Minister of Water and Sanitation Gugile Nkwinti says an urgent intervention is need to align project management and planning with the department’s available budget.

Speaking at the department’s Budget Vote speech, Nkwinti said realignment was needed to prevent the department’s projects from being ahead of the available budget.

Nkwinti speech came amid concerns that the department was faced with historical contractual commitments that were not budgeted for.

Vulnerabilities

He noted that the preliminary commitments for which contracts have been signed and service providers are currently rendering services amounting to R7.5 billion, of which R6.3 billion is for infrastructure projects and R1.1 billion has been set aside for operational goods and services.

“Of this figure, R2 billion is expected to be paid to the service providers in the current financial year.

“We have also noted with concern that in certain instances, contracts without a value have been entered into, and these pose difficulty in accurately budgeting for them, which leaves the department vulnerable.”

Nkwinti also said the department’s bucket eradication programme falls into this category, and this has historically caused unauthorised expenditure caused by overspending in the bucket eradication programme.

Plans to do more with less

Turning to corrective actions Nkwinti pointed out that the department will implement several interventions in the in the coming year to bring stability to the department.

Some of these include:

  • Reprioritising and streamlining the department’s spend to align it with annual performance plans, with a view of reducing unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure;
  • Reviewing the department’s delegation of powers with a view of reactivating and rebuilding the construction unit towards the formation of a State-controlled Construction Company;
  • Hastening the establishment of the transformation of the Water Trading Entity, into a Water Trading Agency to be located in the Financial Management Services Branch;
  • Fast-tracking the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies in the remaining seven regions as well as enforcing the polluter pays principle; and;
  • Identifying all open-ended deals and contracts with a view to approaching the courts to have them declared null and void in order to arrest the uncontrolled growth of accruals.
  • The Minister also said that the department will engage National Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to address the perennial problem of billions of municipal grant funds that are either unspent or irregularly spent, for which the department must account.