The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is expected to present a damning report on the state of affairs within the Department of Water and Sanitation to a Portfolio Committee this week.

The report, which was released on Monday 27 November, exposes the dysfunction and institutional paralysis in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) according to the SAWC.

The report reveals that the department is facing, among other things, considerable human resource and organisational challenges, policy and legislative uncertainty and deterioration in infrastructure due to a lack of maintenance and investment.

Human resources

Looking at the department’s human resources challenges the report points out that a total of 21 positions were vacant within the office of the Director-General (DG), out of a total of 44 employment positions.

The report notes that also notes growing concern from the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa about the “instability” in the accounting department owing to a high turnover rate of accounting officers.

“According to the Auditor-General, the Department of Water and Sanitation has had 9 different accounting officers in the last 8 years,” the report states.

“The regular suspensions of senior management particularly DGs and DDGs alongside high vacancy and staff turn-over rates have severe implications for the functioning of the Department of Water and Sanitation and associated service delivery,” it says.

Financial management

Issues around financial management are also raised in the report with a particular focus on accruals, over-spending, overdraft (owed to the Reserve Bank) and failure to collect money owed to the department.

According to the report approximately R1.5 billion was owed to contractors (accruals) at the end of March 2017. In addition as a Water Trading Entity, the department’s account is R2.6 billion overdrawn. The Department also overspent on its budget by R110 million at the end of Quarter 4 (Q4) of 2016/17 financial year according to the office of the Auditor-General.

Policy and legislative uncertainty

Turning to policy and legislation the report notes that there is a complete lack of clarity on overall policy direction and alignment vis-à-vis the manner in which proposed new legislation, policy and legislative reform and amendments are intended to align.

“Instead of ensuring proper implementation of the National Water Act, the Minister has caused significant policy and legislative uncertainty through the proposed Water Master Plan, proposed Water and Sanitation Bill, the proposed National Water Resources and Services and Sanitation Strategy; and Free Basic Water review.”

The SAWC intends presenting the report to the Portfolio Committee on Water & Sanitation this week. The full report can be downloaded here.


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