Amatola could return to Makana

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Whether Makana can afford their services, and whether the municipality continues to service its R40 million debt to Amatola are among the factors that will determine whether the utility will return to Makana, according to newly-appointed Amatola Water chief executive officer, Vuyo Zitumane, who took up office on 3 April.

“Engagement between Amatola Water and Makana Municipality is ongoing,” Zitumane told Grocott’s Mail in response to questions. “The decision for Amatola Water to resume its services will be contractually determined by both parties as part of these engagements.”

Amatola Water withdrew their services from Makana in September last year as a result of a R40 million unserviced debt. Amatola was contracted to manage Makana’s bulk water supply, ensuring treated water to the three centres. Amatola is also the implementer of the crucial R98 million upgrade of the James Kleynhans water treatment works, for which funding has been received from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.

Makana entered into a five-year agreement with Amatola in October 2013 for Blue Drop (water quality) management and additional services, primarily the provision of bulk potable water. A funding agreement with ECDC saw the Corporation funding the service until 31 August 2015. The contract was to finish on 30 September 2018.

Zitumane this week confirmed that Makana had been honouring its agreed on payment plan.

“To date an initial payment of R4 million has been made, decreasing the debt owed by Makana Municipality to around R40 million (as at end February 2018),” Zitumane said.

She confirmed that Amatola Water is still involved in the James Kleynhans Bulk Water Supply project as an implementing agent on behalf of the Department of Water and Sanitation.

“Amatola Water’s role includes the management and implementation of the bulk infrastructure upgrade at James Kleynhans – which entails the augmentation of storage reservoirs, the pump station, and the existing water treatment works from a capacity of 10Ml/day to 20Ml/day to mitigate the current water shortages and meet the area’s future water demand requirements,” Zitumane said. “The project is expected to be completed in December 2020.

Zenande Consulting were appointed by the Department of Water & Sanitation to provide support to Amatola Water in designing and implementing their turnaround plan.

Zitumane said this included conducting a diagnostic assessment of the organisation (which was completed in December 2017), and assisting Amatola Water with the development of key strategies (based on the outcome of the diagnostic review) to ensure a stable and sustainable organisation.

“The turnaround plan has been aligned with Amatola Water’s strategic plan for the next five years and is aimed at stabilising the organisation and preparing it towards becoming a Regional Water Utility in line with the Department of Water & Sanitation’s Institutional Reform & Re-alignment (IRR) process,” Zitumane said.

“It entails six phases (with identified deliverables) i.e. diagnostic, prepare for change, stabilise the organisation, business restructuring, return to normality through operational effectiveness, and sustaining growth. The specific focus is on ensuring effective leadership and governance, enhancing organisational culture and capability, strengthening stakeholder relations, and improving the organisation’s financial position.”

Among her key priorities, Zitumane will champion research on innovative mechanisms to mitigate the acute drought and water shortage in parts of the province, enhance the utility’s internal project management capacity and capability, as well as ensure the advancement of transformation in the water sector.

“Whilst we will not compromise on quality, we will be very robust when it comes to advancing transformation efforts, particularly at the consulting and contractor level.”

“The newly published BBBEE regulations have to find expression in our supply chain policy in order to ensure that there is equitable distribution of opportunities across the board,” she adds.

Zitumane has hit the ground running. Already she has met with the board and staff at Amatola Water’s East London head office. These meetings are to be followed by visits to the remaining 400 employees at eight other sites across the province later this week.

“These engagements are the first step in creating a committed workforce and the conducive working environment necessary for rebuilding the required internal competency and stakeholder trust,” she explains.

She also plans to visit other key stakeholders in the next month.

Zitumane is also to visit the Amatola Water-implemented priority projects of Nooitgedacht in the Nelson Mandela Bay region, the multi-million rand King Sabata Dalindyebo Presidential Intervention in Mthatha and some of the Department of Education 132 school infrastructure upgrades.

“The Amatola Water team is aware that water as a resource, its security as well as access to water is important not only to the business but also to nation-building.  Our team understands their role and is committed to delivering on our mandate,” said Zitumane.

No response to Grocott’s Mail’ request for comment on their engagement with Amatola Water had been received from Makana Municipality by the time of publishing.

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