By the end of December municipalities had only spent R53m or 9% of their R603m allocation under a dedicated grant for water infrastructure, officials of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry told Parliament on Tuesday.
The lack and decay of water infrastructure has resulted in violent protests around the country over the past few weeks, and in some cases people were killed.
The grant was launched at the beginning of the current municipal financial year in July and while teething problems were expected, department officials did not believe spending would be so unacceptably slow.
Projects included fixing or replacing boreholes.
Urgent intervention necessary
The officials told Parliament’s standing committee on appropriations that urgent intervention had become necessary.
A major part of the problem was lack of technical skills in municipalities to undertake the work and the difficulty of supplying water to informal settlements scattered over vast areas.
The need to address backlogs was enormous. The department estimated that hundreds of billions of rand were needed for infrastructure, upgrades and rehabilitation. Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Edna Molewa said the list of problems such as decaying, dysfunctional and nonexistent infrastructure was “endless” and behind the protests.
Moves were afoot, she said, to implement a proposal in the National Development Plan to create a consolidated water infrastructure agency with its own portfolio of assets to borrow against.
Treasury chief director for urban development and infrastructure Marissa Moore said the department supported this idea.
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had by the end of December transferred only R296m of the R603m allocation to municipalities, and only R53m, or 18%, had been spent.
But officials said actual expenditure was expected to be higher because more than 50% of the municipal water entities had not submitted reports. The inability of municipalities to utilise the money had prompted the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, and the Treasury to shift some of the projects allocated funds under the grant to a different form of financing. Money would be transferred to the department instead of directly to municipalities.
The shift would give the department more flexibility to stop allocations and reallocate money until the problems were rectified. The department would also be able to choose the most appropriate entity to implement the project.
The department would use its construction unit and water boards to take over nonperforming projects. The worst performers in terms of spending in the six months to end-December were Limpopo, which spent only 15% of the money transferred under the grant, KwaZulu-Natal (13%) and North West (16%). The best performer was the Northern Cape with an expenditure rate of 56%.
By Linda Ensor, Source: BD Live