Minister of Water and Sanitation Gugile Nkwinti described the department he has inherited as ‘a mess’. Appearing before the parliamentary oversight committee, he welcomed the inquiry into the financial state of his department.
Nkwinti says he is working hard to fix it. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts previously referred to the department as being the worst transgressor of any government departments, when it came to errant expenditure.
It has been described as a department in a complete state of collapse. A full scale inquiry by Scopa and this committee will soon commence.
“Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water, it’s a basic right in the constitution, and it cannot be compromised. We have no other option but to ensure that that right is fulfilled, so that is what we all have to find ourselves geared toward,” says Committee Chair Lulama Johnson.
The minister says he realises the magnitude of the task he has recently inherited. “I am presenting myself to a committee in honesty to say this is the route I am taking, you’ll see here what we are doing, it’s going to show to you that this is the strategic direction we are taking, to correct all the things that make me so desperate when we look at the department.”
He asked Members of Parliament to help him and his team correct the serious situation they find themselves in.
One areas of concern is the high levels of money owed to the department by municipalities and their financial hole is deepening, as poor infrastructures literally bleed water.
“It’s not revenue water, they aren’t recovering it. We are however charging them, and the water boards are charging them for that water, regardless of whether they recover or not. So those debt levels which we have, we will continue to rise unless we have a very serious intervention at a local government level, to deal with that failing infrastructure,” says Director General Trevor Balzer.
Nkwinti plans to restructure the department. The bulk of senior staff is currently in acting positions, with no support structure to assist them in turning the department around.