Water and Sanitation Minister ­Gugile Nkwinti. Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg -  Water and Sanitation Minister ­Gugile Nkwinti has blamed former senior department officials for the failed multibillion-rand construction of the Giyani water project in Limpopo and several boreholes and dams in the country, accusing them of having appointed contractors “blindly”.

Nkwinti made the disclosures yesterday when he announced the appointment of two government entities - the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) - to complete the projects.

Some of the projects happened under the watch of former Water Affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who is now the Environmental Affairs minister.

Addressing the media, Nkwinti conceded that the government, particularly his department, had lost billions of rand due to the provision of “blind contracts” to companies to construct major infrastructure projects such as the Giyani water project.

He said that was the conclusion of his team, which was tasked with investigating the impact of the failed construction projects and the impact this had on the affected communities, especially the residents of Giyani who had been waiting for more than 10 years to be provided with clean water.

“On May12 last year I visited the Giyani water project following my appointment in February. Local residents told me that more than R3.5billion had been spent on the project, but there was not a drop of water,” Nkwinti said.

He listed 11 projects to be completed by DBSA and TCTA across the country, including the construction of dams.

One of the projects was the completion of the De Hoop water project, which will provide residential households and mines with water in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo.

Nkwinti said the two entities would come up with service delivery models which were effective, smart and introduced proper management procedures, saying the entities had a history of managing big projects.

“In the past, service providers determined the scope of our projects, and not us. They took more than 10 years to complete projects that were supposed to have been completed within three years.

“Soon after my appointment, I began the process of instituting disciplinary proceedings, and this led to three senior officials who were implicated in acts of wrongdoing jumping ship. I have also signed six proclamations for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate the rot in the department,” Nkwinti said.

Nkwinti was, however, reluctant to reveal whether any of his political predecessors were the subject of the Hawks or SIU investigations for fraud and corruption.

“I do not know of such. It is up to the SIU to come up with any findings after their investigations. They will make their findings public,” he said.

In January this year, the Water and Sanitation department terminated the contract of LTE Consulting Engineers for having failed to complete the Giyani project.

The SIU revealed in November last year that the process of drilling boreholes at the project cost between R1.2m and R1.4m per borehole.

According to the unit, the normal price for installing similar boreholes was about R100 000.

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is also investigating the Giyani water project, while the SIU is pursuing civil litigation to recover R2.2bn from the tender appointment.

Political Bureau