By Thato Mahlangu

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) wants the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to pull up its socks and conclude investigations that relate to fraud and corruption cases.

During a committee meeting held in Parliament on Tuesday 26 May 2020, Scopa’s chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said DWS should have dealt speedily with its investigations into unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure cases, both at the department and the water trading entities.

He said although Scopa had commended the department’s work so far, which includes holding to account officials who are suspected of wrongdoing, it should have concluded a report that has the full names of all implicated officials.

“Scopa plans on interacting with the Public Service Commission with regard to the movements of officials who either faced disciplinary action, resigned, or are dismissed as a result of misconduct, fraud or corruption within the state. This is to eliminate the possibility of hiring such officials in other departments or entities within the public sector,” Hlengwa said.

Getting law enforcement agencies on board

He said a meeting would be organised in the near future with the Special Investigating Unit and other law enforcement agencies to fully understand the progress of the investigations currently taking place in the department.

Hlengwa said a special audit by the office of the Auditor-General (AGSA) should be requested, as this would help the committee to understand how the financial affairs at the Water Board were managed.

According to a statement by Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network, AGSA uncovered a total of R16.5-billion in irregular expenditure in 2019, while the department lost R1.7-billion to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

DWS is quoted in the statement as saying that around 180 cases of less serious misconduct were being handled internally.

“Scopa also intends to schedule a hearing with the department on the basis of its financial statements and annual report. The committee will schedule hearings separately with the various water boards, particularly the ones which have been flagged due to high amounts of irregularity, wasteful and fruitless expenditure such as Amatola and Sedibeng water board among others,” said Hlengwa. This would give the committee enough time to engage on the issues from the water boards.

He said the committee had requested DWS to respond to the questions by this week.

The national lockdown has caused some delays with the finalisation of the reports, the department has claimed.

Water sector corruption at the centre of a report

A report, titled  Money down the Drain: Corruption in South Africa’s water sector, which was released  by Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network highlighted the corruption that takes place within the department, which is made possible by officials who are trusted to guard public resources, including funds.

The report highlights the extent to which corruption continues to rob the most vulnerable of these resources, rendering the government weak and communities disadvantaged.