Case Study

Examining Budget Credibility in South Africa’s Water and Sanitation Sector

While South Africa has made significant progress in water service provision since 1994, progress has slowed, results are uneven, and, in some areas, access to water services has declined. Even access to water infrastructure does not guarantee access to reliable water supply, and many areas of the country are experiencing increasingly frequent supply interruptions. This is evident in the data reported in the National Water Information System, managed by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), which shows that while 89 percent of the population has access to water infrastructure, only 66 percent has access to a reliable supply. In urban areas, 77 percent of the population has access to reliable water supply while only 48 percent has access in rural areas. There are further concerns with the quality of water available, both through municipal supply and raw water sources, which some households still rely on where water supply is interrupted. 

Although complex factors affect water availability and water service delivery, including natural disasters, climate change and socio-economic shifts, there are also significant concerns around fiscal governance, budget allocations and execution, poor revenue management, misappropriation, and a lack of capacity and technical skills in key departments responsible for service delivery and oversight.

This brief interrogates the budget credibility issues in South Africa’s water and sanitation sector by examining the DWS budget deviation trends in the department’s overall budget and by economic classification of spending within the department over a five-year period (2017-2021). The brief analyses the reasons why budget deviations have occurred and the impact of spending deviations on the delivery of programs within the water and sanitation sector. It concludes with recommended reforms to improve the credibility of the sector’s budget. The study uses document reviews (annual performance reports and budget statements) and data from the annual estimates of national expenditure for the DWS, which includes the operations of the national department as well as transfers to water boards, to the water trading entity, and—through the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant and the Water Services Infrastructure Grant—to municipalities. 

This publication is a part of Exploring the Connections between Budget Credibility and SDG Implementation.

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Examining Budget Credibility in South Africa’s Water and Sanitation Sector

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Authors

Lisa Higginson

Budget Advocacy Coordinator, Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), South Africa

Lisa is the Budget Advocacy Coordinator at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) at Rhodes University, where she is currently engaged in research and advocacy for budget transparency, open government and social accountability monitoring.

She is also Deputy Coordinator of Imali Yethu civil society coalition for open budgets, and a member of the Steering Committee for the Budget Justice Coalition.

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