DWS while their disciplinary processes were in progress. National Treasury pursues the blacklisting of the companies that commit malfeasance and pays the Department refunds, but this process was followed by Treasury.
Mr Conrad Greve, Chief Director: Human Resources Management, DWS, said the 63 cases reported by the Daily Maverick were already in the baseline of the Department when they were reported and when the Minister came into office. The cases were related to financial misconduct, insubordination, and every other case related to misconduct. The 12 suspensions without pay cases were included under the 19 cases on the following page, under the 63.
Adv Darol Holby, Director: Employee Development Relations, DWS, said that when officials resign to avoid disciplinary action being taken against them, the Department collaborates with the SAPS and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) to ensure that all the assets they may have obtained illegally or through the Department’s funds were repossessed. There were also actions taken by the Department to hold them accountable , even if they resigned prior to disciplinary proceedings, such as ensuring that when the individuals apply for a position at other government departments, those departments find out the nature of their resignation from the DWS. If the individuals do not apply for work in other government departments, the DWS collaborates with the SIU to pursue the matter criminally or through the Special Tribunal, to ensure that the DWS could recover something from them.
Mr Michael Motsatsi, Chief Audit Executive, DWS, said ten companies were on the panel of forensic investigators. So far, only four had been used to deal with the backlog in cases. The first state witness was the investigator who had put the investigation report together, and the Department obtained the other witnesses as it came across them during the investigation and provided information, as well as the officials who witnessed the acts of misconduct under investigation. Some officials were part of the incident as transgressors.
The Department had a whistleblowing system whereby officials could report cases to the National Anti-Corruption Hotline which was administered by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). Such cases were reported to the DWS for investigation. They were referred to the internal audit for investigation, which would then provide a report on their findings, conclusions, and recommendations for further action. The witnesses were protected because they reported anonymously. If they were not anonymous, they would get feedback from the Public Service Commissioner on the progress of the cases that they reported.
The Department also did not reveal their details in its reports to ensure their protection, and if they feel that their lives are under threat, it contacts the SAPS to put them under witness protection. They also protect them through the Protected Disclosure Act, which limits what an employer could do, and prevents employee victimisation through disciplinary action or dismissals. Anyone found to be in contravention of the Act could be held liable via civil action by a high court judge.
Mr Frans Moatshe, CFO, DWS, said the War on Leaks project had been divided into three stages, and the total contractual obligation for both the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSeta) and Rand Water amounted to R4.9 billion. The stages were meant to help manage the budget, and EWSeta had implemented stage one, but when it came to stage two, there were elements of a sale which were introduced, which resulted in contractual challenges with the Department. The current situation that led to the concerns raised by the AGSA was that the Department should be able to implement stage three, but when it was developing its financial recovery plan, the project was discontinued. The total spending to date was R3.5 billion, but through the financial recovery plans process, the Department had managed to save R893 million which the EWSeta had contracted with a service provider. Currently, there is a mediation process between the EWSeta and the service provider.
The total irregular expenditure regarding Drop a Block was R282 million. On Sedibeng, it could be issues of cases that had been referred to the SIU by various parties or individuals, but on the DWS records, it had appointed Sedibeng Water for ground intervention projects in both the Free State and the Northern Cape, and the total cost of that had been R181 million. Regarding the annual financial statements, the audit outcomes were considered in the investigations. The Department had the capacity to compile annual financial statements, but the goal was to get to a point where it produced clean audits.
Regarding the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Department was required to prevent unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, but when those incidents happen, they must be recorded in the Department’s books. The Department must account for the R8.3 billion in its records. Then it could initiate the process of condonation as defined by National Treasury, which was when the relevant authority acknowledges that the irregular activity had occurred. Then there was a process to pardon it.
There was a process that needed to be followed to be able to pardon the irregular expenditure, and it included ensuring that the amount was free of fraudulent, corrupt or criminal conduct. If it was not free of those elements, then the Department must consult the SAPS. The other condition was that the Department must ensure that it had not suffered any losses, because if any losses were suffered, the investigation would point to who was responsible and the losses must be recovered. The other condition was that the Department must produce evidence that disciplinary processes had been taken against those implicated and that remedial actions had been taken to remedy or prevent the irregular expenditure from occurring in the future.
Ms Sihlwayi said when the Minister came to the Department, he had been confronted by young people claiming that the Department did not pay them for the War on Leaks. The DG had said the War on Leaks issue had been closed, but was it closed because the Department went through the process of investigations, or was it closed because the young people were paid? She asked the Minister to share the loopholes in the consequence management matter with Cabinet, because some undermined public service funds. The condonement of billions of rands does not sound right for the funds that were meant to service the people of South Africa. Did the Department employ a psychological expert to assess the mental ability of the people it appoints to respect their work?
Mr Tseki wanted to hear the Department’s comments on the commercialisation of the public sector. There was a Public Service Commissioner that normally reported on incidents where a member of the Department did business with the state. He requested a report to be submitted to the Committee in writing.
The Chairperson said Mr Edwin Sodi had been an employee of the Department of Human Settlements in Gauteng. When he had some issues in Gauteng, he was employed in the Free State, and in 2001, he won a tender from the Department of Water and Sanitation in Tshwane and was arrested in 2009.
Minister Mchunu said one of the fundamental policies that the Department needed to adopt in public service in the country after the experience of Mr Edwin Sodi, was to unify government structures from national, provincial and local government in terms of incentivisation. The fact that a director in one department earns differently from another was an anomaly. The other thing that needed to be pursued was a framework for determining salaries, because no one was ever going to be satisfied with their salary, especially in public services.
When employing people, there needed to be a pre-employment criterion, employment criteria and post-employment criteria. The pre-employment criterion would ensure that before a person was considered for employment, they met a certain criterion, and the Department must ensure that it sticks to that criterion and does not give exceptions. The employment criterion should ensure that no unnecessary flexibilities were created, and qualified people were employed. The DPSA did have an employment criterion, but they needed to do more regarding enforcement.
The anti-crime and anti-corruption strategies were not as integrated as they should be, as they had several weaknesses. One of the challenges that came up a long time ago was that by not having an independent anti-crime, anti-fraud, and anti-corruption agency such as the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the government was misinterpreting or deliberately implementing something other than what it should be doing.
A judgment came out at least thrice in court, which wanted government to change the current dispensation of the Hawks, the SIU, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to having a distinctive, well-professionalised and resourced anti-crime strategy. That had not been done yet, as the country still carries on with the fusion of the three, and one finds that there were people who should not be involved there being in the thick of things, which weakens the fight against corruption.
There should be an integrated system that picks up when a person has interests in other government tenders whilst they oversee another, but that could be possible only if the government system was unified, which it was not because local government and the provinces have their own budgets and do their own thing, while provincial and national government do their own.
The Chairperson said the War on Leaks issue should not be oversimplified, because the young people were appointed to remove water leaks, but when they were appointed, they were immediately sent to university for three years to go through training, which meant that the leaks remained for the next three years, and salaries were paid for leaks that were not fixed. Where was the sense in that? Surely that was not the intention of the programme.
Minister Mchunu said even if they came from the university after four years, if they were facing a leak that was caused by a 100-year-old water pipe, they would not be able to fix the water pipes because all the water leaks were caused by ageing and dilapidated water infrastructure.
The Chairperson said the question by Ms Sihlwayi was whether the Department had dealt with the matter raised by the young people.
Dr Phillips said the young people were hired through the EWSeta and not the Department, and some of those issues were still being closed off. The DWS recently had a meeting with the chief executive officer (CEO) of the EWSeta, and they were currently in the process of reaching a settlement for the young people.
Minister Mchunu said the matter was not closed externally, as the SIU was still waiting for a proclamation from the President, as they had conducted preliminary investigations and findings, and were awaiting the go-ahead from the President.
The Chairperson said the tendency to say things were a work in progress did not help, because the said progress does not have timeframes.
Minister’s update on Hammanskraal cholera
Minister Mchunu said the source of the cholera was still under investigation, and various agencies and departments had done their investigations, including Tshwane, which said their results on the Themba Reservoirs had come out negative for the disease. The Rand Water supply line and Magalies supply line which supplies Hammanskraal also detected no traces of cholera in the water. A team led by the Deputy Minister would, in the next few days, lead the process of synthesis by everyone in the public sector who had done the tests. They would appoint the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Water Commission to do the analyses and syntheses to develop reliable information for the public. They would also approach the private sector parties who had done some investigations to publish the results on their own, without the involvement of the Department.
On Wednesday, 31 May, the DG would receive the preliminary results of the Blue Drop, and the results would be released in July. The Department would make a public announcement immediately after the preliminary results to provide an update on the situation. The Department was fully involved in the testing and investigating the Blue Drop.
On the Hammanskraal matter and the cholera outbreak, there were no authentic results yet on what had caused the outbreak, but the disease had been found in water that was supplied to the people, and the Department was struggling with investigating the cause.
People had been warned against drinking the water that comes out of their taps in the area and surrounding areas, but it would be hard to stop the temptation to drink it. There were also some challenges with the Rooivaal and Themba water treatment plants, and the possible challenges they posed to water supply in the area, which may have resulted in the outbreak, including the lack of cooperation from the mayor. The SIU was also interested in the matter, which the Department welcomed.
Minister Mchunu asked the DG to brief the Committee on the President’s request for a meeting on Friday, 2 June, where the DWS had to state what was going to bring sustainability in the supply of water and sanitation to municipalities.
Dr Phillips said the Department was working hard to support municipalities, and the Minister had been crisscrossing the country, meeting with the different leaderships of municipalities struggling with water and sanitation services. The Department had been focusing on allocating Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grants (RBIG) and Water Services infrastructure Grants (WSIG) in those municipalities and providing management support and technical advice in collaboration with the water boards who manage the municipalities, helping them develop implementation plans.
There were limitations on how the Department could address the diminishing supply of water and sanitation to municipalities through that kind of support, and one of the challenges was that it was repeatedly assisting municipalities in fixing their bulk water and sanitation issues by giving them money. The municipalities did not maintain the funds properly, so the Department ended up having to provide the funding again, which was a vicious cycle. The bulk water and sanitation issues should not be funded by the national Department, but by the municipalities through their revenue collection for water services.
The question was how the Department could help the municipalities to become commercially viable to be able to solve their own challenges. The answer was to strengthen what the Water Services Act provides for -- that water services authorities ensure that water services providers provide services that meet the minimum standards. The DWS wanted to introduce legislative amendments to the Water Services Act so that water service providers must have an operating licence which they could obtain if they meet the necessary competence and capability levels to provide water and sanitation to municipalities.
The Chairperson said there needed to be a way forward to deal with the current Rooivaal and Themba water treatment plants crisis. The Department must have its upcoming meetings, compile a report, and submit it in writing to the Committee at its next meeting on Tuesday, next week.
Mr Tseki asked the report to also include a summary of the interventions in the previous fund allocations. He added that the Committee needed to discuss the water tanker issue, because there was a perception that they were the source of the problem.
Mr Myburgh said the report should include when the Department plans to introduce the amendment to the legislation that the DG had mentioned.
The Committee adopted minutes dated 2, 4 and 9 May, with no amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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