Suspensions at water affairs just the tip of the iceberg – DA

2010-11-02 15:01

Problems in the Department of Water Affairs run deeper than originally thought, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said after today’s suspension of two senior officials from the department.

“When one considers that the director-general was placed on special leave pending an investigation into alleged financial irregularities in July 2009, and remains on special leave to this day, one wonders what is left among senior management to run one of the country’s most important departments,” said the DA’s Gareth Morgan.

“There is a need to bring stability and the new minister (Edna Molewa) will need to reassure the public that she has matters under control and that there are contingency plans to ensure the department’s daily functions are not compromised.”

Earlier today, the department’s spokesperson, Mava Scott, confirmed that the chief financial officer Onesmus Ayaya and the deputy director-general for corporate services, Nobubele Ngele, had been placed on precautionary suspension pending an investigation into allegations of irregular procurement practices.

Ngele was also the acting director-general.

In May this year, the office of the auditor-general completed an investigation and published a report in which certain officials, including the two, were implicated in several alleged breaches of procurement procedures.

However, Scott could not disclose how many other officials were involved or the value of the alleged breaches.

The two have also been implicated in a Public Service Commission investigation into other allegations of procurement malpractice.

He said: “Given the seriousness of the allegations arising from both processes, the department has thought it prudent to put them on precautionary suspension pending due process in this regard.”

Meanwhile, Morgan said the report by the auditor-general painted a damning picture of more than R1 billion worth of irregular expenditure from, among other things, the irregular extension of contracts, deviation from procurement policies and the paying of service providers without contracts being in place.

He said it was difficult to see how these latest suspensions would not have an adverse effect on operations at the department.

“To make matters worse, there is a new minister who has no experience in water governance. Minister Molewa has walked into her new office and the officials she would normally rely on to bring her up to speed on the major governance challenges in the department have all been suspended.

“Considering the severe challenges that South Africa faces in the water sector – including failing infrastructure, the worsening state of health of rivers and dams, and poor compliance and enforcement by the department – we can ill-afford for scarce public funds to be wasted,” said Morgan.

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