Amid cash constraints, financial mismanagement and investigations into dubious tenders, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she is not aware of any instability in some of the country’s beleaguered water boards.
Sisulu has revealed three water boards, Sedibeng Water, Amatola Water and Umgeni Water, were dissolved during the current financial year.
The details were contained in her response to a written parliamentary question from EFF MP Mathibe Rebecca Mohlala, who wanted details on the state of affairs at the water authorities.
“The process of appointing the boards for these water entities is currently underway. I am not aware of any instability in the water boards,” she said.
Sisulu’s department has, however, stepped in at the three water boards where corruption and mismanagement have been rife.
In November last year, Sisulu announced a R600 million lifeline for distressed water boards to stay afloat amid cash shortages compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The department had also not imposed an increase on bulk water charges imposed on all water boards for the 2020-2021 financial year.
This was done to lessen the financial burden on hard-hit consumers.
One of the hardest hit water boards, in respect of instability and cash shortages, is the Amathole Water Board in the Eastern Cape.
It’s owed R173 million by the Amathole District Municipality.
Last week, the municipality announced that it would not pay salaries to 1 670 workers, including councillors and traditional leaders, due to strained financial resources.
It has also been revealed that the municipality hired more than 900 people who were not needed from 2013 to 2018, resulting in a bloated organogram and unaffordable salary bill.
Of those, 500 were hired in a single month in 2013 in what the municipality termed mass employment.
In October, Umgeni Water CEO Thamsanqa Hlongwa resigned with immediate effect.
No reason was given for Hlongwa’s sudden resignation, who was appointed in 2017.
In November, City Press reported that newly appointed board chairperson Magasela Mzobi took several steps to turn around the KwaZulu-Natal based water board.
Following a string of tender-related litigations, the water authority commissioned a forensic investigation into its supply chain management.
Employees were also subjected to lifestyle audits.
President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised an investigation into the Umgeni Water board for possible “unauthorised, irregular, fruitless or wasteful expenditure” pertaining to various matters.
Sisulu, meanwhile, said the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) investigation into the various boards is not a duplication of the probe advocate Terry Motau is leading into fraud and corruption in the water boards.
“The terms of reference for the person referred to are specific and indicate that those cases investigated by the SIU will not be included in his scope of work,” she said.