Water portfolio inquiry submission
OUTA’s submission identifies problems in the department’s Bucket Eradication Programme and in both the governance and finances of the water boards.
The inquiry is being run jointly by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration.
OUTA’s submission includes the following allegations:
The Bucket Eradication Programme ran twice, with no explanation.
In 2003/4 the department said it aimed to eradicate 430 000 bucket toilets. By the time the first version of this programme started in 2005, the department had calculated there were 252 254 buckets to be replaced; by late 2009 there were only 7 996 buckets left.
In 2014, the programme started again, this time with a backlog that had mysteriously grown to 273 297 buckets; this month the department told Parliament it had 14 539 left to eradicate.
The bucket programme spending during the second eradication programme was astonishing. OUTA has previously reported how the department’s spending to replace a bucket toilet systems per household varied wildly.
In the water boards, which are responsible for the delivery of bulk water to distributors, at least five people are directors of more than one board. OUTA believes this contributes to governance problems in the sector.
The law allows the water board chief executives to form part of the panel that appoints the board which in turn is responsible for hiring the chief executives: this does not reflect sound institutional oversight or good corporate governance.
At Magalies Water, various issues raised by the Auditor-General have been ignored, including procurement irregularities, salaries not in accordance with remuneration policy, performance bonuses for vacant positions, and appointments of unqualified staff to senior positions. Magalies Water has also failed to take action against two senior employees who, according to a report to the Public Service Commission, have allegedly been “enriching themselves with suppliers’ money”.
Magalies Water sent a team to World Water Week in Sweden last year and Umgeni Water sent its interim board to Las Vegas, despite ministerial cost containment measures and concerns about affordability.
Dudu Myeni, who chaired the Mhlathuze Water Board, is accused of involving herself in hiring people to whom she is connected; donating Mhlathuze funds to the KwaZulu-Natal royal family and running up excessive travel costs which may have included personal travel without following procedures.
Mhlathuze and Umgeni water boards are still due to amalgamate despite concerns raised by National Treasury, including that Umgeni’s €35 million loan facility from the European Investment Bank and R600 million domestic medium-term note may be jeopardised as the merger could be regarded as Umgeni’s disestablishment.
Rand Water awarded undue incentive bonuses from 2014 to 2017, including a bonus to its chief executive of R2.126m which was 71% of his total cost to company, despite querying by the Minister.
While OUTA acknowledges that the bucket eradication programme may have re-run because municipalities built more bucket toilets after 1994, the prioritising of funds to restore human dignity to many under-resourced citizens is of concern.
Click here to read OUTA’s full submission.
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OUTA’s investigations into wasteful expenditure within the department and the water boards is ongoing. We encourage members of the public who have information about irregularities to submit their information and tip-offs on our secure whistle-blower platform.