Damning report puts city in hot water

Councillors attend the full meeting of the eThekwini Municipality which was held at the ICC in Durban. l KHAYA NGWENYA

Councillors attend the full meeting of the eThekwini Municipality which was held at the ICC in Durban. l KHAYA NGWENYA

Published Feb 16, 2024


Durban — At a full council meeting of the eThekwini Municipality, the audit committee slammed the city over the erratic water supply, saying there was no dedicated department to focus on implementing a non-revenue water plan.

A synopsis of the audit outcome for the period that ended on September 30 was discussed at the meeting on Wednesday. The committee disclosed that the municipality had received an unqualified audit report.

The committee found that:

  • There were inadequate internal controls or standard operating procedures to guide the operations in a structured manner under information and communication technology.
  • Inability of the management to meet set deadline for the Oracle CX, customer relations management project.
  • The municipality still remained uncompliant with the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act.
  • Ineffective management of employment contracts, resulting in certain employees working and being paid while their contracts had already expired. This, while others are being engaged without signing a formal contract.
  • A lack of co-ordination in the awarding of supply chain management contracts and, thus, imposing financial risk as some of the projects were funded through loan and grant funding.
  • No dedicated department to focus on implementing the non-revenue water plan.
  • No strategic business plan in place to guide the operations of the engineering unit, and with the unit recording a vacancy rate of 59% for the architecture, electrical, asset and facilities management departments.
  • No strategic business plan in place in the water and sanitation unit, with a vacancy rate of 52%. A shortage of tools of trade, such as vehicles, also hindered the unit’s performance.
  • No strategic business plan in the cleansing and solid waste unit and the human resources capacity of the division lacking by 29% of the current approved structure.

The municipality said it welcomed a comprehensive report from the committee and also received management responses on plans implemented or to be implemented to clear the findings identified.

The committee acknowledged the slight improvement in non-revenue water services. However, attention was drawn to the urgency of having to address water leaks throughout the municipality.

IFP councillor Jane Naidoo said the audit findings showed inadequate internal controls, because of poor consequence management and the lack of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in the municipality.

She said there was wilful irregular, wasteful, and unauthorised expenditure.

“A dysfunctional water and sanitation unit with an astronomical water loss rate of 58% and (it is) on the increase. When one reads the detailed report, it becomes clearer as to why the city is in the parlous state that it is.

“It is the view of the IFP that an overhaul of colossal proportions is needed in senior managerial positions to effect real change. eThekwini hopes that tangible actions will be taken to address the shortcomings identified in the report,” Naidoo said.

Governance and human capital committee chairperson, Nkosenhle Madlala, said the ANC welcomed the report and noted the issues.

“One of the proposals to mitigate non-revenue water losses in the city was to install meters at the reservoirs so that they can be monitored. We are giving out water from water tankers, but they are not metered, he said.

“We need to meter them so it does not count as non-revenue water.

“We must meter community taps so that it (the water) is accounted for.

“We have deployed three plumbers per ward to address issues of leaks,” Madlala said.

Councillor Andre Beetge, the DA member of the eThekwini executive committee, said because the city had no working plan “residents are literally bled dry to the point of being R28 billion in arrears”.

“The city established a water working committee in December 2023 when it was too late. How is it aligning to any council approved turnaround strategy?

“Managers not attending meetings is a concern. It remains left to councillors to scrounge information in an attempt to appease angry residents.

“If there is no accountability at the top management level, no wonder there is no consequence management down the line,” he said.

The eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement (ERPM) met the Auditor-General of South Africa on Monday to glean further information on the audit report with special attention to the current 6kl back-billing debacle.

The ERPM said the 6kl provision error has occurred over many years, but was only detected in the 2022/2023 audit.

“We emphasised the need to communicate a correct assessment of the financial position of the municipality and not allow the public to be misled into thinking all is well,” ERPM said.

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