Government departments must attend their debts to municipalities

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

The DA notes the revelation by Cogta MEC, SPD Skhosana that municipalities in the province collectively owe Eskom R800 million and while this is alarming, MEC Skosana fails to make mention of monies owed to municipalities by government departments.

The financial situation in many municipalities is concerning and can, amongst other factors, be attributed to the fact that many municipalities have flawed and dysfunctional billing systems that make revenue collection almost impossible.

Due to the chaotic state of billing systems, municipalities don’t know how much to charge consumers, and often resort to anything from a thumb-suck to applying an average for the immediate area when issuing bills. Furthermore, meter readings are often inaccurate and irregular in many of these municipalities, a tsak which is not difficult to perform, and often outsourced to contractors.

However, the DA is particularly concerned over instances where municipalities do indeed collect the electricity revenue from consumers, but it is not being paid over to Eskom, which of course begs the question where that money goes.

While a certain portion of the debt to Eskom is as a result of illegal electricity connections and other losses, the DA wonders exactly how much of this debt is as a result of the municipalities’ own inabilities to collect revenue, and from bad government debt.

Just over a year ago government departments’ debt to municipalities stood close to R100 million for services such as electricity and water. It was never made known whether that debt was settled through the turn-around strategies and interventions promised by former MEC for Cogta, Madala Masuku.

The DA will submit written questions to MEC Skosana to ascertain how much is owed to municipalities by government departments and to establish how and when these departments plan to repay what they owe.