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Risk Governance in the South African Water Sector, Country wide

Cutting edge, collaborative research for the Water Research Commission.

Water utilities have wide and varied responsibilities requiring them to manage a complex set of risks. Though managing risks is an integral part of water utility operations and governance, a formalised capability in risk management has emerged as one of the critical competencies in delivering safe, reliable and cost effective water and sanitation services.

Most water utilities have some operational risk management capability, systems and processes. Risk governance however is more than just management of risk, as it incorporates people, cultural and organisational aspects of risk management. The true value of risk governance is when it is integrated into other business functions and provides value; such as customer or shareholder trust, improved operational performance, technological innovation, infrastructure resilience, better emergency preparedness, access to finance, better use of funds and scarce resources, exploiting opportunities, promoting continuous improvement and fostering greater employee engagement.

In collaboration with the University of Cape Town we are developing a risk maturity assessment tool, which combines qualitative and quantitative elements, and using the tool to interview participants.

We are investigating how a wide range of stakeholders in the South African water sector undertake risk management and governance activities. The primary stakeholders are water service authorities in South Africa, municipalities and water boards situated across the country. We are interviewing some private firms that have water service responsibility, such as mines and the Department of Water and Sanitation, which is the national department responsible for water in South Africa.

Findings from the assessments provide us with an understanding of the range of risk governance maturity levels. More importantly the study explores how risk management and governance activities are integrated into wider municipality or business functions, inform strategic decision making and where such integration adds true value.

The final report is due in July 2016.