Revive Parliament’s inquiry into Department of Water and Sanitation
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, OUTA has written to the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairpersons of both the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) and the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, asking for a progress update on the parliamentary inquiry that was due to investigate the Department of Water and Sanitation.
The portfolio committees agreed to set up the joint inquiry in early 2018, arising from a committee report in November 2017. The department at the time was led by then Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. By May 2018, the committees were discussing investigating department finances, infrastructure projects, ministerial directives, and the involvement of government officials in doing business with the department, as far back as 2012.
To assist the joint committees with the inquiry, OUTA made its first submission on 23 August 2018.
However, the inquiry appears to have been on hold since then.
OUTA sent a letter to the chairpersons of both committees on 20 November 2019, with no response to date.
In May 2020, OUTA wrote to the Speaker of Parliament and the two committees, calling for the revival of the inquiry. OUTA received only an acknowledgement of receipt from Speaker Thandi Modise but no feedback from the committees. In June, Scopa said the inquiry was still needed.
Also in May, the current Minister Lindiwe Sisulu appointed a legal team to review all fraud and corruption reports in the department. This is encouraging, but to the best of our knowledge, there have been no consequences against wrongdoers or action as a result of this work.
The Minister’s legal review should not end Parliament’s inquiry, as Parliament has a duty to provide oversight. Parliament cannot abandon its duty of oversight and leave it to the same executive office – the Ministry – that created the problems in the first place.
The public inquiry will aid the process of holding to account those who contributed to the financial collapse of the department and its failure to deliver.
“We recommend that the unfinished inquiry enjoys the highest priority among items on the agenda of both committees. The pandemic crisis has exposed systemic shortfalls in general water provision and reticulation despite large appropriations from the fiscus year-on-year. We further recommend that these issues must be accounted for in the impending Budget Review and Recommendations Reporting (BRRR) process of the portfolio committee in question,” says Julius Kleynhans, Executive Manager for the Public Governance Division at OUTA.
OUTA believes that the mismanagement of DWS has had a significant negative impact on the country, especially the most vulnerable and poor. Examples of the many scandals linked to this department are the Lepelle Water Board and the failed Giyani Water Project, the War on Leaks programme, and the Bucket Eradication programme, along with delayed infrastructure (Lesotho Highland Water Project Phase II), deteriorating infrastructure in towns and an increase in sewage flowing into our rivers and streams.
“We have not seen Ms Mokonyane or any other implicated official who served under her being held accountable for any of the failures or controversies that occurred during her tenure. We are very concerned about the lack of oversight and action by Parliament. This institution is constitutionally mandated to hold her and other implicated officials to account,” says Kleynhans.
OUTA’s letter to Parliament on 5 October 2020 is here.
A soundclip with comment from Julius Kleynhans (1 min 20 secs) is here.