Wa­ter board awash with prob­lems

The min­is­ter has been in a year-long spat with the board of a key, but flail­ing, wa­ter au­thor­ity

Mail & Guardian - - News - Athandiwe Saba

Wa­ter Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane is at log­ger­heads with the state-owned bulk wa­ter sup­plier, the Trans-Cale­don Tun­nel Au­thor­ity (TCTA).The min­is­ter is de­mand­ing an­swers to why the en­tity has no chief ex­ec­u­tive and is not im­ple­ment­ing the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan.

The squab­ble be­tween the au­thor­ity’s board and Mokonyane has been go­ing on since last year. Numerous meet­ings have been can­celled and the trea­sury will now be brought in.

Last week Mokonyane wrote a let­ter to the board, de­mand­ing to know why the au­thor­ity has still not ap­pointed a per­ma­nent chief ex­ec­u­tive close to a year later.

She also asked how the board had taken key de­ci­sions with­out in­form­ing her — in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of a law firm to in­ves­ti­gate the former chief ex­ec­u­tive, James Ndlovu, and other of­fi­cials, and how oth­ers were sus­pended with­out her knowl­edge.

The board had seven days to re­spond, which it has not done.

“The term of of­fice of the former chief ex­ec­u­tive ex­pired at the end of Oc­to­ber 2016. A pe­riod of 10 months has elapsed, with­out any rea­son­able steps taken by the board to ap­point a per­ma­nent chief ex­ec­u­tive. De­spite the un­der­tak­ing made at the meet­ing held on July 21 2017, be­tween my­self and the board … still no rea­son­able steps are be­ing un­der­taken to fill the po­si­tion,” reads the let­ter.

The TCTA is one of the most im­por­tant wa­ter au­thor­i­ties in the depart­ment, as it was es­tab­lished to work with the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment to sup­ply much-needed wa­ter in Gaut­eng and sur­round­ing ar­eas from the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project.

But the min­is­ter’s spat with the TCTA won’t di­rectly af­fect this multi­bil­lion-rand project, she said in an in­ter­view with the Mail & Guardian.

“My big­gest worry is the day-to­day run­ning of such an im­por­tant or­gan­i­sa­tion, which doesn’t have a per­ma­nent chief ex­ec­u­tive,” said Mokonyane.

“I have called numerous meet­ings with the board and it’s ei­ther that the chair­per­son is not avail­able, or the board has no idea what is go­ing on.”

The min­is­ter said she is con­cerned the board is not tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the op­er­a­tional is­sues of the TCTA.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, the min­is­ter also wanted to know how law firm ENSafrica was hired to in­ves­ti­gate ir­reg­u­lar ap­point­ments.

“My of­fice re­ceived a let­ter from one Mr Mh­longo, per­tain­ing to the al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar ap­point­ment of ENS. A let­ter was writ­ten to you to re­spond within the time­lines set out in the let­ter, how­ever, to date no re­sponse has been re­ceived. I con­sider the afore­said fail­ures by the board in a very se­ri­ous light, as they ad­versely com­pro­mise the cred­i­bil­ity and in­tegrity of [the] TCTA,” the let­ter states.

It is un­der­stood that the board hired ENSafrica ear­lier this year to pro­vide a le­gal opin­ion on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion — by ad­vi­sory ser­vices firm EY — into ir­reg­u­lar ap­point­ments, pro­mo­tions and salary in­creases of cer­tain of­fi­cials at the TCTA.

The ENSafrica in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that Ndlovu had ir­reg­u­larly ap­pointed a num­ber of se­nior man­agers with­out go­ing through the board and had also ir­reg­u­larly awarded a ten­der.

“On the face of it, there seems to be enough in­di­ca­tion to jus­tify that Mr Ndlovu be re­ported to the South African Po­lice Ser­vices for fraud,” reads the ENSafrica re­port.

Ndlovu stepped down in Novem­ber last year be­fore the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which Mokonyane said she had no idea about.

Mean­while the board is al­legedly also re­fus­ing to tell Mokonyane why it had not par­tic­i­pated in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion In­fra­struc­ture Agency (Nawa­sia), which forms part of the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan.

“The depart­ment has an obli­ga­tion to im­ple­ment the es­tab­lish­ment of the Nawa­sia. De­spite the var­i­ous re­quests made by the depart­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion to the TCTA to par­tic­i­pate in the process of es­tab­lish­ing Nawa­sia, no re­sponse has been re­ceived,” the let­ter reads.

Mokonyane said the board is fail­ing to ful­fil its role. “With the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges we are fac­ing right now in the depart­ment and the wa­ter boards, we can’t af­ford to have a board that is work­ing like this.”

The board ac­knowl­edged re­ceipt of the let­ter but said it would first like to re­spond to the min­is­ter be­fore an­swer­ing the M&G’s ques­tions.

Im­passe: The Lit­tle Cale­don by­pass (above) runs wa­ter into Gaut­eng. In 2009, James Ndlovu (left) at­tested to the wa­ter board’s sound­ness. Pho­tos: Del­wyn Verasamy and Deaan Vivier/ Gallo Images/Foto24

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