Water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu says there is no need for improper expenditure and negative audit outcomes when the ministry and senior officials are employed full-time.
Though they may not be directly involved in procurement processes, Mchunu said they ought to play an oversight role.
He made the remarks before his oversight portfolio committee on Tuesday after briefing MPs on action taken against corruption and mismanagement investigated by the SIU.
“We take the view that there is no need for irregular or wasteful, fruitless expenditure and all those kinds of audit outcomes when you have full-time ministry, senior officials including the accounting officer, CFO and people who are there in procurement, regardless of the fact that they may not have their fingers on everything … but we need to have oversight on all of those, the fact that all of us are 24/7 on our jobs, it’s things that we need to eliminate,” he said.
The department’s presentation to the committee revealed that as at the end of the 2020/21 financial year, 109 officials were guilty, 26 found not guilty, 25 had resigned and eight had been reinstated after arbitration awards, nine dismissed and 40 slapped with final written warnings.
MPs expressed concern at “scary” numbers of senior officials implicated in corruption within the department. Some asked what action had been taken against those who had resigned after being implicated.
Mchunu assured them that despite the resignations, they would not be able to evade the justice system and that the department would not make it easy for them to do so.
“There is no way you can escape with criminality, we are not the ones that will make it easy for anyone to escape with criminality where public finances are concerned, especially with the rising cost of electricity, water and other things,” Mchunu said.
In the department’s main account, during the 2021/22 financial year, R641,109 in unauthorised expenditure was recorded, R63,538 in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and R9,811,900 irregular expenditure, according to acting director-general Frans Moatshe.
The department said the affect of fraud and corruption in the water sector had been immense, particularly on the vulnerable.
“It can be measured in various ways, including dry taps, lost jobs and polluted rivers. Many people, particularly young children, old people and those with compromised immune systems, have become ill from drinking unsafe water at their homes where toilets cannot be kept hygienic,” he said.
Moatshe said an investigation into the Giyani Water Services Project — among others — which incurred more than R3bn of irregular expenditure had been concluded. One employee was found not guilty but the department took the matter on review and it was now in the labour court.
In the upgrading of the Thukela Goedertrouw scheme, which incurred more than R477m in irregular expenditure, two employees were implicated and the case was also taken on review.
Meanwhile, another employee was served with a charge sheet and a date for the hearing was yet to be determined.
In the Desalination Plant Richards Bay project, which incurred more than R300m irregular expenditure, two employees have been implicated and served with charge sheets, and disciplinary action is being considered against another one.
Moatshe said mitigating factors to root out fraud and corruption had since been put in place.
“One of the key interventions relates to the turnaround and financial recovery plan which was tabled before the portfolio committee and we have constantly reported to the committee regarding a number of issues, including leadership, ethical organisation, training and development … so that people understand their roles and responsibilities and consequences of their actions.
MPs hailed the department’s report and said they expected clean audit outcomes at the end of the financial year.
Al-Jamah’s Ganief Hendriks added: “It is quite a revolutionary report and it must surely complimented. Thank you minister and DG. Al-Jamah feels this report outshines the Zondo report.”