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Lesotho Water: OUTA holds Minister to account on Gauteng’s water future

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is taking the first steps towards legal action against the government to secure the future of water supply to Gauteng. This arises from OUTA’s report on the situation at the Lesotho Highland Water Project Phase Two (LHWP II), which exposes maladministration in the project

The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, has jeopardised the water security for Gauteng by delaying the development of the LHWP II for more than two years, costing South African taxpayers about R2 billion more, while she tried to ensure that her preferred service providers got their cuts of this R25 billion project.

“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,” says 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’s plan to address this issue includes:

  1. We are building a legal case to hold the minister accountable as the custodian and regulator of water due to her maladministration, and to hold her accountable for her delays to the LHWP II;
  2. We’ve served the minister with a legal letter of demand, requesting the following:
  • The reinstatement of the board of the Lesotho Highland Development Authority (LHDA) to replace the current interim board;
  • The reinstatement of the technical sub-committee which must be fully functional;
  • The use of the expertise and skills in the project management unit;
  • The payment of all the fines arising from the Lesotho Highland Water Project Phase I (LHWP I) corruption trials;
  • Enforcement of the LHDA anti-corruption policy;
  • Confirmation that no business is done with those found guilty of corruption in LHWP I; and
  • An explanation of exactly how much LHWP II will cost South African taxpayers, who pays for the water received and what these tariffs will be.

OUTA’s report lists key concerns on the LHWP II report:

  1. Some of the delays were caused when the LHDA was without a board and technical sub-committee, some by political interference in the procurement. The current interim arrangements are of a stop-gap nature and stability in the institutional structures is urgently needed. The new board and technical sub-committee must have the necessary technical skills and expertise for a major international project as clearly stipulated in the protocols and agreement.
  2. The critical engineering design contract for the Polihali Transfer Tunnel has not been awarded; fortunately the Pholihali Dam design was awarded in June 2017 to what seems like a credible engineering firm.
  3. The lack of an independent water and economic regulator for water pricing in South Africa means that there is no independent regulation of water tariffs. It is unclear and a great concern how the LHWP II tariffs will be controlled and regulated.
  4. As the programme on the LHDA website is outdated, the Minister of Water and Sanitation should provide a detailed programme on LHWP II and explain the delays. She must also re-establish the Strategy Steering Committee to discuss openly the current status of the Vaal River System and report on progress on implementing the recommendations listed in her department’s planning documents. Civil society organisations must participate in this strategy steering committee.
  5. The lessons from the corruption trials that followed LHWP I were well taken on board in the international agreement and protocols. The minister must give a firm undertaking that she and her representatives on the different LHWP structures are committed to upholding the stipulations in Protocol VI and the Anti-Corruption Policy.
  6. The media reported on a certain individual now surfacing in an important position in the LHWP institutions despite having been convicted of corruption arising from LHWP I. The minister should clarify this situation and why it doesn’t contravention of the anti-corruption policy.

OUTA is also concerned about the minister’s track record in procurement and management.

“OUTA embraces transformation and agrees that previously disadvantaged people need to benefit from new developments and Gauteng needs sufficient water to ensure new and sustainable opportunities to assist in transformation. Delaying water supply for personal gain has detrimental effects on equality,” says Kleynhans.

In the meantime, OUTA urges residents and businesses in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane to cut back on water use and proactively adapt to dry seasons ahead.

OUTA is a proudly South African non-profit civil action organisation, crowd-funded and supported by ordinary South Africans who are passionate about improving the country by holding government accountable and ensuring that taxes are used efficiently.

Please see supporting documentation in the grey block.

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