The Department of Water and Sanitation is working around the clock towards the realisation of the finalisation of water-use licence applications within 90 days, reducing from 300 days as previously done.The new turn-around time is part of the government’s strategies to enhance the delivery of economic reforms through Operation Vulindlela which is aimed at fast-tracking service delivery across various sectors of society. As an initiative by the Presidency and National Treasury, Operation Vulindlela has been providing technical support to the department to effectively implement a plan for the granting of water-use licences within the reduced timeframes. In the 2021/22 financial year, which is between April 2021 and March 2022, the department was able to finalise 613 out of the 971 water-use licence applications, which represent a partial achievement of 63%. In Quarter 1 of the current financial year (April to June 2022), the department has overachieved by finalizing 150 applications of the targeted 113 and as such, work has commenced on the targeted applications for Quarter 2 (July to September). Thus far, 37 applications out of a targeted 252 are already finalised. Meanwhile, sleeves are kept rolled up to eradicate water-use authorization backlogs to meet the 90 days turn-around timeframe. According to the Deputy Director-General (DDG) responsible for compliance, monitoring and evaluation, Xolani Zwane, concerted efforts which were put in place to clear backlogs by 30 June 2022 have been successful; while also admitting that the 100% target set has not been achieved. “A total of 812 water-use authorization backlog was finalized by 30 June 2022 out of a target of 998. We now have 138 of the backlogs still to finalize and we plan to ensure that they are concluded by the end of this month,” said DDG Zwane.
In a bid to fast-track the conclusion of the backlogs, the department has conducted a diagnostic study into factors causing delays in water-use authorization and recommended interventions to improve efficiency.In the main, the interventions to improve efficiency centres around the establishment of water authorisation units at the department’s provincial offices and resourcing them with an adequate number of personnel possessing the requisite skills. Other interventions include amongst others, revising water use licence templates which entail minimising amendments and improving implementation of conditions by applicants. Also implemented is the process of minimising system downtime and addressing connectivity challenges associated with the online portal, which often result in interruptions of submission and processing of the water-use licence applications. Zwane admitted that the process is still work in progress and pleaded with applicants to be patient while the department is doing its best to finalise the applications and address the backlog. “We have introduced a process wherein applicants are sent letters through the Electronic Water Use Licence Application and Authorisation System (e-WULAAS) to provide them with updates on their application progress. These letters are sent at day 45 and day 80 of the 90 days process. All of this information is available on the department’s website,” Zwane concluded. The department has reiterated its commitment to ensuring that water-use applicants have their applications finalised within 90 days.