Vote 41: Water and Sanitation – MINI PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 14:00 – 16:15

Hon. SA Buthelezi

 

Honourable Chairperson,

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the neglect that our municipalities and other government actors have practiced where access to safe water and sanitation are concerned, particularly for our most vulnerable, such as those living in rural areas. As the pandemic has raged, we have seen an increase in water demand and yet the reality is that water scarcity is a real problem in many provinces. It is also disappointing that as we celebrate 25 years of our progressive Constitution, the right to sufficient and safe water is not a reality for many South Africans. 

At the core of the water problems is the failure to efficiently manage our water resources, as well as the plethora of corrupt officials who divert critical funds for themselves. Further, these corrupt officials continue to pull municipalities further into financial ruin – without consequence. The IFP wants to see more heads roll when public servants are found to be complicit in corrupt conduct that compromises service delivery. 

The IFP wishes to express concern at the Department’s ability to rack up almost R1 billion in irregular expenditure for the 2019/2020 year. According to the Office of the Auditor-General, the bulk of this was due to unjustifiable deviations from normal procurement processes. While this amount is public knowledge, we have yet to see the names of the officials responsible, whether they have faced disciplinary action or whether they continue to hold office and recklessly spend funds meant to go to the South African public.  The IFP demands more visible accountability and sanction for individuals responsible for such gross misconduct. 

Such irregular expenditure results in communities going without water and in some cases, leaving Municipalities to seek private partnerships in order to service their communities. This should be the responsibility of government, yet government is failing. The IFP calls for the Department to strengthen its oversight function by implementing monitoring programmes for drinking water, wastewater and mine water quality, because its function is not just ensuring that water is available, but that water is of a safe quality. 

The IFP is further concerned by the allocation of funds to consultants, business and advisory services, which have increased from R37.3 million in 2020/21, to R65.8 million in 2021/22. Why is the Department spending so much money on outside experts, instead of hiring and using competent Department staff? This is an unfortunate and poorly planned use of resources. 

Further, the IFP remains concerned by the failure to fill critical senior management positions, such as the Director-General and the Chief Financial Officer. How can we expect a functional system when there is a leadership vacuum? The IFP hopes to see these positions filled with expedience, by qualified individuals, not merely cadre deployments. 

Honourable Members, we need to reinforce a high standard of good governance and service-delivery in this sector. Water delivery, above all, needs to be managed by those who are able to be held accountable, so that we may ensure, at minimum, we deliver on basic human and constitutional rights. In conclusion, the IFP is committed to carefully monitoring the performance of this Department and will not hesitate to demand accountability.

Considering all the stated issues, the IFP in general supports the budgetary adjustments.

I thank you.