Sisulu sounds alarm of debt crisis at SA's water boards

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Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24
  • South Africa’s municipalities owe water boards over R10 billion.
  • Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says the non-payments threatens the sustainability of water boards.
  • Sisulu has also vowed to tackle corruption in her department.

Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has revealed debt owed to the country’s water boards by municipalities now stands at more than R10 billion.

Most of the debt arise from bulk potable water supply services to municipalities and mainly applies to the water boards of Sedibeng, Bloem, Amatola in the Eastern Cape and Lepelle in Limpopo, she said.

“I remain very concerned about the financial viability of most water boards. There is a fundamental problem around financing for our local government system that must be addressed.  We need to ensure that municipalities pay for the bulk water provided to them so that the water boards can continue to operate within a sustainable environment and continue to increase the provision of water,” Sisulu said.

She presented the Water and Sanitation adjusted budget speech during a mini-plenary in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Sisulu said non-payments would see some water boards ceasing to operate.

READ| Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation dept lays criminal charges against former board CEOs

Sisulu said when she took office in 2019, irregular and wasteful expenditure amounted to R16 billion.

“This amount was revised upwards to an amount of R31 billion. I have ordered investigations into these matters. Here the stabilisation committee served well to ensure that as we proceed with disciplinary cases, the work of the department continues. The Committee is taking disciplinary action against officials who are implicated in Forensic Investigation Reports as per the recommendations that were made in those reports,” Sisulu said.

More with less

Following disciplinary action, 97 officials were found guilty, 16 officials were not found guilty and 24 officials resigned, Sisulu said.

Touching on her department’s adjusted allocation budget, Sisulu said more will have to be done with less.

“This budget is compiled under difficult Covid-19 conditions with significant constraints and revenue pressures resultant from the increasing municipal water sales debt. An amount of R1.755 billion was taken away from the original budget allocation of R17.216 billion by National Treasury. An amount of R1.498 billion was received back resulting in revised allocation of R16.959 billion. This R1.498 billion is reprioritised within the vote to further support the Covid-19 water and sanitation intervention projects,” she said.

Sisulu also said an amount of R257 million has been suspended from the department’s allocations to support the Covid-19 macro-economic stimulus response.

She said the R257 million current payments comprises of R50 million under expenditure resultant from vacant posts across all four programmes, R214 million of goods and services as well as increase in payments for capital assets of R7 million.

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