5 October 2017

South Africa: Water and Sanitation Attending to Auditor General's Concerns

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says processes are underway to address issues flagged by the office of the Auditor General (AG) within the department.

The Minister on Wednesday presented the department's 2016/17 annual report to the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in the National Assembly.

Minister Mokonyane also gave progress on the implementation of some of the department's bulk water and waste infrastructure projects.

As Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is due to table the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement later this month, departments are back in Parliament to table their annual reports for the next few weeks.

"... Work... is being done to deal with capacity building for our own officials. [We will be] dealing with our accruals and reconciliation on a month-to-month basis so that we are able, per quarter, to trace what has been done and what needs to be spent on and how best we can give projections going into the future," the Minister said.

Minister Mokonyane said while the department is working to address several areas of concern, there were instances where objections have been raised with the office of the AG. One of them is fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

"We have objected to this area of the audit from the AG, particularly the statement where it is alluded that a system of control -- which includes proper project management and costing techniques in line with construction norms and standards -- was inadequate and that to this extent, the department's processes to ensure that fruitless and wasteful expenditure is identified and disclosed were inadequate. This is one area where we are objecting to the statement made by the AG," she said.

On irregular expenditure, Minister Mokonyane said the department's views were totally different from those raised by the AG. She said the matter will be taken up to "engage with the AG so that there is consistency based on what was audited in previous year, dating as far back as 2008 up to this financial year". This, the Minister said, has to do with the R750 million in payments that the AG alleges are in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

"On unauthorised expenditure... the department has enhanced capital infrastructure planning projects and it has also been able to reduce emergency intervention projects to a minimal [in compliance with the financial prescripts].

"This is what we are already doing with all new projects and this again is another contradiction between ourselves and the AG, in view of the fact that we are dealing with multi-year projects that are audited differently every year and yet it is a continuation of the work that we are doing," Minister Mokonyane said.

Progress being made on bulk water infrastructure projects

Minister Mokonyane gave an update on some of the projects that the department set out to implement in the current financial year. These include the successful implementation of a desalination plant in Richards Bay.

"On the [various] regional and bulk infrastructure projects, we had 35 large water and waste water services projects. Most of them were completed during the period under review.

"Of the 519 small water and waste water services projects that we implemented under the ... Accelerated Community Infrastructure programme, we were able to complete 31 and the others, because of their nature, are multi-year projects.

"... The department has implemented the desalination plant in Richards Bay, which was also seen as a drought intervention but it is also an investment going into the future."

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