The Standing Committee on Appropriations has told the Department of Water and Sanitation to strengthen intergovernmental fiscal relations with provinces and municipalities. This was during a meeting of the Committee this morning where the Minister of Water and Sanitation Ms Nomvula Mokonyane and her department were briefing the Committee on the 2015 Appropriations Bill.
The Whip of the Committee, Mr Ndaba Gcwabaza, said there are challenges with regard to municipal grants. He said: “If you look at the budget of all the departments, the bulk of national departmental funds are transferred to the provinces and local government – we also see that when we go on oversight to the municipalities.
“When there is disconnect between national, provincial and local government in terms of intergovernmental fiscal relations, it becomes a problem because we end up saying the minister and her department are not performing when in fact the department can only account for what it has in its possession. Very little is said about the huge funds that have been transferred to provinces and local government. This is an issue that needs to be worked on.”
Ms Mokonyane told the Committee that in the past 12 months since she took office, her department has visited every provincial government and municipality, except in Limpopo. “Even though provinces have no competency on water, there must be that intergovernmental relationship that exists because provincial governments have a responsibility to render service when it comes to water and sanitation.
“Hence what we have seen in the North West is where a provincial department would agree with local authorities to take over the water and sanitation responsibilities of Madibeng Local Municipality and Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality and bring them back to national government, so that we don’t throw money into the problem. We deal with the implementation and provision of the service while we are sorting out problems in local government.”
Ms Mokonyane also raised the challenge of conditional grants that are transferred directly by National Treasury to municipalities. The minister said the department assists these municipalities by co-funding or paying for services that should be paid for by the municipalities. “The issue of co-funding across the country has become a problem. Therefore, I think this Committee becomes one of our key partners to help us engage with National Treasury to revisit the issue of co-funding because if we have to deal with water security, we must be able to support a development of a water scheme if a given municipality is experiencing some problems in doing so. It is our constitutional obligation to serve the people of South Africa they cannot suffer because of a municipality,” she said.
The minister assured the Committee that even though the absence of monitoring, evaluation and ensuring compliance has been a challenge, her department is sorting out the incapacity of the supply chain and finance unit of her department. “When it comes to resources we are of the view that let us first plan properly and then come back and say we do not have the resources,” she said.
Source : Parliament of South Africa