Du­bi­ous ten­ders risk SA’s wa­ter se­cu­rity

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Writer

Ten­der cor­rup­tion in mega projects for the con­struc­tion of wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture is putting the na­tion’s wa­ter se­cu­rity at risk, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said on Mon­day.

Ten­der cor­rup­tion in megapro­jects for wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture is putting the na­tion’s wa­ter se­cu­rity at risk, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said on Mon­day.

Wa­ter scarcity is in the spot­light af­ter a decade-long drought and dwin­dling fresh­wa­ter sup­plies. Ef­forts to im­prove pro­vi­sion have been ham­pered by cor­rup­tion in govern­ment, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and wa­ter boards.

In his medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment (MTBPS) in par­lia­ment in 2018, fi­nance min­is­ter Tito Mboweni de­cried the state of the wa­ter in­dus­try.

“The Giyani wa­ter project is ... a cesspool of cor­rup­tion,” he said, re­fer­ring to the botched Lim­popo-based project, which is plagued by fi­nan­cial woes and al­le­ga­tions of poor man­age­ment. Ini­ti­ated in 2014, it was to sup­ply 55 vil­lages with wa­ter, but has faced chal­lenges such as dis­re­gard for sup­ply-chain rules to poor con­tract man­age­ment, caus­ing ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture.

Mboweni also asked the SA Na­tional De­fence Force (SANDF) to help solve the wa­ter cri­sis in the Vaal River. Parts of the river had be­come pol­luted by raw sewage, and the govern­ment is blam­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“Mis­man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources and cor­rup­tion in the wa­ter sec­tor has in no small part con­trib­uted to the sit­u­a­tion we cur­rently face,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly pres­i­dent’s let­ter on Mon­day.

“Se­ri­ous ac­count­abil­ity and gov­er­nance is­sues per­sist, whether it is in the build­ing of in­fra­struc­ture or at a mu­nic­i­pal level, where wa­ter losses are mount­ing as a re­sult of billing er­rors, unau­tho­rised usage and out­right theft.”

Ramaphosa warned of crim­i­nal reper­cus­sions for those found guilty of these of­fences.

A week ago, the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) raided Le­pelle Northern Wa­ter over al­leged cor­rup­tion at the Giyani Wa­ter Project. Ramaphosa said: “The amount al­legedly in­volved

R2bn is stag­ger­ing, but un­for­tu­nately symp­to­matic of wide-scale ten­der cor­rup­tion in these megapro­jects.”

“This is putting the en­tire na­tion’s wa­ter se­cu­rity at risk, and the on­go­ing SIU probes into ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in these projects will con­tinue. As will the work of the Hawks’ na­tional clean au­dit task team prob­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, where cor­rup­tion in the pro­vi­sion of tanker­ing ser­vices has fre­quently been al­leged.

“Ac­count­abil­ity will be en­forced as part of restor­ing in­tegrity to the sec­tor.”

Ramaphosa urged house­holds to use wa­ter more spar­ingly and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to in­vest in wa­ter re­cy­cling tech­nolo­gies.

To deal with con­cerns that eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is be­ing held back by drought, poor wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture and de­lays in ob­tain­ing wa­ter-use li­cences, Ramaphosa said the govern­ment had di­rected the wa­ter per­mit of­fice to re­duce the wait­ing time for wa­ter li­cences. “Sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made. The wait­ing pe­riod has been re­duced quite dra­mat­i­cally.”

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are in­stalling bulk me­ters at reser­voirs, re­pair­ing leaks and burst pipes, throt­tling wa­ter out­lets at night to re­plen­ish reser­voir sup­plies and up­grad­ing ex­ist­ing wa­ter treat­ment works.

To en­sure SA’s fu­ture wa­ter se­cu­rity, the coun­try would need fund­ing of at least R126bn for in­fra­struc­ture, he said.

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