The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) expressed concern over the reshuffling of former Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane to the Ministry of Communications
SCOPA chairperson Themba Godi has called for a full parliamentary inquiry and for criminal charges to be opened against Mokonyane’s former ministry. Godi said the Department of Water and Sanitation suffered a complete collapse under Mokonyane.
“It is worrying that she is now a Minister of Communications at a time when the South African Broadcasting Corporation is recovering.”
Reminiscent of former president Jacob Zuma’s late-night Cabinet change announcements, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle, just after 22:00, announced the ousting of 10 ministers.
SCOPA voiced concern over the instability and financial mismanagement at the Water and Sanitation Department, especially as South Africa is a water-stressed country.
“This department has a long history of instability and financial mismanagement, and SCOPA has resolved to open a criminal case against the department because of the R2,9bn overdraft that the department took with the [SA] Reserve Bank. The committee has also resolved to engage with the national Treasury on the overdraft,” Godi said in a statement.
Legal action over water project
In November last year at least 30 municipalities were warned about water cuts if they failed to pay their debt. Combined, the municipalities owe just under R7bn to the department’s Water Trading Entity and various provincial water boards.
The debt risks ballooning by another R1.5bn if there is no immediate intervention.
With Day Zero looming in Cape Town, DA leaders Mmusi Maimane and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille have previously said the responsibility for bulk water supply lay with the water and sanitation ministry. At the time Mokonyane called Maimane out for “politicking”.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) took legal action against the Department of Water and Sanitation following the delay of a major water project.
According to OUTA, there were instances of serious maladministration arising from the Lesotho Highland Water Project Phase Two (LHWP II).
They also alleged that Mokonyane tried to ensure that her preferred service providers “got their cuts” of the R25bn project, News24 reported.
Call for minister to be held accountable
“This project was supposed to provide water to Gauteng next year, yet it hasn’t started and now it’s estimated that the project will not supply any water before 2025,” said Julius Kleynhans, portfolio director for water at OUTA.
“The minister has failed in her duty to proactively ensure water supply to the region and she continues to fail. We the citizens must hold the minister accountable.”
OUTA said it was also concerned with Mokonyane’s track record in procurement and management.
Godi said SCOPA had scheduled a hearing on Tuesday morning with the department on irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“The committee had to cut the hearing short due to the failure of the department’s officials to respond to the questions posed by committee members. The department was appearing before SCOPA for the third time after failing to respond to questions at two previous hearings,” it said.