Mhlathuze Water hailed as one of the leading SOEs
Durban - Municipalities that do not pay their water bills were crippling infrastructure to sustain water delivery services to residents and businesses of Mhlathuze in Richards Bay.
Speaking during a stakeholders meeting held at the Bon Hotel in Richards Bay on Thursday, Mhlathuze Water chief executive Mthokozisi Duze, turned the tide, by obtaining an unqualified clean audit opinion for the 2019/2020 financial year said water shortage was affecting the industrial development of the city.
He said the water board were planning on building two dams in the northern Zululand.
The north coast based water utility has been besieged by irregular acts of corruption which had been investigated by the Special Investigating Unit.
He said that the state-owned entity had strengthened its internal financial and policy controls to be able to detect and prevent fraud and corruption while holding officials accountable for their actions.
Duze said the recent appointment of a chartered accountant and also choosing board members with qualifications had played a pivotal role in strengthening internal controls through instilling good governance. He said when he joined the institution in 2015, he told himself that he would change things around.
After the 2016 audit, uncovered irregular expenditure of almost R300 million, that had to be dealt with in terms of an investigation determining the causes of the irregular expenditure, dealing with consequence management, to recover revenue, the water board had to refer investigations and cases to court.
“We have got highly credible and qualified board members who would not want their integrity to be compromised. The institution has its in-house laboratory for water testing. After the past shenanigans, we have a healthy institution with high profitability to reinvest. We have also set aside a sizeable amount of money to revitalise the ageing infrastructure,” said Duze.
Duze said after a string of attacks by local people who could not get water through their municipalities, he felt absolved after the positive audit results.
However, despite the recent achievement Duze said huge water bills and the capping off tariffs by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) were detrimental to fixing the ageing infrastructure built about 40 years ago.
He said Mkhanyakude owed the entity about R23.5m for its bulk water supply.
He said the shrinking of revenue had a knock-on effect on Mhlathuze water. “It was unfair that there has been a zero-tariff hike while municipalities were charging the end-user about 21% for water usage,” he said.
Duze said they were waiting for the feasibility study to be completed before building the two dams. He said dams belonged to DWS. He said there was also a plan to extend the Goedertrouw dam.
He said the project has stalled after some technicalities had to be resolved. “The dam storage has to be extended. It is very painful when you have to explain to a client why there is a water disruption. We are also exploring possibilities of building two dams in the Nseleni and Umfolozi river but need vigorous feasibility study and planning,” said Duze.
Thabile Shange, Mhlathuze water board chairperson said she was proud that there was a financial stability after Umhlathuze has surpassed the Msunduzi municipality through the gross domestic product collection.
Meanwhile, Mhlathuze municipality mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo said there was a huge demand for water, due to the growing community of Esikhaleni and the expansion of the city.
“The demand is now 46 million litres of water per day,” said Mhlongo.