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Water department justifies its irregular expenditure

Nomvula Mokonyane

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

“The worst drought in decades” is the reason for the Department of Water and Sanitation’s R2,4 billion irregular expenditure for the 2015/2016 financial year.

This is according to the department which said that the drought “necessitated a humanitarian response” to support communities in distress.

The department recently came under fire for its irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in Parliament.

A main contributor to its irregular expenditure was an “emergency” project incurred by the Lepelle Northern Water Board, the department’s minister Nomvula Mokonyane said earlier this month.

The project dealt with the roll out of water infrastructure in Limpopo‘s Mopani district.

The department said that South Africa’s current drought “led to public funds being re-directed from certain projects towards emergency drought interventions, and the irregular expenditure as a result”.

Other expenses that ballooned its irregular expenditure included:

  • More water had to be released from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project
  • High capacity, motorised and mobile water tankers were rolled out nationally to provide basic water for household consumption and pollution
  • The Vaal River system was upgraded and maintenance support provided to municipalities in attempts to fix waste water treatment works
  • The Mopani Water Intervention project which saw the construction of pipelines, the refurbishment of boreholes, the upgrading of the existing waste water treatment works and the construction of new ones
  • The revitalisation of 154 boreholes in the Mopani Water Intervention project

“These and many other emergency interventions have led to an increase in irregular expenditure totalling R1.3 billion,” the department said in a statement.

It added that the public could be “assured that while public funds were re-directed to support drought interventions, these funds were not in any way misappropriated or lost through corrupt activities”.

The department’s irregular expenditure increased from R781 million in 2014/15 to a total of R2,4 billion in 2015/16.

MPs also requested a forensic investigation into the department’s most recent irregular expenditure after the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) noted the payment of millions of rand to contractors without invoices.

The department is currently doing an internal audit of 264 staff members, dating back to 2009, for financial misconduct. “The Committee has requested a detailed report of those investigations by the end of December 2016,” SCOPA said.

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