Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/SOWETAN
Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/SOWETAN

The Treasury, Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and auditor-general will form part of a full-scale inquiry into the crisis at the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The department was previously led by Nomvula Mokonyane, and is now broke. Mokonyane was shifted to the communications portfolio following a Cabinet reshuffle in February.

The auditor-general has flagged the department for incurring billions of rand in irregular expenditure.

Water and Sanitation is crucial as the country is water scarce, with the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape in the grip of a prolonged dry spell.

But concerns were raised about the department’s overdraft of R2.9bn that it took with the Reserve Bank. It has since reportedly reduced the overdraft to R1.9bn.

A joint standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and water committee met on Wednesday to implement the resolution of the water and sanitation committee in its budgetary review and recommendation report, which called for a commission of inquiry to be established.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi — who has questioned Mokonyane’s redeployment to the communications ministry in the light of the state of the Department of Water and Sanitation — said the inquiry would seek to establish the reasons the department was in a mess. The joint committee would engage the auditor-general, the Treasury and the SIU, he said.

The inquiry is also expected to invite Mokonyane to give her side of the story.

The department has attributed its financial crisis and its decision to dip into its overdraft facility to the failure of municipalities to pay for services, a situation which was worsened by major budgetary cuts amounting to about R2.6bn in the 2016-17 financial year.

The department is owed about R11bn by municipalities and water boards.

ANC study group on water and sanitation chairperson Hlomane Chauke said the group supported the decision for a full investigation into the department.p supported the decision for a full investigation into the department. 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za