VOICES | Weak public governance begets water sector Corruption.

One of the recommended measures by World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of Corona Virus which has recently been declared a pandemic as it has spread across the world, is to simply wash hands, the irony which lies in that is the scarcity of water in certain areas within the country amid reported cases of local transmission.

How then are citizens expected to maintain hygiene as a prerequisite to curb the pandemic without water? This has grave consequences.

Corruption Watch and the Water Intergrity Network on Thursday released an important report “Money down the drain: Corruption in South Africa’s water sector”. This report examines the extent and drivers of corruption in the water and sanitation sector.

Corruption Watch highlighted that the corruption in water and sanitation sector in South Africa has put the water security of businesses, households and the entire country at risk .

“The country’s economy and people’s livelihoods are equally dependent on water . We cannot allow water management to be undermined,” they said.

Just like other cases of maladminstration, water corruption is reported to thrive under a systematic trend that can be difficult to uproot, however Corruption Watch said that must be tackled.

“From plumbers, tanker drivers and senior officials, to mayors to ministers and many private businesses that benefited richly from corruption and in some cases, actively promoted it, must be tackled,” they said.

It is believed that some fraudulent projects flourished under the stewardship of former minister of water and sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane ( 2014-2018). Although the corruption had existed prior to Mokonyane’s tenure where R50-million was misused, by the time Mokonyane left her post, Corruption Watch noted that irregular expenditure had ballooned to over R4- billion with new cases being uncovered.

This clearly shows how public sector officials and politicians can deliberately exploit weaknesses in the public sector by creating conditions which serve their own needs while impacting negatively on water security and on human right to water for South African citizens.

Ministerial directives to water boards was implicated as the root of some of the largest abuses. However, some of the key strategies included abuse of procurement processes through manipulation of tender processes and requirements as well as manipulation of appointments of service providers through carefully crafted panel processes.