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Financial recovery plan at water dept must be urgently implemented, says committee

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Parliament’s human settlements, water and sanitation portfolio committee has urged the water and sanitation department to urgently implement key deliverables of the financial recovery plan of the department.

“The key pillar of the plan is strengthening governance and compliance, as well as consequence management within the department,” committee chairperson Machwene Semenya said in a statement on Sunday.

The department had provided a detailed plan on how it planned to deal with the R1.6-billion in accruals that had been “a yoke on the department’s neck for a while now”, she said.

This included the department being used as a pilot project for the implementation of the Public Audit Amendment Act, consequence management, and condonation applications with the National Treasury.

“The committee welcomes the commitment, openness, and ideas on how the department aims to deal with the issue of the accruals. We have hope that this matter will be resolved in the short- and medium-term,” Semenya said.

“While the committee is cognisant of the fact that the servicing of the accruals will have an impact on the implementation of new projects, it is of the view that these accruals must be resolved. After resolving the current accruals, the department must ensure that its systems are strengthened to ensure that it doesn’t find itself facing the same challenges again. The committee has resolved that the issue of the accruals will be a standing item on its programme, where the department will report on an ongoing basis progress in servicing the accruals.

“The committee remains concerned about the debt levels within the water sector as it has a direct downstream and upstream impact. It is unsustainable that at the end of 30 June 2019, water sales debt amounted to R14.824 billion, which represents an average increase of two percent from March 2019.

“There is an urgent need to the address non-payment of water by municipalities which impact on the water boards’ ability to pay the department. While we acknowledge interventions by the department, the committee is of the view that this matter must be resolved at cabinet level,” said Semenya.

On consequence management, the committee welcomed the dismissal of 13 officials, the resignation of 23 officials, 19 final written warnings, and 34 final written warning letters issued. The committee remained adamant that everyone found to be guilty had to be subjected to the law, she said.

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