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eThekwini water leaks: officials may face sanction

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File picture.

Published Jun 25, 2021

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Durban: Employees in the eThekwini’s Municipality’s Water Unit who are negligent in their duties, thereby causing the city to suffer water losses, could face criminal and disciplinary action.

The city’s audit committee highlighted water losses as a concern, warning that there was no appropriate “consequence management" against those who were grossly negligent.

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While city management was scheduled to provide a response to the issues facing the Water Unit next month, acting city manager Sipho Cele told The Mercury in a recent interview that the identified shortcomings were being attended to.

The chairperson of the audit committee, Nala Mhlongo, in his report to the executive committee this week said that water losses remained high despite a number of initiatives being in place.

“While the automation of water meter reading is being looked at as a possible solution, there is no evidence that there is appropriate consequence management against those who are grossly negligent in performing their functions,” he said.

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The municipality recently faced extensive water outages. It announced on Wednesday that it was imposing a water and sanitation infrastructure levy to raise R1 billion for the upgrading of ageing infrastructure.

Earlier this year, Exco revealed that water losses were costing the municipality a fortune and that water revenue had decreased by R720.3 million when compared with the year to date.

DA councillor Nicole Graham said the water department was in a complete shambles, saying there was no accountability, and that employees who were negligent should face the consequences.

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She said the unit was running out of basic materials to do its job, adding that it was unable to repair leaks that would require it to fix the roads afterwards as it did not have the materials.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi described the unit’s problems as complicated, saying they were informed as far back as 2015 that billions were required to fix infrastructure, but that the municipality had no budget.

“But the very same department does not attend to leaks. Community members complain of leaks gushing water for days, while contractors busy with road projects damage water infrastructure and never bother to report it.

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Cele, in the same interview, disputed that their depots were “empty''. He said their depots were full of stock, and it was only materials that were used regularly that tended to run out, and that they were addressing this.

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