Human Settlements accounting officers must be suspended pending investigations into Mpumalanga’s water tank fraud

Issued by Jane Sithole, MPL – DA Leader: Mpumalanga Province
02 Apr 2024 in Press Releases

The DA calls for immediate suspension of Accounting Officers from the Mpumalanga Department of Human Settlements pending the outcome of investigations into damning reports that they paid R5,7 million and R8,9 million respectively for water tanks that could be worth R625 000 to R1,250 million.

According to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Department of Human Settlements in Mpumalanga wanted to install boreholes and water storage tanks at 247 schools and in 127 identified communities. A contractor was appointed to install the 250 000 liters and 500 000 liters tanks. The SIU is investigating allegations that the contractor was paid inflated prices of R5,7 million for the 250 000-water tank and R8,7 million for a single 500 000 liters water storage tank that were installed to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Mpumalanga Premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane also confirmed the millions paid to the contractor.

The DA has found that some of the water tanks are installed in the following rural villages near White River: Jerusalema, Mshadza, Mahushu, Bhekiswayo and Mgcobaneni. These expensive water storage tanks do not even serve their initial purpose of eradicating water shortages in these areas as they don’t work.

During our own investigation, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Mpumalanga consulted PLUMBLINK (plumbing experts) and were informed that a single 250 000 liters water storage tank cost R625 000 if you price it according to the standard rate of R2,50 per liter. A 500 000-liter water storage tank would therefore be R1,250 million at the standard rate of R2,50 per liter. Inflating the prices of these water tanks to over R5 million is pure fraud and criminality, so accounting officers of that department must be suspended, and the contractor involved blacklisted until the SIU has completed its investigation into the matter.

It is sad that this crisis has also affected learners in the province as it was reported last year that one of the tanks collapsed and killed one learner in one of the schools, and the contractor is under investigation by the South African Police Services (SAPS).

In an oversight conducted by the DA last year in 28 schools across the province, we found that some still have pit toilets, and those who are lucky enough to have flush toilets, have no water because the installed water tanks are not connected.

The DA welcomes the investigation by the SIU and calls for it to be fast tracked for serious action and prosecution of those found responsible for stealing millions of rands from Mpumalanga residents.

We also call on Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane and her government to immediately suspend all the accounting officers from the Department of Human Settlements, and blacklist the contractor involved pending the outcome of the SIU investigation.