Home South African Billions down drain after graft and fraud at Water and Sanitation dept

Billions down drain after graft and fraud at Water and Sanitation dept

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The Department of Water and Sanitation has revealed that it recovered R270 million and saved R622m over a period of eight years from cases of corruption and financial misconduct, but MPs say the amount is not enough, considering the billions of rand that were lost in the department over the years.

THE DEPARTMENT of Water and Sanitation has revealed that it recovered R270 million and saved R622m over a period of eight years from cases of corruption and financial misconduct.

But, MPs say the amount is not enough, considering the billions of rand that were lost in the department over the years.

This emerged when the department briefed the water and sanitation portfolio committee on disciplinary cases instituted against some officials.

“R270m has been recovered, and an additional R622m has been saved by the department since 2014 as a result of civil, legal and criminal actions resulting from cases of corruption and financial misconduct,” the head of department, Sean Phillips, said.

Phillips said there were 147 financial misconduct cases involving its employees since 2013, with 118 cases finalised and 29 others being processed as at April 2022.

He also said nine officials resigned during the disciplinary processes.

Two cases were not pursued due to a lack of evidence. At the same time, one official was found not guilty and a total of115 officials were found guilty.

Phillips told the MPs that when an official resigned while there was still a pending disciplinary matter, there was no further action that could be taken on the disciplinary side.

“That official can be pursued through civil and criminal court. The department has referred matters to the SAPS where criminal investigations are required.”

In his report, Phillips said the SIU had completed three investigations.

On the allegations into procurement of services by Mhlatuze Water, a criminal case of fraud and corruption was opened against an employee and the service provider who paid gratification.

A criminal case of contravention of the Public Finance Management Act was opened against board members of Mhlatuze Water Board at Richards Bay.

“The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation is handling these two criminal investigations. Three implicated employees of the Mhlatuze Water Board resigned prior to the completion of our investigation,” he said.

Phillips also said the SIU had conducted an investigation into about 34 allegations in the department.

“As a result of the investigation conducted by the SIU, 58 different referrals were made in respect of the outcomes of the investigations,” he said, adding that 28 were criminal, 13 VAT referrals and 17 disciplinary referrals.

On the Vuwani Pipeline, Phillips said the SIU had made a referral of evidence pointing towards fraud involving the company Ascul Construction and the director to the National Prosecuting Authority, as well as a disciplinary referral of evidence pointing towards possible misconduct of the deputy director-general at the Water Trading Entity.

“The disciplinary hearing was finalised and the official was found not guilty. The Department of Water and Sanitation has filed a review application at the Labour Court.”

Phillips said the SIU was investigating seven proclamations related to Lepelle Northern Water Thukela Goedertrouw Water Scheme, Umgeni Water and contracts awarded to EOH.

“The SIU refers evidence pointing towards misconduct or criminal conduct as soon as there is sufficient evidence in order to allow the accounting officer or enforcement agencies to take immediate action. The SIU does not wait to do this in the final report.”

The SIU, he said, was waiting for approval of proclamations to investigate the drought relief programme in Amatola Water board and Lepelle Northern Water, as well as the War-on-Leaks programme.

“The SIU has assessed the allegations and has applied to the president for a proclamation to investigate these matters.”

MPs welcomed the progress made in the SIU investigations, with the DA’s Leon Basson saying he wished more cases could be finalised.

Committee chairperson Robert Mashego said the department had lost R37 billion over the years.

“We have not reached one billion of the R37bn,” he said.

Mashego said the committee was of the view that accelerating the rate of recovery of the funds would ensure that they were directed to service delivery and to ensure that people received water as promised.

“It is of the view that much more can be recovered if investigations and prosecutions are concluded expeditiously,” he said.

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