The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation held a meeting to discuss two oversight reports. The first focused on the bucket eradication programme (BEP) in the Free State, while the second Report assessed progress on the Giyani Bulk Water Project in the Limpopo Province.
In its Report on the BEP, the Committee expressed its displeasure at the slow pace of implementation. It raised concerns about poor planning, delays in procurement, and challenges in informal settlements. It proposed monthly progress reports, infrastructure security measures, and engagement with security agencies to address threats and risks associated with construction projects.
Regarding the Giyani Bulk Water Project, the Committee acknowledged the progress made in constructing the bulk infrastructure and a pipeline to deliver water from the Nandoni Dam to the Nsami Water Treatment Works. However, they raised concerns about the delayed provision of potable water to communities and the lack of coordination between the Department and municipalities in completing the reticulation network. The Committee called for consequence management, the monitoring of timeframes, and long-term planning to address these issues.
During the discussion, Committee Members highlighted issues such as abandoned wastewater infrastructure; the monopolisation of water resources; and the need for security measures to protect boreholes. They called for thorough investigations, equitable access to water, and progress reports on contractor performance and the functionality of water treatment plants.
The Committee adopted both reports, emphasising the importance of regular progress updates, consequence management, and coordination between the Department and municipalities. They desired a prompt address to the identified challenges and implementation of the recommended resolutions to ensure the successful completion of the projects.
Bucket Eradication Programme in Free State
Mr Thomani Manungufula, Specialist Committee Researcher, Water and Sanitation, presented the oversight report on the bucket eradication programme (BEP) in the Free State.
The Report indicated that to deliver dignified sanitation systems, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) had drafted a national sanitation framework (NSF), which was ready for submission to the Cabinet for final approval. The NSF provides for revised national norms and standards for sanitation and equitable sanitation provision across all settlement types, strengthening the monitoring and compliance to standards, and setting measures to improve service delivery, such as support in various forms to address service delivery challenges. For instance, the rapid rural-urban migration led to the establishment of new informal settlements across all major towns, but the current legislation did not allow municipal investment in infrastructure development in informal settlements.
The Select Committee on Appropriations (SCoA) had recommended to the Minister not to use public entities in the implementation of the indirect Water Services Infrastructure Grant 6B (WSIG), which the DWS had complied with by allowing water boards to complete the work that was in progress, while those that had not started were handed over to the Department for implementation. The BEP was funded through an indirect Schedule 6B grant.
BEP progress report
The estimated completion date for all BEP projects in the Free State province was March 2023, which all projects failed to meet, as shown in Table 2. The actual progress on site stood at 35% on average, with Ficksburg reporting the highest progress at 45%, while Clocolan reported the least progress at 19%.
The reasons for poor performance were that the procurement of goods and services for the construction unit of the DWS had contributed to some delays when the construction unit commenced work at Senekal, but this had since been resolved with the introduction of the infrastructure procurement policy and strategy in 2022.
Committee remarks and observations
The Committee was unanimous in its displeasure at the slow pace of the implementation of the BEP in the Free State. The forever moving completion dates were less of a concern than the completion date, which had been moving since 2019. Nevertheless, the Committee accepted the new completion dates, which fall within the third quarter of the 2023/24 financial year.
The Committee was concerned with the magnitude of poor planning for the entire BEP, resulting in unnecessary delays and cost escalations. For instance, the discovery of electrical cables in the ground at the Petrus Steyn project, hard bedrock and high water table at the majority of projects sites, and encroachment of graveyard and informal settlements onto the project areas, were some of the issues that demonstrated that no planning had been done.
- Progress reports
The Department should provide monthly project progress reports to Parliament, starting in June 2023. The Committee would host monthly virtual meetings on the BEP from June 2023 to assess progress towards completion dates as presented during the oversight and agreed to by all stakeholders.
- Infrastructure security report
The Department, working with the relevant municipalities, should secure all wastewater treatment plants and related infrastructure. In this regard, the Department should provide a security report to Parliament by June 2023, detailing security provisions at these projects.
- Business forums
The Department should engage with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other security agencies through the District Development Model (DDM) and other intergovernmental relations processes to address the threats and risks associated with the "construction mafia" or business forums, and provide a report to Parliament by July 2023.
(See Report for further details).
Progress on Giyani Bulk Water Project
Ms Shereen Dawood, Committee Content Advisor, presented the oversight report on the Committee's follow-up visit to the Limpopo Province to assess progress on the Giyani Bulk Water Project.
She said a ministerial directive had been issued to the Lepelle Northern Water Board for intervention in the Mopani District to address water challenges. The intervention included:
- Refurbishment of existing water and sanitation infrastructure, including pump stations, repairs of leaking pipes and reservoirs, borehole development and installation of a package plant for immediate supply to the Nkhensani Hospital;
- Construction of a 1.5 Ml/d wastewater treatment works to augment the existing Giyani Water Treatment Works;
- Replacement of inefficient bulk pipelines that supply water to 55 villages around Giyani (about 325 km of the pipeline); and
- The revitalisation of 154 boreholes to augment the water supply in 55 villages around Giyani.
Work Package 1: Construction of the Nandoni-Nsami bulk pipeline
The 40.5 kilometres bulk pipeline to transfer raw water from the Nandoni Dam to Nsami Dam in Giyani had been completed, and water was flowing through the canal to the dam. The water flowing from theNandoni Dam through the canal flows into the balancing dam. The water from the Nandoni Dam would be used to augment water from Middle Letaba Dam and be treated at the Giyani Water Treatment Plan, which was currently refurbished.
Work Package 2: Refurbishment and upgrading of the Nsami Water Treatment Works
The refurbishment to optimise the 30 ML/d water treatment plan was underway to enable the plant to meet the water demands of the entire population of Giyani and its surroundings. The expected completion of the refurbishment was December 2023. Upon completion, work to increase the plant’s capacity by 10ml/d to 40ml/d was set to commence in April 2024 for a duration of 24 months.
Work Package 3: Construction of the secondary bulk main pipeline
This consists of constructing approximately 325 kilometres of bulk pipeline to distribute potable water from the commanding reservoir at Nsami Water Treatment Work to reservoirs supplying Giyani and the 55 villages. Construction was underway, was in a phased approach, and was linked to the reticulation of 55 villages.
Work Package 4: Water reticulation of fifty-five (55) villages within Mopani District Municipality
In August 2022, the Giyani reticulation programme was initiated to complete the water-to-tap project in Giyani. In August 2022, the Giyani reticulation programme was undertaken to complete the water services value chain (source to tap) in Giyani.
Remarks and observations by Committee
Although the Committee welcomed the work undertaken by the DWS in meeting its obligations of completing Phase 1 of the Giyani Bulk Water Project, including construction of bulk infrastructure and a 40.5-kilometre pipeline delivering water from the Nandoni Dam to Nsami Water Treatment Works, the Committee was concerned that the constitutional obligation to ensure potable water to communities in and around the Nandoni Dam, over the years, had not been met.
The Committee noted the completion of the bulk infrastructure, but the disconnect and misalignment between the work of the Department in ensuring bulk services provision within a set period, as opposed to the inability of municipalities to match the reticulation network systems soon after the bulk was completed, created significant challenges and anomalies in ensuring the optimal functionality of water and sanitation infrastructure across the value chain.
The announcement by the Department and Mopani District Municipality that reticulation for 24 villages had started with a 12-month anticipation completion date of June 2023 for water to flow to identified villages via yard taps, was welcomed. Still, the Committee harshly criticised the timeframes factored against the approximately 10 to 15 years wait for piped water to surrounding communities.
- Consequence management
The Committee called for consequence management to be implemented against those who had defrauded the state, thereby negatively impacting the implementation of the project. In its Legacy Report, the Committee would urge the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in the Seventh Administration to ensure focused oversight on the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.
- Monitoring of timeframes in respect of the completion of different phases of the project, and leveraging technology for sustainable water management at bulk infrastructure projects
The DWS and Mopani District Municipality should explore ways to fast-track the construction processes through modern technology, such as using solar panels for electricity generation for water treatment plants and digital construction planning. Additionally, project managers should work closely with suppliers and contractors to ensure timely delivery of materials and equipment to avoid unnecessary delays.
- Importance of long-term monitoring and planning
Water and sanitation bulk infrastructure project planners should identify and solve design and construction conflicts beforehand by implementing a robust project management plan and effective coordination among stakeholders to minimise delays.
(See Report for further details).
Discussion on BEP oversight report
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) said the Report was quiet on some important issues. For example, there was an abandoned sewage plant and now they were working on another one, but it was also not operational. This seemed to be a trend everywhere. When one sewage plant was being built, another was abandoned. When discussing the oversight report, this issue of abandoning wastewater infrastructures, which costs a lot of money, must end and be part of the resolution. Only now were they appointing an investigator to establish what was happening?
Ms Mohlala said there was an issue with moving targets. First, it was March, now it was July, in the Free State. It was time for those who were telling lies to be fired, as people were suffering on the ground. The deadlines stipulated in the Report were correct and should be adhered to. Regarding the site manager mentioned in the Report, wishing him a speedy recovery was not enough -- the Department must appoint a site manager to avoid delays due to someone being shot or hospitalised. There must be a progressive resolution regarding transferring the bucket eradication programme to the Housing Development Agency (HDA), as they only appointed contractors and did nothing else.
Ms Mohlala also asked what had happened to the Minister who had made irregular appointments according to the Report. Were only officials accountable to Parliament? There must be something in the resolution about what needed to happen to this Minister, who was responsible for serious construction delays.
She said she supported the adoption of the Report, with amendments from the Members.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said the entire Report was a true reflection of what had been seen in the Free State. The issues identified at each site and the recommendations captured were agreed upon. It was important to emphasise the findings and resolutions, including monthly project progress reports. These should be included in the programme of action, or agenda items of the Portfolio Committee. Generally, the recommendation and contents of the Report were agreed upon. There were concerns about the progress and appointment of some contractors, such as the G5 group. Progress must be monitored through monthly written reports and possibly visual engagement.
She moved to adopt this Report as a true reflection of what had transpired during the oversight.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said the content of the Report reflected what was seen, and the intervention by the Minister of Water and Sanitation in resolving a problem that had persisted for years was appreciated. Despite challenges, the decision to take this matter to the DWS was working. These challenges had been identified and were highly technical. There was a need for a responsible department to develop a regulation or policy to address the issue of forums that were delaying and disrupting service delivery progress. This matter should not be left to individual cases, but should be institutionalised by the responsible department.
She said the Department had not yet managed to systematically monitor projects. This was important for big, technically complicated projects, and the absence of such monitoring would be costly. The Department needed to put in place a systematic process for monitoring. Finally, there was a need to establish synergy with municipalities for monitoring projects. The Department should tighten up its synergy with municipalities and systematically monitor projects, especially for complicated projects like this.
She moved to adopt the Report with the recommendations made by the Members.
The Report was adopted.
Discussion on Giyani bulk water project oversight report
Ms Mohlala referred to the abandonment of wastewater infrastructure plans, and said that in 2014 there had been an upgrading of treatment works approved by former President Jacob Zuma in Mopani. This new wastewater treatment plant had worked for only four days before collapsing due to electricity issues. Now Mopani was saying they would refurbish the old plant and abandon the new one. There was a trend of abandoning one plant and going for a new one when problems arose. An investigation had been appointed to determine what had happened with a new plant that had worked for only four days. Why was the investigation just happening now? There was currently no working wastewater treatment plant in Mopani and there was a risk of cholera affecting the people. A thorough investigation was needed to determine what had happened with the collapsed treatment plant. There must be a resolution and feedback on what transpired and why it operated for only four days.
Ms Mohlala raised the issue of a particular area getting more water than everyone else in Mopani. A recommendation should be made to address the monopoly of water resources by the few. The Department must intervene and provide a report on this issue, as everyone should have equitable access to water regardless of race or social status. The Report also mentioned security, but there was no recommendation below. When discussing security, the issue of boreholes was raised. Mopani had drilled many boreholes that were not working, and there was a need for security measures to protect them.
She moved to adopt the Report with the additions suggested by the Members.
Ms Tseke said the Report had reflected the issues raised either from the Department or the questions raised by members of this Committee when they interacted with the DWS and all the stakeholders. There should be a resolution on how to get a progress report on the performance of the contractors in the 24 villages. There were also deadlines around December, and during the process, they had been informed that new contractors would be appointed for the remaining villages. She said there had been movement and progress since the new Minister had been deployed in that Department. As the Department had committed, the Committee hoped that the 24 villages around December would be able to get water, because household connections were at an advanced stage. The Committee must be able to get a progress report, either virtual or written.
On the issue of the wastewater treatment plant issue, she said the Department had to move swiftly to take over or work with the municipalities to ensure those water treatment works were working.
She moved to adopt the Report.
The Report was adopted.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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