Water Dept to use infrastructure funding to pay off R1.5bn in debts

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane insists no projects are in jeopardy and that many of them have been concluded ahead of schedule.

FILE: Water & Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

CAPE TOWN – The Department of Water and Sanitation will be digging into funding intended for bulk infrastructure projects to pay off the almost R1.5 billion it owes contractors since last year.

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane will be defending her budget in Parliament on Friday morning after she was called to an urgent meeting of the Water and Sanitation portfolio committee on Thursday to explain how it was going to settle its debts.

The Department of Water and Sanitation will have to use a quarter of the R5.8 billion in grant funding allocated for regional bulk water infrastructure, to pay off outstanding debts to contractors.

But Mokonyane insists no projects are in jeopardy and that many of them have been concluded ahead of schedule.

“We earmark these funds for interventions or emergencies and crises, so there is no cast in stone projects that are related to this.”

But Members of Parliament were not convinced.

The ANC’s Patrick Chauke said: “The department has never been straightforward with the issues.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Leon Basson said: “How do we trust the department when, verbally, we get the information and when we get it in writing it differs?”

Mokonyane says she’s already cleared the movement of funds with Treasury.