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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

SIU authorised to probe water department’s ‘war on leaks’ project

Mokonyane served as Water and Sanitation Minister from 2014 to 2018.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed Proclamation 164 of 2024, authorising the SIU to investigate allegations of serious maladministration in the Department of Water and Sanitation and to recover any financial losses suffered by the State or the department.

“The SIU will investigate the ‘War on Leaks’ project, among others, and the alleged irregular appointments of and payments to Rand Water and the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority for the period 2015 to 2018/2019,” said spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

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The War on Leaks Artisan Training programme was launched by then-president Jacob Zuma in 2015 with the aim of training 15,000 youths to reduce water losses through leaks.

The project was signed in 2015 by then Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane for Rand Water to curb about R7 billion in water leaks across the country.

Mokonyane was Water and Sanitation Minister from 2014 to 2018.

During Phase one of the project 3,000 learners were trained during 2015/2016, during phase two, 5,000 learners were trained during 2016/2017, while in phase three, 7 000 learners were set to be trained during 2017/2018.

The second phase of the War on Leaks project was launched by Mokonyane in Durban in February 2017.

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Briefing the standing committee on public accounts on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s unauthorised expenditure in September last year, the department’s director-general Sean Phillips said: “At that time [2015], the programme was not in the approved business plan for the financial year 2015/16 and was not budgeted for.”

According to Phillips, this led to about R600 million being found to have been irregular expenditure and contributed to the bank overdraft.

Other projects the SIU is set to investigate include the ‘Drop the Block’ Project and the contract entered into between the Department and Sedibeng Water dated 21 April 2016, the ‘Almost Empty Outdoor’ Campaign and the appointment of Sedibeng Water as the implementing agent in an allegedly irregular manner for the provision of generic services in 2016.

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The SIU will also investigate any unauthorised, irregular, fruitless, or wasteful expenditure incurred by the department or the State.

“The scope of the investigation also covers any unlawful or improper conduct by department officials or employees, the applicable suppliers or service providers, or any other person or entity which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public,” said Kganyago.

The investigation will also establish whether there was any unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money.

In addition to investigating maladministration, malpractice, corruption, and fraud, the SIU will identify system failures and make systematic recommendations to improve measures to prevent future losses.

It will then refer any evidence pointing to criminal conduct it uncovers during its investigations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further action.