JOHANNESBURG, November 30 – The Portfolio Committee on Water in Parliament has resolved that threats by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to cut off water supplies to defaulting municipalities are not a viable solution to resolve the matter
Some municipalities and water boards owe DWS substantial amounts of money, in some instances, arrears have accumulated to more than R1 billion.
This week Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane announced that her department intended to cut off supplies to 30 defaulting municipalities that owe her department R10.7 billion.
She said defaulting municipalities would experience water cuts if they failed to settle their debts by 8 December. All other methods of enforcing payment have so far failed, Mokonyane said.
However, the Portfolio Committee on Thursday said it had resolved that alternative solutions must be found and reassured the public that water cuts will not be implemented from 8 December as had been earlier stated by the DWS.
“To this end, the committee has instructed the executive authority of the DWS, the National Treasury and the department of cooperative governance and Traditional Affairs to devise within 14 days a viable plan to solve the longstanding challenge,” said the statement issued by the parliamentary communication services on behalf of the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, Mlungisi Johnson.
Plans presented to the committee indicated the continuing disjuncture between how various departments intend dealing with the challenge.
“The committee realised that the departments have not consulted on how to deal with the matter, hence the different ideas presented. We have, as a result, instructed the executive branch of these departments to meet and give political direction to this impasse,” said Johnson.
“The department of cooperative governance must drive the process towards achieving a cogent plan to resolve this matter. At the centre of the plan must be the good of our people,” said Johnson,
He said the committee considers it unacceptable that 30 municipalities owe the DWS and water boards about R10.7 billion. “The fact that this debt has increased over time without interventions is also alarming,” said Johnson.
Johnson said culture of non-payment by municipalities has a long-term impact on the DWS’s ability to effectively implement its mandate.
“This is concerning in the context of the increase of the equitable share to local government from 3% in 2000/01 financial year to the current 9%. Coupled with this, the ongoing under-spending at municipal level raises questions about the validity of the position that local government is underfunded,” Johnson said.
“It is worrying that the DWS has had to approach a debt collector to recover monies owed to it while there is an Intergovernmental Relations Framework that can be used to deal with the matter effectively.”
He said despite this, the committee has urged the DWS to work with municipalities to avert cutting water to citizens.
“Ultimately, any decision made on this matter must have the best interests of our people at heart,” Johnson said.