Nearly three hundred million Rand owed in outstanding water bills

George Mari, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on COGTA

The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal is concerned that a lackadaisical approach to debt collection for water is not only impacting on service delivery in municipalities, but also reflects an underlying disregard for the value of water in our province.  In a reply to a parliamentary question from DA MPL George Mari, the MEC of COGTA indicated that an amount of R289m (two hundred and eighty nine million) is registered in their debtors books as being owed for over 90 days in three municipalities.

In terms of a Provincial Cabinet decision in June 2012 uThukela Water transferred the debtor’s book back to the following municipalities on 1 July 2013 with outstanding water debts as follows:

Amajuba – which had a 91 days-and-over debt of more than R25 million.

Umzinyathi – whose debtors book of 91 days-and-over reflected an amount of R140 million, although this amount has been reduced on 30 April 2014 by the Municipality to R114 620 520.

Newcastle local municipality had always performed its own retail function. The debtor’s book for Newcastle in May 2014 reveals that an amount of R149 million is listed as being over 90 days and more.

Whilst it is admirable that Umzinyathi was able to reduce its debt amount in the year since it took over the debtor’s book, it is nevertheless worrying that these extraordinary amounts have been allowed to escalate.

Furthermore whilst no promises have been made to write-off outstanding arrears, there is also no clear plan in place for how the municipalities hope to recover some of this money owed to them.  It is also of concern to the DA that water is a scarce resource in our province and yet there are no adequate controls in place which address the abuse of such a vital basic life necessity.

R289million would address significant backlogs in service delivery, including roads, houses and job creation opportunities.  These municipalities do not have a significant rates base and operate largely on conditional grant funding.  It is shameful that they are unable to ensure a suitable system for their debt management.