South Africa 1.6.2017 02:34 pm

Parly calls for probe into water department’s R2.5bn cash crisis

Water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane addresses members of the media during a briefing at the Rand Water offices in Johannesburg, 04 October 2016, announcing further water restrictions to be implemented on Gauteng municipalities due to a strained Vaal River system as a result of low rain fall. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane addresses members of the media during a briefing at the Rand Water offices in Johannesburg, 04 October 2016, announcing further water restrictions to be implemented on Gauteng municipalities due to a strained Vaal River system as a result of low rain fall. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The troubled department has failed to pay contractors for months.

The bankrupt water and sanitation department is deep in the red and has been called to account for millions spent in wasteful expenditure by parliament’s standing committee on public accounts.

In April it was reported how Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s portfolio was slapped on the wrist by Treasury for going bankrupt. The Water Trading Entity (WTE), which falls under the department, was responsible for several high-level projects, including the Lesotho Highlands Water project. It had been bleeding millions and operating at a loss.

Confidential emails, contracts and letters obtained by City Press in February show that there were outstanding invoices amounting to R1.7 billion and the department was facing a R400 million lawsuit for unpaid work while the Giyani emergency project was yet to be completed due to a lack of funds.

A senior National Treasury official said the department had run out of money and this was flagged almost a year ago.

Director-general Dan Mashitisho appeared in parliament where he responded to questions about the department’s cash irregularities. Scopa is also due to call Mokonyane to account.

According to TimesLIVE, the DA’s Tim Brauteseth said he wasn’t impressed with the lack of detail provided by Mashitisho.

“I want to echo that chorus. The devil is in the detail. You can’t come to a Scopa hearing and be light on detail. We want detail. You are the accounting officer – you can go to jail for this. Please wake up DG and answer our questions‚” said Brauteseth.

The EFF also expressed disappointment in Mashitisho’s handling of the department.

“It’s pure‚ pure thieving. People are given written warnings and counselling when they have stolen money‚” said the EFF’s Ntombovuyo Mente.

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