The Department of Water & Sanitation (DWS) is in discussion with National Treasury to find additional funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department said a delegation led by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu briefed Parliament on the delivery of services to curb the spread of the virus.
The joint Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation was informed that while an amount of R306 million was set aside, this was not sufficient.
Minister Sisulu said the declaration of the State of National Disaster implied the suspension of the normal workings of Cabinet replaced by the setting up of the Presidential Coordinating Council and the NATJOINTS.
“The State of National Disaster has direct implications for the departments I lead. Both Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation had to change their ways of working. We have to work differently yet provide essential services continually,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting with the committee.
Sisulu added that a Water and Sanitation Command Centre at Rand Water was set up, co-chaired by the Acting Director General at DWS, Mbulelo Tshangana and the Chief Executive of Rand Water Sipho Mosai.
The centre allows the parties to link up daily with the DWS provincial heads, water boards across the country, as well as municipalities.
“We were fortunate to link up with the association of water tanks and tanker manufacturers that allowed us to purchase these directly from them, allowing for bulk buying and therefore realizing huge savings whilst acquiring these for the state,” she said.
At the meeting, Tshangana and Mosai, presented activities that are on-going as per the Minister’s directive to respond urgently to the rise in COVID-19 infections.
“They also indicated that an amount of R306 million was set aside for the exercise in response to the pandemic. This amount was realised as a result of the need for urgent procurements and the reprioritisation of the DWS Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant – Schedule B grant.”
“Whilst everything is being done to ensure the response to the pandemic is driven from this amount, it is also obvious that it would not be enough. This has led to current discussions between the DWS and National Treasury to find a further R831 million that would then augment the current funding but more critically will ensure the response continues and is sustainable,” said the department.
Service delivery efforts
As at 20 April, 7698 water tanks had been installed across the country, whilst 1239 water tankers (trucks) had also been delivered as well.
These figures are moving targets, which change on a daily basis as more delivery occurs.
The point was made that the use of water tanks and tankers is not seen as the ultimate solution to the issues of water availability and services. As such going forward a number of solutions have to be considered.
- Ensuring that all tanks are transferred as assets to the responsible Water Services Authority.
- Jointly developing a sustainable operations strategy for each system; with the objective of reducing tanker-hauling dependence, e.g. Ground-water exploration, Water main Connections, etc. by the DWS, SALGA & CoGTA.
- Converting water tanks into a rudimentary water supply scheme to enhance accessibility.
- Rendering support to the Department of Basic Education with water supply projects in vulnerable communities.
With regard to sanitation, the DWS is in the process of procuring containerised or clustered ablution facilities which will serve as interim sanitation services (especially for high risk densely populated informal settlements).
“The DWS seeks to connect to existing municipal water services where possible or to design/construct temporary collection where so required There needs to be a Review of Standards for Basic Water Supply and adopt an interim rudimentary standard to allow for acceleration towards addressing the backlog,” it said.
Other recommendations include:
- Review the Grant Funding model to allow for more efficient and effective water and sanitation infrastructure implementation.
- Improve coordination and functionality of command structures across the three spheres of government, to ensure monitoring, reporting and targeted implementation. –SAnews.gov.za