Initiative to merge Mhlathuze and Umgeni under way

The Department of Water and Sanitation-driven initiative to merge the Mhlathuze Water and Umgeni Water into a single entity serving the water needs of KwaZulu-Natal is well under way.

Minister Senzo Mchunu, who heads the ministry which the water boards fall under, has announced that the department has decided to undergo the reconfiguration process of all water boards across the country.

Mchunu believes this will reduce unnecessary confusion, corruption, red tape and lead to efficiency.

Responding to questions from Sunday World, the outgoing Mhlathuze Water interim CEO, Dr Simo Lushaba, said the reconfiguration process of the two water boards has been seamless.

“The due diligence process has produced a report and based on the outcomes of the report the teams are now mapping up a roadmap that will inform the transition,” Lushaba said.

“There are various streams looking at human capital, finance, operations, legal and projects. But we are not privy at this stage to talk about time lines, it is the prerogative of the minister.”

There were fears from trade unions that the merger might lead to job losses, but the Mhlathuze Water chairperson, Thabi Shange, was quick to allay such fears, saying jobs are safe.

“The only people who will be impacted will be the composition of the boards because we cannot have two boards servicing one entity,” said Shange.

“There will also be one administration head in the form of CEO. In terms of the jobs, workers will be safe despite the merger.”

Both the water boards have in the past been under severe scrutiny.

Umgeni, which predominantly serves eThekwini metro and other areas mostly in the southern district of the province, has seen several forensic audits being conducted.

During the height of Covid-19, the special investigating unit implicated its former CEO Thami Hlongwa on wrongdoings pertaining to social facilitation contracts.

Hlongwa was alleged to have unduly awarded lucrative tenders to cronies and associates.

The Mhlathuze on the other hand also battled issues around governance, which eventually led to the sacking of chief financial officer Babongile Mnyandu and CEO Mthokozisi Duze.

The pair and other senior officials are currently on bail facing a string of charges including fraud, money-laundering and corruption, among others.

In a notice issued in the government gazette by Mchunu in 2022, he pointed out that a single board will be able to leverage finance better.

“It would also assist in bringing water to areas which were currently not serviced and in ending the institutional confusion caused by the existence of multiple water boards in each province,” said Mchunu.


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