A commitment to a new way of doing things will guide the way the Portfolio Committee will conduct its oversight work from now on. This was a universal sentiment from Committee members during the discussion on the five-year strategic plan for the Committee. "We have to ensure that we realise the central objective of making the lives of the people of South Africa better. This can only e realised by ensuring that we conduct effective, time-bound oversight on the executive," said Mr Mlungisi Johnson, the Chairperson of the Committee.
The Committee is currently engaged in a week-long workshop that is aimed at capacitating Members [of Parliament] to enable effective oversight. Some of the stakeholders that the Committee will engage include the Department of Water and Sanitation, National Planning Commission, Agri SA, Chamber of Mines and different water boards.
The Committee also highlighted the need to ensure political accountability from the executive which will be achieved by constant engagements with the Office of the Minister. "The Constitution is clear that the minister is accountable to Parliament and in extension the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation. Therefore, we need to ensure that the minister engages the Committee from time to time," said Mr Patrick Chauke, the Whip of the Committee.
First on the issues that the Committee wants attended, is the completion of the National Water Master Plan. "We have taken a decision as the Committee that the department must submit a draft National Water Master Plan by the second week of October. While we accept that the process towards achieving this strategic tool might be long, we need to see that work has been done," Mr Johnson emphasised.
The submission of this plan will also enable the Committee to make contributions geared towards making the plan as comprehensive as possible.
The Committee also emphasised the need to engage the department in relation to the start of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. This important meeting will be scheduled for early in the fourth term of Parliament. Coupled with this, the Committee is committed to exploring innovative ideas in the market that will ensure the delivery of water services at a reduced cost.
"The question remains as to why we have not moved with the times, especially considering the technological advancements that have been made worldwide which could bring down the cost of doing things. The oversight over all these issues will be done with clear timelines to ensure that we achieve our mandate," Mr Johnson concluded.
Source: Parliament of South Africa.