The department’s annual report, tabled in parliament last week, shows it paid out R31.5m in bonuses in 2017/2018. Picture: THE TIMES
The department’s annual report, tabled in parliament last week, shows it paid out R31.5m in bonuses in 2017/2018. Picture: THE TIMES

The DA has questioned the department of water and sanitation’s decision to pay generous staff bonuses in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, given that the department had failed to meet several of its targets and received a qualified audit from the auditor-general.

The department’s annual report, tabled in parliament last week, shows it paid out R31.5m in bonuses in 2017/2018. Yet its performance has limped along for the past five years, according to an analysis presented to parliament’s portfolio committee on water and sanitation on Tuesday by Stephen Kheleli, a senior manager in the auditor-general’s office. It received a qualified audit in four out of the five years under review, and racked up steadily increasing unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. 

The auditor-general’s office identified R526m in unauthorised expenditure, R546m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and R3.6bn in irregular expenditure in 2017/2018.

“I need to know who agreed to pay performance bonuses to officials with this kind of achievement,” said DA MP Leon Basson. “If we don’t have money to deliver infrastructure to our people, surely we don’t have money to pay bonuses to people [who are] not achieving what was set out for them to achieve,” he said.

The department’s head of corporate services, Squire Mahlangu, said no bonuses were paid to the director-general, who is the accounting officer, nor to deputy directors-general who are in charge of specific programmes.  A total of R25.35m  was paid to staff up to level 12, and a further R3.09m to senior managers. A director-general is classed as level 16.

Kheleli said the department’s financial management had regressed, and that some issues that were identified by the auditor-general’s office in 2016/2017 have yet to be tackled. Its oversight and monitoring had deteriorated due to instability in key leadership positions, including that of the director-general. Former water &  sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane axed her director-general Gorbachev Mashitisho in July last year, after he had been in the job for barely six months. A year later, the department is still without a permanent replacement: Deborah Mochotlhi is acting director-general.

“This report is like a horror story that recurs each year. The department has no concerns spending money, but we see nothing for it,” said Basson.

He expressed scepticism over the office of the auditor-general’s recommendations that legislators keep the department on a tight leash by requiring it to report to parliament every quarter, saying it is up to the minister to lead from the front and appoint the right people into key positions. The department currently has an acting director-general and an acting CFO.

MP’s noted the deteriorating conditions during their oversight visits to wastewater treatment plants, but the department has not provided a systematic assessment of the nation’s water quality for the past five years.

The last Blue Drop and Green Drop reports, which assessed the quality of drinking water and wastewater treatment respectively, were based on data collected in 2013, he said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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