Water dept leaking senior staff as Nkwinti tightens the tap on probes into corruption

The embattled Department of Water and Sanitation is suffering from a leadership crisis as many officials in top posts have either been suspended or have "run away" from probes into corruption, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti said.

"We have no director general, no chief financial officer, no financial manager. Others left too. As soon as they were held to account, they ran away. And we have two deputy directors general facing disciplinary action," he said.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit to probe suspected corruption in the department and the private sector in the awarding of tenders.

"But we're going to get things right," vowed the minister on Wednesday. "We've got some very good chief directors, some excellent young professionals. But with human beings, you can't turn them around in 24 hours. You've got to be patient."

Nkwinti spoke to News24 after attending a portfolio committee meeting where a University of Johannesburg economist, Dr Washington Nyabele, made a presentation on the implications of the medium-term budget policy on the water and sanitation department.

Nyabele told the committee the department was facing a serious dilemma.

"We are going nowhere slowly."

Appointment of advisory committee recommended

Nyabele said when he compared the department's targets with the medium-term budget he "almost got a heart attack, and high blood pressure because I saw things are not where they should be".

The first of six recommendations Nyabele made to the committee and the minister was that immediate steps be taken to plug the leadership gaps in the ailing department.

"This is critical and a matter of urgency," he said.

Without leadership, the department was rudderless and was going nowhere.

Another important recommendation was that the minister appoints, as a matter of urgency, a National Water Advisory Committee.

This committee, appointed in terms of the Water Act, is comprised of people from civil society, the business sector, academia and water experts who hold three-year appointments during which time they provide advice to the minister.

Billions in wasteful expenditure

"We need to have the best team sitting with the minister and use it for planning and strategic thinking. We need a core group, dedicated, and then we can move," Nyabele said.

The previous committee dissolved under the former minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Mokonyane was removed from her post by President Ramaphosa in February and replaced by Nkwinti.

Nkwinti has admitted to Parliament that the department he inherited was "a mess" and was struggling to cope.

Wasteful expenditure had risen to between R6bn and R8bn under Mokonyane.

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