The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation is worried about the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Water Trading Entity’s (WTE’s) increasing debt book, despite various calls by the committee to use intergovernmental relations framework avenues to address the problem, committee chairperson Mlungisi Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.
The WTE this week informed the committee that its debt book stood at R11.2-billion, an increase of R1.2-billion from the 2016/17 financial year.
“While the committee is cognisant of the challenge of nonpayment by municipalities, it is unacceptable that it has taken this long and there is no resolution in sight for this long-recurring challenge,” Johnson said.
He added that it was also worrying that, despite the procurement of a debt collection service provider, no tangible evidence of its work is noticeable.
“Now that the contract of the debt collector has ended, it is even more difficult to comprehend how the entity will be able to collect the debt. The committee reiterates its stance that the department must use intergovernmental avenues to deal with the matter.”
Similarly, the committee highlighted its displeasure at the high litigation costs in the books of the DWS and its entities.
The department reported that it is facing 135 litigations and the cost implication of up to R100.7-million if these are not successfully defended.
Added to this, the water boards have a total of 23 litigations with cost implications of R71-million if not successfully defended.
He noted that, while the committee understands that there might be legal challenges the department has to defend, it views the current litigations as unreasonably high.
As a result, the committee has requested a breakdown of the cases and reasons behind the cases, as well as reasonable expectation of success.
“It is worrying because the cost mentioned does not include lawyers’ fees, which will take the total cost even higher,” Johnson said.