Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has said that her department is being cleaned up as corruption is being rooted out, fraud is being tackled and consequence management is being affected.
Sisulu was on Thursday tabling the 2020/21 budget vote speech for the department in a virtual National Assembly.
The minister said when she took over the portfolio over a year ago she found that the department no longer enjoyed the confidence of the people it serves due to corruption, adding that she was told that she had inherited a bankrupt department “with problems accumulated over many years”.
She said the parliament portfolio committee had tasked her with sorting out the department and its finances, adding that her time in the portfolio has been dedicated to doing “just that”.
The minister said the department has heeded the call by parliamentarians that corruption should be rooted out.
Sisulu said the acting director-general (DG) Mbulelo Tshangana was directed to establish a stabilisation committee which is tasked with stabilising the department. She added that the said committee constitutes a disciplinary unit.
To date, the unit has dealt with 166 cases emanating from the Auditor-General’s (AG’s) reports over many years, which are at an advanced stage and where necessary, disciplinary action will be taken against officials in accordance with the recommendations made by the AG, Sisulu said.
Sisulu said 97 officials have been found guilty, with 16 of them found not guilty, while 24 officials have resigned.
She said the stabilisation committee has worked well to ensure that work within the department is not disrupted as disciplinary action continues.
Investigations are under way at Lepelle Northern Water in Limpopo, Amatola Water in Eastern Cape and Sedibeng Water in Gauteng, the minister said.
The chief executives at Lepelle and Amatola have been placed on suspension, served with charges and the dates of their disciplinary hearings are expected to be set in August, the minister said.
She added that civil and criminal charges will be brought against the two CEOs and those “termed the corruptors”.
Law enforcement agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority and the public protector, have been roped in to deal with the issues at the two water boards, with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) continuing its probe at Lepelle, Sisulu said, adding that both water boards have been placed under administration to ensure their stability.
Sisulu said the SIU and the Hawks and the entire justice system will assist the department in finding closure in these matters, and to send out a message to all officials that corruption will not be tolerated.
She said the AG has repeatedly complained about the department’s lack of consequence management and gave the assurance that this was now being done and that she hopes such action will filter to the department’s service providers.
Sisulu sent a message to the public that “we are cleaning up the department” because this was key for investor confidence.
The minister said she was informed about the irregular and wasteful expenditure amounting to R16 billion, which was revised up to R31 billion.
Sisulu also expressed her concerns at the financial viability of some of the water boards across the country and urged municipalities to pay for the water they are provided by these water boards.
The minister said the R10 billion debt that municipalities have towards water boards could lead to some of these entities ceasing operations if it is not attended to. These water boards include Lepelle, Amatola, Sedibeng and Bloem, she added.