15 November 2017

South Africa: Department to Engage On Water Debt Recovery

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation has advised the Department of Water and Sanitation to engage with Cooperative Governance Department (COGTA) and National Treasury to ensure the withholding of owing municipalities' equitable share.

The suggestion was made during a meeting held in Cape Town on Wednesday, where the department, led by department's Acting Director-General Sifiso Mkhize presented the second quarter performance to the committee.

On water debt recovery, particularly with regards to the municipalities, the committee suggested that the department engages both COGTA and National Treasury to ensure the withholding of owing municipalities' equitable share.

"This action would result in a particular municipality signing a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to pay the department the amount owed from the equitable share. The municipality would then stand the chance of forfeiting the share if it defaulted.

"The municipality would also be obliged to prove to COGTA and National Treasury that the said debt had been paid. National Treasury would only then release the balance of the equitable share to the municipality.

"The department was also advised to re-negotiate the terms of the repayment of the Water Trading Entity overdraft, and that it should be over a longer term. It is suggested that this could be one way of releasing some of the funding to continue work on the planned infrastructure projects that stand a chance of either being stopped, or not even started," the department explained in a statement issued following the meeting.

Bucket Eradication Programme

The issue of Bucket Eradication Programme also took centre stage, as it was evident that the March 2018 deadline for completion would be missed, due to lack of funding.

The meeting decided that there needs to be close collaboration with the Department of Human Settlements, in order to ensure that no new bucket toilet systems would arise in any new housing developments.

Department's performance

The department said that the presentation, which included both financials and non-financials, aimed to allow oversight by the committee members on the department's performance against the Annual Performance Plan, as presented to and signed off by Parliament.

"The main issues were for the department to explain how far it was progressing in terms of its achievements on both the main account, currently at 60 percent of achieving its targets, and the water trading entity, currently standing at 75 percent.

"It was also important to explain how the non-achievement gets to be defined, that being un-achieved targets as per impact of a number of influences, including budget cuts, late appointment of service providers, unforeseen technical or geographical impediments, non-payment of department's debt by water service authorities, water users, and even other sister government departments," the department said.

The committee members encouraged the department to do an on-going, preferably quarterly analysis of compliance to the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury prescripts.

This, the committee said, would assist the department to actively see what challenges it faces and timeously attend to them, reducing any possible negative outcomes.

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