State’s water turnaround plan creates bureaucracy, not solutions – AfriForum

The civil rights organisation AfriForum today said the turnaround plan of Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Water and Sanitation, is attempting to tackle old problems with unnecessary bureaucracy. 

The Minister made this announcement this week during a biennial conference of the Water Institute of Southern Africa (Wisa) in Cape Town. This turnaround plan contains a master plan for water up until 2030 and wishes to establish a separate authority for this.

According to Chris Boshoff, AfriForum’s Coordinator for Environmental Affairs, AfriForum welcomes the Minister’s acknowledgement that the situation with regard to water has completely got out of control and that urgent steps are necessary, but also warns that the turnaround plan that was announced must be treated with great cautiousness. “The challenges – such as water pollution and water losses – are already old news and notwithstanding purposeful cabinet decisions, the Department has done precious little regarding it in the past two decades. Something which is ironic is that the same management team that was responsible for the decline was retained to lead the turnaround attempt. It seems as though the Department is good in underwriting set goals, but does not have the expertise and ability to execute it.”

Dr Eugene Brink, Strategic Advisor for Community Affairs at AfriForum, says the turnaround plan seems to contain only more empty promises while it creates even more unnecessary bureaucracy. “The concept plan does not comply with the requirements that were set for it, namely an integrated action plan to achieve specific outcomes. It is actually more of a strategic goal document which does not spell out how the outcomes will be achieved. Important management actions such as effective water planning and implementation are completely being neglected, while the Department must still recover. If we had to evaluate it in terms of history, this will only add another expensive layer of bureaucracy and create extra job opportunities, while the water-related problems are not solved.”

According to Brink, it is unlikely that another water body will erase the backlogs in a bit more than a decade and achieve specific goals after the entire Department couldn’t succeed in nearly a quarter-century. “The right people with the right skills are needed to run the process, not necessarily more people. The Department must also first get its irregular expenditure under control and all of this will not happen by simply moving around the same incompetent people and creating unnecessary bodies.”

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