Water dept gets tough on irregular spending

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has committed her department to deal decisively with the flouting of supply chain management processes to ensure that public money is spent wisely. 

The Minister reaffirmed this commitment during the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting held in Parliament on Tuesday to clarify matters of irregular expenditure incurred during the 2015/16 financial year period. 

Minister Mokonyane said the scope of the department’s work necessitated it to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that there is adequate provision of water and sanitation services to the people. 

Citing the unrelenting drought that thwarted most parts of the country, the Minister said the department had to go out of its way to alleviate the disastrous situation that threatened to reduce water resources. 

“… We had to shift some funds and assist our communities who were running out of water,” Minister Mokonyane said. 

Department did not incur irregular expenditure

The Minister explained, however, that her department did not actually incur irregular expenditure but “the entities under the department are the ones who faced many challenges due to the volume of infrastructure projects that they are handling.” 

“A case in point is the Giyani Intervention Project, which is being implemented by the Lepelle Northern Water Board, was found to have irregularly spent by the Auditor General as a result of the scope of work done in the Mopani District Municipality. To this end, the emergency intervention in Giyani accounted for R1.3 billion of the R1.7 billion in irregular expenditure that was incurred in the 2015/16 financial year,” the Minister said. 

The Giyani Project was implemented in 2014 after the Supreme Court of Appeal instructed the Department of Water and Sanitation to intervene in the humanitarian crisis that was unfolding in the Mopani District since 2009. 

An outbreak of water-borne diseases saw babies and the elderly dying, while wards of Khensani Hospital closed down due to the lack of water, as well as water contamination. 

Minister Mokonyane reported that the Giyani Project emergency interventions were implemented and the completion of the Giyani Water Works ensured that all 55 villages have access to water.

“The six boreholes of Nkhensani Hospital have been refurbished and are all working. A 10 000-litre water tank was replaced and the internal pipe reticulation of the hospital as well as leaking taps and toilets have been attended to,” she said. 

Minister Mokonyane said there are cases where officials of the department have been found to have acted wrongly and did not follow the right processes in line with National Treasury regulations. To mitigate this, she said the department will act strongly and bring to book all those who were found to have benefited personally from “devious means”. 

“In October 2016, I instituted an investigation into a number of projects and related procurement matters within the department, led by Advocate Terry Motau, SC. The Task Team has submitted a report to me and a full forensic investigation will be instituted. 

“Anyone found to be on the wrong side of the law will have to face the music. Already there are senior managers on suspension and we want to allow a fair process that will ensure that we get to the bottom of the problem,” the Minister said. 

The department’s Acting Director General, Sifiso Mkhize, warned that the department will not only dismiss those found guilty, but will also institute processes to recoup any money owed to the department. 

Mkhize also revealed that the department is still grappling with recouping money owed by Water Boards and municipalities, which amounts to R7.1 billion. – SAnews.gov.za