DA rejects accusations of political grandstanding

James Masango MPL
Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The DA dismisses with contempt the accusation by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) that we have purposely and mistakenly used information for political gain, and a timeline of events will illustrate this point.

? September 9 2011: The DA submits written parliamentary questions to MEC Madala Masuku over outstanding government department debts to municipalities.? October 6 2011: The DA receives a response from MEC Masuku, stating that R72,4 million is outstanding, and that COGTA would intervene and assist municipalities to recover the money.? October 28 2011: The DA issues a press statement welcoming COGTA’s intervention.? December 8, 2011: Members of the Provincial Legislature which form the cabinet/house, adopted COGTA’s 1010/11 Annual Report, with recommendations from the portfolio committee chairperson, Mr SPD Skhosana. Recommendation 10.3 stated that “The Department must compile a database of all departments that are indebt to municipalities and compel them to settle their debts.”? January 17 2012: COGTA provides members of the COGTA portfolio committee with a progress report on the resolutions taken by the house, in this instance, Resolutions 10.3 and 10.8. Annexure A of this report provides a complete breakdown of outstanding debts by government departments to district as well as local municipalities. Annexure B to the report comprises a series of undated letters to heads of government departments providing a breakdown of debts owed to municipalities, and a request to pay these debts as “This amount will assist the municipalities in service delivery”. A delivery list attached to these letters shows that they were delivered around the end of September 2011.? January 24 2012: The Acting Secretary of the Legislature, Mr Linda Tshabalala receives the progress report.? January 30 2012: A copy of the progress report is delivered to the DA office in the Legislature.? February 8 2012: The DA issues a press statement lamenting the fact that government departments have still not paid their debts, and that service delivery suffers as a result.? February 16 2012: COGTA issues a statement accusing the DA of making misleading statements that the department’s intervention to collect municipal debts have failed.

COGTA’s claim that the progress report is a database of ongoing debts, and therefore not outstanding, is a complete fallacy, as all the outstanding amounts in both MEC Masuku’s written reply of October 6 and the progress report of January 17 correspond.

Furthermore, if it is true that this is a database of ongoing debts, why then would COGTA add letters demanding payment from government as

Annexure B to the progress report?

If it is true that over R70 million of the outstanding debts have been paid, as claimed in COGTA’s statement, then the DA would like to congratulate all departments concerned for complying with COGTA’s requests. However, the DA finds it difficult to believe that such a vast amount could have been collected over a period of 13 days, but not making any mention of the collection in the progress report. The DA believes that the department may be misleading the public over the payments, and is hiding its inability to collect outstanding debts from government departments, by issuing false statements.

To this end, the DA will submit supplementary written parliamentary questions to MEC Masuku, and ask him to provide us with the payment dates and the amounts paid. In addition, the DA will enquire whether any further debts have accrued since COGTA’s intervention in October, the outstanding amounts, and which departments are responsible. In conclusion, MEC Masuku will be asked to clarify whether the billing systems of all municipalities are finally fully functional and that municipal accounts are indeed being issued to departments and the public on a monthly basis.

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