Corruption plays an important part in who gets water and how much and how it is delivered in South Africa according to a new report from Water Integrity Network and Corruption Watch.
“Where funds are scarce, any corruption that diverts money from public purposes to private pockets directly reduces the provision and quality of service,” according to the report, "Money Down The Drain: Corruption In South Africa’s Water Sector".
In declaring a “state of emergency”, contracts can be dispensed without tender and can be arbitrarily allocated; often to entities with a history of political funding. Corrupt officials often use this “emergency strategy” and the practice is not limited to any one region.
The report highlights that in 2014, after water pump failures, officials in Mothutlung, near Johannesburg, deployed water tankers to meet demands. Later, residents alleged that the tanker companies had bribed officials to switch off the pumps, resulting in violent protests ensued and the death of three people in the clashes.
In Limpopo province, during a drought, municipal officials purchased tankers and rented the takers to the municipality.
The corruption is also long-standing: in 2009 about $130 Million USD in irregular expenditures were identified in connection with an emergency water pipeline project in Giyani, where most of the area still has no water.
There is even a black market in water stolen from pools.
“Because of corruption,” the report said, “fewer people have reliable water supplies and many, particularly young children, old people, and those with compromised immune systems became ill as a result of drinking unsafe water”.
“It is safe to say that corruption in the water sector in South Africa has resulted in deaths”, it concluded.
OCCRP (Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) quotes David Lewis, Corruption Watch director, “enforcement authorities should prioritize, pay special attention to the water sector.”