In a virtual meeting, the Committee convened to consider and adopt the draft Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR), the draft first quarter expenditure report, the draft report on the Rustenburg and Warrenton petitions, and outstanding minutes.
The Committee Content Advisor gave a broad outline of the BRRR, and reported that the Department had achieved an unqualified audit outcome with findings. She listed recommendations for implementation by the Department, which included resolving issues affecting water services authorities and the Water Trading Entity. The report also recommended that the DWS revise and draft new timelines for completion of the bucket eradication programme (BEP).
Members said the reason why some challenges were not resolved was because departments were not working hand in hand, and the matter of intergovernmental relations had not been addressed in the recommendations. They emphasised the Committee’s worry about meeting the BEP target, as this programme should not be handed over to the Seventh Parliament. It was pointed out that 55% of surface water went to agriculture, and only 17% was given to municipalities, which was skewed against the people and favourable to agriculture, and this was a concern, especially in the rural areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. The report was adopted, with the EFF’s abstention noted.
The Content Advisor gave an overview of the first quarter report of the Department, which had spent R3b, or 13.8%, of the annual budget. The Water Trading Entity had spent R2.6b, equivalent to 15% of the annual budget. Members had raised concerns that included the 40% vacancy rate for engineers and scientists, overspending on the compensation of employees and its impact on service delivery, amendments to the Water Services Act, the reconfiguration of water boards, the re-prioritisation of unspent budgets, and procurement processes followed for designated groups. The Department was asked to furnish the Committee with a detailed report on the reconfiguration of water boards. The report was adopted.
The Committee was given an overview of the petitions detailing issues raised by the residents of Rustenburg and Warrenton on water crisis issues, and the outcomes of meetings to resolve the matter. Members asked when a joint meeting would occur, as this should happen as soon as possible, to establish the problems at the municipality and why they were failing to deal with the issues there. The report was adopted.
Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation on the Annual Reports and Financial Statements of the Department of Water and Sanitation and its Entities for the 2022/23 Financial Year
The Chairperson said the content of the report was informative and broad, and the Content Advisor should place emphasis where necessary when she went through it.
Ms Shereen Dawood, Committee Content Adviser, said the overall performance of the main account was 72 percent. The Department had achieved an unqualified audit outcome with findings. The Committee recommended that the Department implement the Auditor-General's (AG's) findings and provide a written report on strategies to address them in the first term of 2024/25.
It recommended that:
- the Department and other critical stakeholders ensure that effective operational plans were devised by water services authorities to manage schemes on a sustainable basis;
- the Department fast-tracks and finalises investigations and applies consequence management on officials found transgressing, and provides progress reports to the Portfolio Committee in the first quarter of 2024/25;
- that the Water Trading Entity (WTE) must hasten to remedy the findings that 42% of its bulk infrastructure assets were in poor condition, and ensure adequate repair and maintenance;
- the Department developed a national action plan to address water losses;
- the Department enhance wastewater reuse efforts to meet water demand and conservation objectives, and reduce pollutant loads and reinforce implementation and monitoring;
- the Department revised and drafted new timelines for the Bucket Eradication Programme (BEP) to eradicate these bucket systems, and that it adheres to these timelines.
On the role of the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) within the proposed National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency, it recommended that the Department provide progress reports on the modalities it intends to use for the financial modelling of the agency, the transfer of staff, and the institutional set-up of the agency.
(See BRRR here https://pmg.org.za/tabled-committee-report/5523/ )
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) said she did not see the issue of intergovernmental relations being addressed in the recommendations. She said the reason why some issues were not resolved was because departments were not working hand in hand.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) said that he found the recommendation on the findings of the AG to be general. These should be more specific so that the Committee could follow up with the Department at every meeting. Regarding the Water Research Commission (WRC), he proposed that the Committee should visit the entity if time allows.
Ms M Matuba (ANC) questioned whether two figures -- R861.594m and R861.594b -- found in 4.1 were both correct.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said it was important that all the recommendations agreed to should be tracked and followed up with the Department, because there were serious findings and recommendations, especially those referring to bucket toilet eradication.
The Chairperson said the number R861.594b found in 4.1 should be R861.594m.
He wanted to emphasise two points. The first was the Committee’s worry and discomfort on the BEP target which must be emphasised consistently, and the target date of the end of March must be met. The BEP could not be handed over to the Seventh Parliament.
The second issue was that 55% of surface water went to agriculture, and only 17% went to municipalities, which was skewed against the people and favourable to agriculture. This was a concern, especially in the rural areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
Ms Mohlala said the Chairperson’s points should be reflected in the report.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) referred to the monitoring of the decisions the Committee had taken, and said some of the decisions were critical to the service delivery of the Department. There was no timeframe for the completion of targets -- who was supposed to determine the timeframe targets? She said the Department should implement a strategy to prevent water loss, as there had been no improvement.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had raised the issue of the BEP with the Department, which had given the deadline of March 2024. The Committee was raising the issue of carrying out a follow-up to see whether this was done by March.
He said Ms Mohlala had raised the issue of visiting the Northern Cape and the North West. This visit still needed to be done so that the Committee could establish whether the target had been met. The figures they had received were that the water losses could serve 93m people. The Department had to ensure that municipalities' budgets catered for the servicing of infrastructure.
The report was adopted, with the EFF’s abstention noted.
Minutes dated 5 September 2023
The Chairperson referred to the Committee's meeting held on 5 September, and said Ms M Sukers (ACDP) had made the Committee discuss her petition in the morning, and, the same afternoon, had put the petition as a question to the President [during Oral Questions to the President in the National Assembly]. Therefore, everything said in the Committee meeting was underscored by the response of the President.
The minutes of the meeting were adopted. Ms M Pietersen (ANC) moved and Ms Tseke seconded.
Minutes dated 12 September 2023
Ms Mohlala said the minutes of the meeting held on 12 September did not include any reference to the non-attendance of the Mayor of Mopani, and the rejection of the apology given.
It was clarified this was captured in the introduction but the rejection of the apology would be further emphasised.
The minutes of 12 September were adopted, with amendments. Ms Tseke moved and Ms Matuba seconded.
Minutes dated 19 September 2023
Ms Matuba questioned the record of her absence from the meeting on 19 September.
The Secretary would check this.
The minutes were adopted. Ms Tseke moved and PMG did not catch the name of the Member that seconded.
Committee Report on Department's First Quarter Expenditure Report
Ms Dawood gave an overview of the first quarter report of the DWS. The Department had spent R3b, which was the equivalent of 13.8% of the annual budget. The WTE had spent R2.6b, which was 15% of the annual budget. She said the areas of under-performance could be used as a guide for the Committee’s oversight role.
Members had raised concerns about the 40% vacancy rate of engineers and scientists, overspending on the compensation of employees (CoE) and its impact on service delivery, amendments to the Water Services Act, the reconfiguration of water boards, the establishment of the independent regulatory commission, concerns raised by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) on the establishment of the National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency, the re-prioritisation of unspent budgets, and the procurement processes followed for designated groups. Amongst the Committees recommendations was that the DWS must furnish the Committee with a detailed report on the reconfiguration of water boards.
Ms Mohlala asked when the Committee would get the Department’s report on the reconfiguration of water boards.
The Secretary said a progress report on the reconfiguration of water boards was part of the following week’s agenda items.
The report was adopted. Ms Tseke moved and Mr Tseki seconded.
Rustenburg and Warrenton petitions
Ms Dawood spoke to the draft Committee report on the two petitions tabled by Ms C Philips (DA) and Ms Sukers on issues raised by the residents of Rustenburg and of Warrenton, to investigate the water crisis. The report gave an overview of the two petitions, what was highlighted by the two petitioners, and the outcomes of meetings held on the petitions.
On the Rustenburg petition, the Committee had noted that the submission of petitions should be submitted to the respective departments for responses and action plans with defined timeframes, that the emerging conflict arising from three different entities managing the water supply should be evaluated, and the referral of the petitions to the wrong committee.
On the Warrenton petition, the Committee had resolved that both petitions be referred to the DWS and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) for responses, after which a joint meeting with the departments and petitioners would be called. The Committee would write to the National Assembly to ensure the correct procedure was followed when assigning petitions when communities faced challenges in water services provision.
The Chairperson said he had overlooked writing the letter to the National Assembly and would do so. He said the referral to the Committee should not be seen by the community as a wrong action, because communities wanted services from government. The two departments must meet and answer the questions.
Ms Mohlala asked when the joint meeting would occur [with the cooperative governance committee], as it was supposed to happen as soon as possible. She thought it must occur within two weeks.
The Chairperson said he had expressed discomfort about the progress and process after the meeting. The Committee had met with the petitioners and issues had been resolved. That same afternoon, the same items had been raised as questions to the President. The process had then changed, as the matter was now in the hands of the President and at the ministerial level, so he thought the matter had been resolved because the President had taken it over. Afterwards, there had been an imbizo by the President in that area. He did not follow up on getting the two committees to meet, because the matter had been elevated to the Presidency and the Department. If the Committee wanted this meeting, it could be called.
Ms Mohlala said the meeting should be facilitated to find out the problems at the municipality and why they failed to resolve the issues there. The President was doing his work and the Committee was doing its work. The Committee should not be seen as not wanting to resolve these issues.
The Chairperson said the meeting would be called with the two departments.
Mr L Basson (DA) agreed, and said there was a need to include the relevant mayors and municipal managers in the meeting to explain what the situation was.
The report was adopted. Ms Mohlala moved and Mr Basson seconded.
Read full report here https://pmg.org.za/tabled-committee-report/5531/
In his closing remarks, the Chairperson commented that South Africa was not non-aligned in supporting the people of Palestine.
The meeting was adjourned.
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