Water board awash with problems

Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane is at loggerheads with the state-owned bulk water supplier, the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA).The minister is demanding answers to why the entity has no chief executive and is not implementing the National Development Plan.

The squabble between the authority’s board and Mokonyane has been going on since last year. Numerous meetings have been cancelled and the treasury will now be brought in.

Last week Mokonyane wrote a letter to the board, demanding to know why the authority has still not appointed a permanent chief executive close to a year later.

She also asked how the board had taken key decisions without informing her — including the appointment of a law firm to investigate the former chief executive, James Ndlovu, and other officials, and how others were suspended without her knowledge.

[In 2009, James Ndlovu attested to the water board’s soundness. (Photo: Deaan Vivier/ Gallo Images/Foto24)]

The board had seven days to respond, which it has not done.

“The term of office of the former chief executive expired at the end of October 2016. A period of 10 months has elapsed, without any reasonable steps taken by the board to appoint a permanent chief executive. Despite the undertaking made at the meeting held on July 21 2017, between myself and the board … still no reasonable steps are being undertaken to fill the position,” reads the letter.

The TCTA is one of the most important water authorities in the department, as it was established to work with the Lesotho government to supply much-needed water in Gauteng and surrounding areas from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

But the minister’s spat with the TCTA won’t directly affect this multibillion-rand project, she said in an interview with the Mail & Guardian.

“My biggest worry is the day-to-day running of such an important organisation, which doesn’t have a permanent chief executive,” said Mokonyane.

“I have called numerous meetings with the board and it’s either that the chairperson is not available, or the board has no idea what is going on.”

The minister said she is concerned the board is not taking full responsibility for the operational issues of the TCTA.

According to the letter, the minister also wanted to know how law firm ENSafrica was hired to investigate irregular appointments.

“My office received a letter from one Mr Mhlongo, pertaining to the allegations of irregular appointment of ENS. A letter was written to you to respond within the timelines set out in the letter, however, to date no response has been received. I consider the aforesaid failures by the board in a very serious light, as they adversely compromise the credibility and integrity of [the] TCTA,” the letter states.

It is understood that the board hired ENSafrica earlier this year to provide a legal opinion on an investigation — by advisory services firm EY — into irregular appointments, promotions and salary increases of certain officials at the TCTA.

The ENSafrica investigation found that Ndlovu had irregularly appointed a number of senior managers without going through the board and had also irregularly awarded a tender.

“On the face of it, there seems to be enough indication to justify that Mr Ndlovu be reported to the South African Police Services for fraud,” reads the ENSafrica report.

Ndlovu stepped down in November last year before the finalisation of the investigation, which Mokonyane said she had no idea about.

Meanwhile the board is allegedly also refusing to tell Mokonyane why it had not participated in the establishment of the National Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Agency (Nawasia), which forms part of the National Development Plan.

“The department has an obligation to implement the establishment of the Nawasia. Despite the various requests made by the department of water and sanitation to the TCTA to participate in the process of establishing Nawasia, no response has been received,” the letter reads.

Mokonyane said the board is failing to fulfil its role. “With the financial challenges we are facing right now in the department and the water boards, we can’t afford to have a board that is working like this.”

The board acknowledged receipt of the letter but said it would first like to respond to the minister before answering the M&G’s questions.

DG is in hot water over claims of misconduct

The disciplinary hearing for the director general of the department of water and sanitation, Dan Mashitisho, is due to continue in a few days.

It is understood that Mashitisho has to answer to numerous charges — including dereliction of duty and insubordination.

According to Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, the disciplinary process has already started, but the first sitting was cancelled because Mashitisho was sick.

“I want it sorted out timeously because it is difficult to run a department without a director general. I was very disappointed in the director general and how he wanted to simply collapse the department.”

She added that Mashitisho had failed to follow instructions, absconded from meetings and had made no attempts to institute disciplinary proceedings against a number of senior officials he had put on suspension.

But according to the City Press, Mashitisho’s suspension was because of his failure to sign off on a contract to appoint law firm Werksmans Attorneys — without a tender process — to conduct a forensic investigation into numerous deals, including the Giyani project, which allegedly escalated from R500-million to about R5-billion. 

Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.


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