|The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) is perturbed by the announcement made by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Makonyane, that her department has given 30 municipalities who have failed to honour outstanding water bills notice demanding that they pay their share of R10,7 billion debt owed to the Department. Failure to pay monies owing will result in the water supply of affected municipalities cut off as soon as December 2017.
In a media briefing Minister Makonyane said that her department must have revenue coming in in order to provide water. She further stated that the department and its subsidiaries had faced nearly R9-billion in budget cuts this financial year. While one cannot dispute that the department is undergoing financial challenges and the importance of revenue in providing service, we do however pause to state that water is central to development and it is a basic service which the department must provide to the people of South Africa. The people’s physical survival is also dependent on water. Beyond this, limited amounts are needed for basic personal hygiene and household use. The cut in supply of water will have catastrophic consequences for end users.
Basic services are an essential human right and legislation places the responsibility of providing water to the people on the National and Provincial Government. Because of this the Minister has an oversight role in the provision of water. Looking at the amounts owed to the department it is clear that the oversight role has not been performed accordingly.
According to the Auditor – General’s performance audit on water infrastructure at the Department of Water and Sanitation dated November 2016, some of the financial problems faced by the Department of water and Sanitation are due to the incompetency/ inefficiency and skills gap within the department. The Auditor-general identifies, amongst other factors, lack of coordination between role players to ensure timeous service delivery, inability to effectively fund projects, lack of effective value chain-oriented projects planning, outstanding land purchase not finalized and lack of financial capacity at the district municipality as the cause of extensive delays in realisation of water delivery to the community and increase in project budgets. The decision to cut water supplies for certain municipalities shows the minister’s failure in dealing with poor performers in her department and is punishing the citizens, some of whom have paid their accounts.
We call on the Minister to review her decision and rather put systems in place that will ensure recovery of the outstanding amounts by the municipalities and to take decisive and corrective steps within her department to deal with its incompetency.
Overall responsibility for and authority over water resource management including the equitable allocation and beneficial use falls under the oversight of the Minister, we therefore further call upon the minister and all role players to assist municipalities improve revenue collection and cash flow management, conduct data cleansing for customers on the billing module to ensure credibility and collectability and to ensure that water reaches the end users. We call upon municipalities to also come to the party and ensure that they do their best to ensure continuous water supply to members of their communities and to take remedial steps against senior management who are simply not performing.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA