ALMOST ON STREAM: Engineers move large pipes into place with the help of excavators and tugboats at the Strandfontein Pavilion desalination site. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Despite a continuing water crisis, and consumers slapped with hugely increased water bills, the City’s water department has under spent by a whopping R1.6 billion on its capital budget.

The huge under expenditure is included in the quarterly financial report of the City.

According to the Municipal Finance Management Act, mayor Patricia de Lille must, within 30 days of the end of each quarter, submit a report to the council on the implementation of the budget and the financial state of the City.

In water and informal settlements, the under expenditure of R1.63bn is a result of under spend budget for the desalination plants, the Atlantis and Cape Flats Aquifer, Zandvliet Plant re-use projects as well as the distribution infrastructure in the event of Day Zero.

The plans formed part of the City’s water strategy.

“A 55% spend is forecast for the projects currently on the budget,” the report said.

Dr Gisela Kaiser, City executive director for water, informal settlements and waste services, said costs and yields may be expected to change until projects are finally commissioned.

“The provisional system augmentation scenarios can thus be expected to change continuously over time. Projects on the capital budget are developed on medium- and long-term planning time frames to provide infrastructure to deliver on the City’s mandate. In the case of the new water programme, the City’s imperative was to provide water security, which was enabled by making available a budget to cover estimated costs,” she said.

Kaiser said projects not triggered during the 2017/18 financial year include the Cape Town Harbour temporary desalination plant (R510million) and the point of distribution infrastructure, for which R110m was budgeted.

The desalination plant at Strandfontein.

“Temporary desalination is very expensive compared to other sources, and due to a change in direction towards permanent resilience, has not been triggered. Similarly, points of distribution would only have been triggered if Day Zero eventuated. The fact that expenditure on temporary infrastructure was not committed or expended should be seen as a positive, as the costs would have otherwise had to be recovered through tariffs,” she said.

Solid waste management under spent R87m on their capital budget. “The main reason for the negative variance is delays experienced against the upgrading of depots, drop-offs, workshops and transfer stations due to protracted tender processes, as well as cash flow misalignment and under spend budget of major upgrading of transfer station and landfill programmes. A 76.1% spend is forecast for the projects currently on the budget,” the report said.

In transport and urban development, R424m has been under spent on its capital budget. This is because of the MyCiTi phase 2 Stock Road project being suspended and multiple stoppages since May (2018) due to community demands and unrest, De Lille’s report said.

“(There are) delays in obtaining various approvals on the Public Transport Systems management, Road Upgrade - Sir Lowry’s Pass Village Road; phase 2 and M12 extension to Giel Basson Drive projects, delays due to engagements with the local communities on the IRT-Depot Enabling project, as well as IRT electric buses, which have been completed - however verification has been requested to ascertain adherence to certain legislative prescripts before final payment will be processed. A 80.3% spend is forecast for the projects currently on the budget,” the report said.

The City had 2620 vacancies as from July 1, 2017 to date, but 2184 positions were filled, with 2248 terminations.

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Cape Argus