Water boards battling to stay afloat blame department
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s department has failed to pay overdue funds to some of its water boards, leading to these boards being taken to court by unpaid service providers.
Documents seen by City Press show that the Bloem Water and Sedibeng Water boards are owed a combined figure of more than R1 billion by both the department of water and sanitation and various municipalities.
The water and sanitation portfolio committee in the National Assembly has expressed concern over the matter.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee Lulu Johnson told City Press that the “there’s a serious need to address this situation before the water boards collapse. We can’t allow this situation to happen. People must account, including the minister and the accounting officer [director-general Dan Mashitisho].” Rembuluwani Takalani, CEO of Sedibeng Water, confirmed to the City Press that Bloem Water and Sedibeng were owed R1 billion by the department and municipalities.
Takalani said service providers had sent summonses to the water boards demanding payment. He also confirmed that some had been picketing, demanding to be paid. “Indeed we are facing serious financial challenges. However, we have met with the service providers and negotiated and pleaded with them not to take us to court. We met with the department and it was agreed that this matter will be handled by them,” Takalani added.
In other documents seen by City Press, service providers have sent legal letters to Lepelle Northern Water in Polokwane with summonses for nonpayment of more than R250 million.
The aggrieved service providers took the matter to the Limpopo and North Gauteng high courts. Some summonses date back to April this year. The service providers, who don’t want to be identified for fear of being targeted, state in the papers: “We demand what is due to us. These self-orchestrated problems by the department are crippling our businesses. This is poor financial management.”
CEO of Lepelle Northern Water Phineas Legodi said he was aware of the matter but preferred not to comment.
Minister Mokonyane refused to comment when pressed for comment by City Press.
However director-general Mashitisho said: “The department has not refused to pay any service providers who have done work under its auspices.
“Various factors may cause payment delays, eg, verification of work done, that is, the extent to which work was done according to specifications or bill of quantities; disputes relating to invoices or other prevailing financial circumstances.”
Mashitisho claimed that the CEOs of the water boards had not informed him, the department or the minister about any summonses against them.
He added, however: “As far as we know, most water boards are experiencing financial challenges because municipalities are not paying for bulk water services rendered to them by the boards.
“For example, the Mangaung metro owes Bloem Water approximately R300 million while Machabeng municipality owes Sedibeng Water more than R1 billion. The department is working with the boards and the relevant municipalities as well as the SA Local Government Association and the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to remedy the situation.”
Mashitisho insisted that more than 95% of the department’s service providers were paid in time in accordance with government policy.
“Minister Mokonyane is aware of the developments as outlined,” he said.