March 2, 2018 / 12:09 PM / 2 years ago

South Africa to investigate water ministry amid severe drought

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s parliament will conduct an inquiry into allegations of mismanagement at the water ministry, a senior lawmaker said on Friday, as the country’s tourist hub Cape Town grapples with the worst recorded drought in its history.

People queue to collect water from a spring in the Newlands suburb as fears over the city's water crisis grow in Cape Town, South Africa, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Mlungisi Johnson, chairman of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, told Reuters his committee was drafting the terms of reference for the inquiry and expected it to get under way this month.

“We are going to get to the bottom of the situation at the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and are moving with speed,” Johnson said.

A spokesman for the DWS said the ministry would cooperate with the inquiry.

Earlier this week parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) supported calls for a full inquiry into the DWS over “irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.

South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought affecting southern and western regions, including Cape Town, which had two of the driest years ever recorded in 2015 and 2016.

Cape Town authorities have warned the city’s taps could run dry in July if rains do not boost dam levels, now at record low levels.

SCOPA has said it wants a criminal case opened against the DWS for opening a 2.9 billion rand ($245 million) overdraft with the central bank.

“SCOPA is concerned that it is ordinary people who are affected by the instability and financial mismanagement in this department, because South Africa is a water-stressed country,” the committee said in a statement.

($1 = 11.8400 rand)

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia and Pritha Sarkar

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