MPs fume over water dept's leaking billions

2017-05-31 17:57
Themba Godi is chair of Scopa. (Netwerk24)

Themba Godi is chair of Scopa. (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Members of Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) were on Wednesday deeply disturbed by the department of water and sanitation's inability to provide details for the irregular spending of R2.5bn in the 2015/2016 financial year.

This angered MPs, who said they had requested further details on the matter at a meeting in November 2016.

However, many of their questions were met with silence.

The committee heard that, out of the 482 incidents of irregular spending, only three employees had been suspended, 22 employees had resigned, 35 got final written warnings, while 84 received written warnings, and five received training or counselling.

The department had also initiated disciplinary inquiries against the remaining 333 employees implicated in the irregular spending.

However, MPs were concerned that the letters furnished to the committee, as proof of action, were dated May 24, 2017, while others were dated May 9.

The MPs saw this as an indication that the department had only took action days ahead of their appearance before the committee, in an attempt to look good. Several members described this as "malicious compliance".

READ: Cash crunch: Water dept scrambles to pay off R1.5bn debt

'Please wake up and answer questions'

African National Congress MP Thapelo Chiloane, who led the inquiry on behalf of the committee, was visibly annoyed.

"I don't want to lament today," said Chiloane. "I'm not even prepared to get frustrated. I want to continue and do work, chairperson, but if I don't get answers, I can't do my work."

Democratic Alliance MP Tim Brauteseth said: "The devil is in the detail. You can't come to Scopa and be light on detail."

The delegation was led by water and sanitation director general Dan Mashitisho, who was appointed only four months ago.

"You're the accounting officer and can go to jail for this, please wake up and answer questions," said Brauteseth to Mashitisho.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said: "Chair, I don't get frustrated very easily, but I find myself travelling at 180km/h to frustration."

The committee considered calling a halt to the meeting, but Brauteseth wanted to continue.

"If it is two hours showing the public how inept the DG is, then let's do it for two hours."

The committee continued, without much satisfaction.

No answers

Mashitisho said it was his first meeting with Scopa, and he didn't know the level of detail required.

After further questions from the committee, he conceded that the department's oversight "was definitely not rigorous".

Mnyamezeli Booi, the ANC's whip in the committee, said: "He's saying it is a learning curve. We're not at school here. We want answers from him, not teach him how to answer questions."

"I feel that I've been disrespected," said Chiloane. "I didn't get a single answer."

Brauteseth said there doesn't seem to be any "consequence management".

"Is this the Waldorf school where everyone gets a prize?" he mocked.

He described the department as a mess and called for an ad hoc committee to be established to investigate the department.

Mashitisho said he was dealing with "these things".

"I have a plan on how to deal with these issues."

Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  anc  |  ifp  |  cape town  |  politics

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