When silence is not golden!

When silence is not golden!

By Rory Macnamara

Plumbing Africa sent a few questions to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, on 5 December 2016 with a reminder early in 2017. Having past experience with the department’s lack of response, particularly no response to the World Plumbing Conference 2016 invitation for the minister to open the event, we thought it might be good to illustrate the lack of interest by the department in really addressing the issues.

The following questions were posed to the DWS spokesperson, which, at the time of going to print, remained unanswered.

1. The War on Leaks Programme did not provide the desired result with water losses in some instances higher than before. We are still losing accountable water at an unacceptable rate. Was this because of:
a. Poor training;
b. Poor tooling;
c. Combination of a and b;
d. Lack of co-ordination with official bodies like the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), who had indicated their willingness to be involved but were ignored; or
e. Lack of appreciation by the department for the qualified plumber whose basic teaching is to repair water leaks.

2. The DWS used Cuban engineers (and may well still be using them) when South African engineers are willing and able to work with the department. Furthermore, the law of the country is that all engineers must be registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA); why then did the DWS deliberately break this law?

3. Knowing full well that South Africa is a semi-arid country, why do we find ourselves in a water crisis when the DWS is the guardian and the legislator of our water?

4. In “Part B: Performance information” of the DWS’s Annual Report 2014/15, the Service Delivery Improvement Plan shows a less than satisfactory delivery time, especially in water use authorisation (the current delivery time is 500 days and the desired achievement is 300 days). What is the reason for this? Enforcement enjoys a 99% achievement, which is great, but is this against the five criminal cases? What is the actual figure of reported cases?

5. Batho Pele: 109 graduate trainees were enrolled and 47 were placed. What happened to the remainder?

6. The actual achievement (2013/14) ‘Vacancy rate for scarce skills’ for ‘Strategic objective: Improve and increase the skills pool and build competencies in the department and within the sector‘, shows that of the 215 posts that were advertised, only 99 were filled. It is stated that the remaining posts could not be filled “as the department could not attract the required candidates”. Has the DWS engaged with the official bodies in industry, water and plumbing to seek such qualified candidates?

7. Scarce skills — can you provide the designations of the scarce skills that the department needs?

8. In the Sunday Times Q&A, inference is made to municipalities and lack of skills, lack of willingness to work in smaller municipalities, and that water leaks are a municipality’s problem. What role does the DWS play in supporting these municipalities and when are municipalities ‘on their own’ so to speak.

9. The DWS has five out of eight head of unit posts at the National Water Resources Infrastructure branch vacant. Why is this and again, is the DWS engaging with official bodies or seeking to work with industry/business?

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