Water Supply and Sanitation Targets: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presentation

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


29 August 2006

Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West)

Documents handed out:
Water Supply and Sanitation Targets and Funding PowerPoint Presentation


The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presented progress on achieving the targets of its water supply and sanitation programmes with particular focus on the current budget and the need for greater financial and technical capacity. The Committee voiced concerns at the culture of under spending by some municipalities and generally felt that no additional money could be awarded if existing funds had not been properly and thoroughly utilised. The Department was eager to impress upon the Committee that more funding was essential if targets were going to be met, specifically the December 2007 deadline for the eradication of the bucket sanitation system. The Committee, however, felt that there was no clarity in the calculations of the proposed budget and requested a better breakdown of where the money was needed.


The Chairperson welcomed all Members and outlined the purpose of the meeting which was to discuss progress in light of deadlines that had been set and the seriousness of the subject of safe water provision to all South Africans. He noted that Mr R J Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) would not attend as he was ill, Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) sent apologies for his absence and likewise, Ms M N Oliphant (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) sent apologies for her absence from the meeting. Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) also sent apologies that he would be late for the meeting.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) presentation

Mr H Muller (Chief Director of Water Services, DWAF) began the presentation as his colleagues from the Department had not yet arrived. He highlighted that DWAF had very ambitious targets as this allows for prioritisation and focus on key issues. He pointed out that the Department had met their millennium target for water sanitation and in this way they exceeded international performances. He made it clear that the budget is lower than it should be and that even though the population had grown, a smaller percentage of people are below the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) targets; the backlog having halved since 1994. He said that efforts should now be doubled and that the set target was that all South Africans have access to basic sanitation by 2010 and that the bucket system is eradicated by 2007. He noted that the target for schools had not been met. Of the 165 912 buckets remaining, the Department aims to eradicate 7400 in 2006 and the remainder in 2007 to meet the deadline of December 2007. He suggested that in order to do this, the Department required a further R1 billion.

Mr Muller outlined additional problems in the Department, specifically technical and financial constraints and under spending of the budget. He mentioned ‘Operation Gijima’ which is intended to accelerate sanitation, as well as the Bucket Programme acceleration. In conclusion he made it clear that the budget was inadequate to meet the targets, that it was important to note that the target for bucket eradication only referred to buckets in formal settlements, and that bulk infrastructure was needed to do this in a sustainable manner. He said that the Minister had said that the Department’s role was as a regulator and supporter of sustainability.

Ms T Mbassa (Acting Deputy Director: Regions) added that the December 2007 target would not be met without additional funding and explained that Operation Gijima accelerated water sanitation through re-fencing. She noted that DWAF is an implementation agent and that a proposal had been sent to Parliament for approval. This is because the eradication of the bucket system requires an extra R1.2 billion.


Mr C J Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) commented that he felt confused after the presentation and that he needed clarification, especially with regards to the specific calculations for bucket replacement such that R1.2 billion extra is required. To his knowledge the original estimation was R7 700 for each bucket to be replaced and this did not add up to R1.2 billion. He pointed out various inconsistencies in the calculations in the presentation and said that this was very confusing and that there were numerous shortfalls in their calculations.

Ms B N Dlulane (ANC, Eastern Cape) said implementation of programmes was the government’s role and wanted to know what the Department was doing in this regard. Was it a municipal function?

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC, Limpopo) said that she knew of one municipality in her province that did not supply water and she thought the department would target such municipalities. She also requested a breakdown of service provision at a provincial level. She further noted that she had seen on television a community that was served by a fountain in the middle of a road and that people had to queue for water and share it with animals. She asked what government could do to address this situation. She added that in the community where she is from, septic tanks from RDP houses are sold for storage of drinking water. She insisted that something be done.

Mr P Adams (ANC, Western Cape) noted that he felt very uncomfortable, and asked if the targets would be reached or if the Department would be back with other excuses for why they were not. Since the Department could spend money on anything, what monitoring tools were in place to ensure that the money was spent on attaining targets?

Ms Mbassa replied that there was originally R1.2 billion allocated for the replacement of 231 000 buckets and that this would be spread over a number of years. This was prior to the President bringing the deadline forward to December 2007 for the eradication of the bucket system. She clarified that there are three types of buckets: those in formal areas, informal areas and problem areas. She said that the backlog now needs to be looked at, and she wants to use the money that was allocated for the 2008/2009 deadline to be used in order to reach the new December 2007 deadline. She further explained that the Department could only award contracts once they had sufficient money. She insisted that there was progress and that the buckets could not just be removed but must be replaced. She said that there was no fixed price for replacing buckets, that it varies from R4000 to R9000 and that the Department had underestimated this cost in the original budget because the unit price of VIPs (Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines) is high.

Mr Van Rooyen asked what the unit cost was, as DWAF had said that it was R7700.

Ms Mbassa said that the average cost is R7700 but that bulk infrastructure was sometimes needed. She added that their own engineers were sent out to assess whether the costs were appropriate.

Ms T Mpotulo (Chief Director) conceded that she too was frustrated with the lack of service delivery and that limited skills were a big problem. She pointed out that the targets for bucket eradication in 2007; water access in 2008 and sanitation in 2010 were attainable but that the funding was not adequate. She said that the Department had taken initiatives to meet the targets and that often political decisions complicated their plans. She further noted that progress was made when there is political support, and she thought that they should look at the role of district municipalities to deal with service delivery. She also suggested that free basic water was problematic because of a lack of infrastructure and that this problem relates directly to a lack of capacity, though not all problems do.

Mr Muller submitted a table showing the percentage population in each province that did not have access to water. This table showed that Limpopo Province has the greatest percentage (28%) and he also showed slides of maps of South Africa which showed graphically that Limpopo fared worst in both water access and sanitation.

Ms Matlanyane thanked Mr Muller and said that it helped to have such clear breakdowns.

Mr Muller responded that he had breakdowns for both municipality and regional levels that he would make available.

Mr Van Rooyen asked if the Department had calculated such percentages for all municipalities and noted that he had received a very clear and comprehensive document from the Northern Cape. It would be very beneficial to have such a document for each province.

Mr Adams said that good inter-departmental relationships were vital and that a new buzzword was “Project Consolidate”. He asked if the Department was a part of it and whether it was true that the Department had been under-spending because if they had, he did not understand the need for more money.

Ms Mpotulo responded that the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) was available but people did not know how to access it as they had to have a business plan. Information booklets were now available. She noted that the Department was involved in Project Consolidate and that they supported it. Furthermore, she added that 21 DWAF engineers were part of this project.

Ms Mbassa addressed the question of why more money was required by stating that 29 municipalities had underspent. She hoped this problem could be overcome, but the underspent funds might be insufficient or not available to the Department.

Mr Adams asked if it would not be better to use the money for addressing backlogs and why more money was needed if they could not spend existing funding.

Mr Van Rooyen expressed his frustration with the under-spending, saying that there was no guarantee that the additional money would be spent and that it showed bad planning and promoted fiscal dumping.

Ms Matlanyane repeated the call for existing money to be used before more money could be allocated.

The Chairperson asked what year the R31 million underspending related to, because the Department had no argument if it related to the current year.

Ms Mbassa replied that the money related to 2005/2006 but that it was not only for sanitation. It was composed of under spending from a number of departments and that this meant that they could not access all of the money.

Mr Muller added that not all municipalities had under spent and that more money should only go to those that showed good planning and managed to spend the entire budget.

Mr Adams said that the Department should help the municipalities to be better at planning.

Ms Matlanyane asked which specific municipalities under spent their budgets. She noted the value of even a small amount of money, especially in very poor areas.

Mr G Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu-Natal) asked whether the situation had improved over the last 10 years.

Ms Mpotulo felt under spending was a “sin”, and that it was ironic that the weakest municipalities were in the poorest areas. There was thus the dilemma of whether it is fair to take from the poorest to give to those municipalities that are better resourced. She said that it was thus a good idea to provide support and guidance. She added that it would take time but that the situation was improving and that the Department had many initiatives to improve conditions such as bringing retired engineers in to train those currently employed.

Ms Mbassa added that there would be a detailed report on the municipal breakdown at another meeting.

The Chairperson asked why such a relevant document was not ready for this meeting.

Mr Krumbock said that the more he heard, the more confused he became. He felt that the Departments’ responses were contradictory because if the situation had improved they would not need to bring expensive consultants out of retirement.

Mr Van Rooyen said that the President had given clear targets and thus asked for clear, written details of how the targets would be met. He wanted to know the details of funding allocations and if the policy had changed to deal with the backlog.

The Chairperson felt strongly that the Department must be able to calculate accurately when presenting and that he had his own difficult questions for them. He wanted to know what could be done to help the stakeholders and said that guessing targets and deadlines was not adequate.

Ms Matlanyane asked for a list of underperforming municipalities so that she could assist on the ground. She said that the President’s State of the Nation Address was a marching order and that they needed to work together and understand each other to execute it.

Mr Adams continued to point out the importance of getting breakdowns and follow up information because it was coming up to the time for midterm budgets. He also wanted to know where the 21 engineers were.

Ms Mpotulo said that she shares the Committee’s frustrations on a daily basis and assured them that the Department was doing their best. She confirmed that they had all the information that the Members had requested but that it was currently not in the packaging they desired. She said that the Department was successful in monitoring municipalities and often sent them letters to offer support and guidance. She remembered that at first progress was slow but that with growing experience, progress was accelerating. She also requested that the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) be present at the next meeting.

Mr Krumbock repeated his concerns about the re-employment of retired engineers being proof that things are worse now than previously and also expressed a problem with the terminology of “our people”.

Mr Muller clarified that there was no average municipality in South Africa as there was a wide range of municipalities. He suggested that ex-homelands are an exception to Mr Krumbock’s concerns as the municipalities there were new.

Ms Mbassa added that after 2007 there would still be buckets in use because the target dealt only with those from housing pre-1994.

Mr Van Rooyen asked whether the Minister and President were aware of this.

Ms Mbassa answered in the affirmative.

The Chairperson asked how big the DWAF was.

Ms Mpotulo explained that there were four main functions in the Department and nine regional offices that have about 16000 people. She said that this number would shrink when local government took over one of the functions.

The Chairperson said that people wanted delivery, not arguments about what went wrong. He reiterated that calculations must be correct. He went on to impress on the Committee that water was a very serious issue as people needed water. He suggested there be updates every quarter and warned that DWAF could not get away with anything. He thanked all and requested that information be presented in writing to eliminate any confusion. He conceded that it was not easy and that his “heart bleeds over water issues”. He questioned if metro or rural municipalities were the Department’s top priority.

Ms Mpotulo said that she would courier the information the Committee required and expressed a desire to be present more often in similar meetings.

The meeting was adjourned.


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