Call to use resources responsibly

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

While commending interventions by various stakeholders to provide water to flood-stricken areas in KwaZulu-Natal, the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation has warned against abuse of resources for the benefit of a selected few.

The committee welcomed the deployment of 250 technical staff from Water and Sanitation Department, Umgeni Water, and eThekwini Municipality that is intended to ensure speedy repair of bulk infrastructure and that people get water.

“The deployment of tankers to ensure the provision of water in the short and medium term is welcomed as it will ensure that people have access to water and prevent any inception of any water-borne diseases,” Committee Chairperson, Robert Mashego said.

The committee however, has warned against the temptation to abuse emergency procurement processes, which have mainly been utilised to intervene in the disaster.

“We call on the department to put in place systems to prevent the abuse of state resources and tankering system for the benefit of a selected few. The main purpose of this intervention and the committee's support is for the benefit of everyone affected by the floods.

“We urge the department and all law enforcement agencies to act harshly against anyone proven to have abused the emergency procurement system and related processes,” Mashego said.

The department briefed the committee on Tuesday on the established war room in KwaZulu-Natal and reprioritised funds to intervene in the flood-stricken areas in the province.

During the briefing, the committee demanded regular updates from the department on the budget projection for the intervention, including cost of flood damages to water and sanitation infrastructure, spending plans, and the impact of the intervention as a way of ensuring accountability.

The committee also urged the department to reprioritise some of its funding to respond to the dire needs, but highlighted the need for openness and accountability.

Proposed water tariffs

Meanwhile, the committee has criticised the belated engagement with the department on the proposed water tariff determinations by water boards for the 2022/23 financial year.

The committee highlighted that its engagement on the matter is unnecessary because the determination, which it regards as unfortunate, has been completed.

“It has been decided that from this point, this needed to change to enable it an adequate opportunity to engage and make an incisive contribution to the tariffs,” the chairperson said.  

While acknowledging the difficulties faced by the water boards, including non-payment of services, high energy and chemical costs, and non-revenue water, Mashego said those challenges require a concerted and implementable plan.

“The committee hopes that effective implementation of that plan will translate in the reduction of high-cost drivers. The committee has [also] emphasised its call for the reduction of pollution of the country’s water system, in order to minimise the need for intensive chemical treatment,” Mashego said.

He said the committee will continue to engage all relevant stakeholders to find workable solutions to the challenges faced by Water Boards and municipalities. –