An evaluation of water and sanitation provision by Uthukela Water in selected districts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Thabethe, Prince Dumisani.
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This research study is about the evaluation of UThukela Water on the provision of water and sanitation services in Amajuba District and UMzinyathi District municipalities, which form part of uThukela catchment basin in KwaZulu-Natal. Water and sanitation services have been the responsibility of local municipalities, mostly in favour of the white minority during the apartheid regime. The new democratic era which saw the dawn of the country’s new demarcations thus changing municipal boundaries, also forced the government to ensure that all basic services are equally provided across the country’s regional and racial groups, posing a big challenge in service delivery particularly to the South African Local governments. The transformation from apartheid to democracy based local governments led to the establishment of district municipalities, who then took over the responsibility for water and sanitation services and attained the water services authority status. The government of national unity promulgated and established a few statutory frameworks to ensure proper service delivery and transformation in the Local Government sphere, outlined below. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa which is the Supreme Law of the country, which gave Local Governments the status of being independent spheres of government in the new South African democratic order. The Local Government Transition Act 209 of 1993 gave profound direction towards the transformation of local government. Other enabling legislations that were passed to remove discriminatory measures of apartheid and ensure that service delivery in the Local Government is equitably delivered, were: The Municipal Demarcation Act 1998 (Act 27 of 1998); The Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 2000 (Act 32 of 2000); Local Government: Municipal Structures Act (Act) and the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act 2003 (Act 56 of 2003). The transformation of Local Government had two main aims. The first was to move away from racialbased local governments towards non-biased and non-racial institutions which will serve both rural and vii urban communities within a municipal area. The second was to deliver municipal services to the majority of South Africans that were previously deprived of such basic services under the apartheid regime. The intentions were good; however, local government is still faced with various challenges such as limited resources, including human, financial, and technological resources, rapid population growth, dilapidated infrastructure, and shortage of skills. These shortages have negatively impacted on the provision of water and sanitation services in both rural and urban areas. The backlogs for basic services in the rural areas are quite severe. Further challenges regarding water and sanitation provision include low payments for services, high prevalence of HIV & AIDS amongst the workforce (skilled employees), and poverty. This research sets out to evaluate the role of UThukela Water, which is a Municipal entity established to provide water and sanitation services on behalf of Amajuba and UMzinyathi District Municipalities. The powers of the districts as stated by Section 84 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 2000 (Act 32 of 2000) are amongst others, water supply, bulk sewerage purification and disposal, and solid waste disposal in the area of the district. It became evident in this research that district municipalities lack capacity to deliver water and sanitation services. This was due to a shortage of skills, lack of human, financial and technological resources. Given this lack of capacity, UThukela Water was established to expedite water and sanitation since delivery. UThukela Water inherited infrastructural backlogs, received inadequate funding from municipalities, faced much political interference and moreover, was directed and managed by inexperienced personnel. Hence there was no monitoring of performance of staff and no oversight function exercised by the parent municipalities. Some of the deficiencies could have been avoided or reduced had the establishment of UThukela Water been more appropriate and transparent to all stakeholders. Arising from the cited drawbacks, the provision of water and sanitation services at Amajuba and UMzinyathi districts have been seriously compromised: serious protests and riots are an indication of the communities’ dissatisfaction. This research cuts across a number of disciplines, including social service, economics, political science and public administration. It became imperative therefore that the legislations governing water industry be analysed, the institutions that use water be discussed, the capacity of water services authorities be investigated, the ability of staff to execute duties be checked and the impact of political influence or interference be discussed. This meant studying similar institutions, the relevant legislations and literature. In this study, the fundamentals of municipal entities were researched and compared with regard to their establishments, management and operations. Over and above studying municipal entities, the researcher focused on UThukela Water’s performance in the provision of water and sanitation services. The study led to the comparison of UThukela Water (Pty) Ltd with other Water Boards and other Public-Private-Partnerships. The comparison confirmed that the success of these institutions depends on the availability of skills, finance, and sound governance. In this study, relevant literature was studied to gain a better understanding of the impact of local government to the communities. Relevant South African legislation was analysed and reviewed. Surveys by the researcher were analysed and presented. Literature was reviewed by the researcher. All these data sources confirm that UThukela Water (Pty) Ltd has a number of serious short comings regarding infrastructure backlogs, shortage of skills, financial constraints, shortage of human resources, monitoring and evaluation. Stretching the entity even more is the fact that it is owned by three different municipalities whose political powers are changing hands between two rival political parties i.e. the African National Congress and Inkatha Freedom Party. This on its own caused management problems, coordination failures, communication problems and stakeholder participation failures, and lack of continuity. It would have been easier if the political power was to be vested in one political party within a municipality for a period of at least five years without changing, and more so if all the three municipalities were from the same political party for at least five years. Political will and fewer financial constraints are vital ingredients that impact on effective and efficient service delivery. The provision of water and sanitation services can improve considerably if political power can be used to leverage financial constraint which could translate into sourcing required skills, extending infrastructure and giving water to more people. A study of this nature would be inadequate without providing recommendations. Several recommendations basically to improve the provision of water and sanitation services by UThukela Water (Pty) Ltd have been proposed. These recommendations are: re-aligning and reconfiguring UThukela Water (Pty) Ltd; changing the culture of the organisation; managing customer relations effectively; improving water demand management strategies; making provision for new dams; implementing bulk water controls; initiating and implementing infrastructural rehabilitation programmes; improving revenue generation strategies; improving business systems; affording customers multiple options of service levels; removing limitations to access of service levels and engaging in public education. It is envisaged that the adoption of these research findings and implementation of the proposed recommendations will produce the municipal entity that responds to people’s needs by delivering effective and efficient services. Therefore communities can proudly live to the theme “Water is life and Sanitation is dignity”. Since most of the flaws emanated from the failure of shareholders or parent municipalities to exercise oversight function, monitoring and evaluating the performance of uThukela Water, a Policy Board Model of governance was proposed in this study. It cannot be over emphasised that when a municipal entity is established, its founders or lead consultants must consult and involve all stakeholders and thus design the entity properly. Critical factors for effective governance are, the appointment of board members with all the necessary expertise e.g. experts in social science, law, finance and business. The board must be competent in financial management, and must be able to give strategic direction to management. It must approve policies that provide framework for effective performance from senior management down to general workers. Should these critical factors and elements be ignored, the entity is doomed to fail and therefore will perform dismally in its mandate to deliver water and sanitation services to the people.