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Committees briefed by SIU behind closed doors on financial state of Water Dept

The committees are preparing for a full-scale inquiry into the financial and administrative shambles at the Department of Water and Sanitation.

 Special Investigating Unit head Andy Mothibi. Picture: 702

CAPE TOWN - Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) and the water and sanitation oversight committee have been briefed behind closed doors by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The committees are preparing for a full-scale inquiry into the financial and administrative shambles at the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Earlier on Tuesday, they heard from the Auditor General’s office and Treasury.

The detailed briefing on the investigations involving the Department of Water and Sanitation took place behind closed doors because of the SIU’s concerns that a public briefing would jeopardise the probes and any criminal prosecutions that might follow.

SIU head Andy Mothibi says its report on a 2012 proclamation was sent to former president Jacob Zuma a while back, while work is still underway on investigations triggered by a 2016 proclamation.

“Yes indeed we'd like to assist the committee, but please understand the context of the situation which we operate in."

Auditor General Kimi Makwetu says the rapid turnover of directors-general, many of them only acting, contributed to the deterioration in financial controls.

The department and its water trading entity racked up R4,5 billion in irregular expenditure in the 2016/17 financial year, with concerns about their continued viability.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Government wants the responsibility and budget of bulk water infrastructure moved from national to provincial government.

Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell has stated this in his budget speech in the Western Cape legislature on Tuesday.

He says the province's water affairs are largely managed by "nameless" officials in Pretoria who have little knowledge of the province's developmental goals and needs.

MEC spokesperson James-Brent Styan said: "The minister wants to speak to his national counterpart about the potential to perhaps move the responsibility and the budget involved for bulk water infrastructure perhaps to the province. But it would obviously require several conversations."

National Water and Sanitation Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said: "The responsibility for bulk water supply lies with the national government, that’s what the Constitution says. That is where things are and that is where they remain."