'R88‚500 to replace a single bucket toilet'

Toilet sign
Toilet sign

Civil society action group Outa says government plans to spend R88‚500 to replace a single bucket toilet this year. Despite the large sum‚ Outa says that is an improvement on the 2015/16 costs of an average of R530‚685 per toilet.

How is this possible?

The lobby group's Yamkela Ntola said on Tuesday that overspending on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Bucket Eradication Programme‚ according to Outa‚ "captures the essence of the department’s financial mismanagement‚ which will be placed under a microscope in the forthcoming parliamentary inquiry".

It accuses the department of reporting different numbers in the Budget and in its annual reports. In its statement‚ Outa's Ntola said: "For instance‚ the Budget shows that the Department replaced 28‚365 buckets in 2015/16 but the Department’s annual reports show that only 1‚838 buckets were replaced."

Outa said the department's annual reports show:

- In 2014/15‚ R281.779 million was spent replacing 20‚581 buckets‚ an average cost of R13‚691 per toilet.

- In 2015/16‚ the department spent R975.399 million replacing 1‚838 toilets‚ an average cost of R530‚685 per toilet.

- In 2016/17‚ the Department spent R831.390 million replacing 6‚978 toilets‚ an average cost of R119‚144 per toilet.

- The department’s report for 2017/18 is not available yet‚ but the Budget shows that in 2017/18‚ it spent R852.1 million on the target of 13‚538 toilets‚ the organisation said. While it is not clear if this target was met‚ Outa said‚ this is an average of R62‚941 per toilet.

- The 2018/19 Budget indicates that the department plans to spend about R88‚500 to replace each bucket toilet this year.

Commented Outa: "The numbers provided by the department indicate that it not only overspent but failed to meet its target as there are South Africans still using bucket toilets. The fluctuating costs for this programme are inexplicable."

Inviting people to contact them directly if they had information relevant to the issue‚ the organisation called on the recently instituted inquiry by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in parliament to investigate the costs of this programme and why there are still communities obliged to use bucket toilets.

Government has pledged to eliminate the hated bucket toilets for many years. A minister who previously handled this portfolio was confident that bucket toilets would be eradicated in formal areas‚ while admitting to challenges in terms of servicing ever-growing informal settlements.

Business Day reported in 2015 that the toilets which were replacing the bucket system would not necessarily flush using fresh water‚ as the department was elevating the use of recycled water and dry sanitation solutions.

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