DA welcomes FS ESKOM reprieve, questions remain

David van Vuuren, MPL

DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature

ESKOM and the Free State Provincial Government have reached an agreement on the burgeoning municipal electricity debt. ESKOM will no longer suspend electricity supply to the Ngwathe, Dihlabeng and Maluti-a-Phofung municipalities on Monday, 04 August. Although the DA welcomes the reprieve, serious questions and issues remain.

All Free State municipalities failed to obtain clean audits for the 2012/13 financial year. Free State municipalities are unable to manage their finances appropriately. They also fail dismally in the collection of outstanding revenue from residents. Last year Free State municipalities failed to collect more than R5.4 billion in household debt.

Paying residents cannot be held responsible and threatened with suspension of services because of the incompetence of municipalities. Likewise ESKOM’s dilemma of non-payment by municipalities for services rendered should be dealt with by the national cabinet who oversee public enterprises in conjunction with the provincial executive committee and municipalities. In essence, this is an ANC government run problem that cuts across three spheres of government.

The Free State provincial government itself is not in a healthy financial situation. The Provincial Department of Education is struggling with a R1.2 billion shortfall and the provincial Department of Health is in complete crisis, struggling to deliver quality healthcare services with a R700 million shortfall in accruals from the previous financial year.

The Free State, at local and provincial government level, is heading towards a financial crisis. The current state of affairs is indicative of an embedded culture of unaccountability, lack of transparency and recklessness within municipalities and provincial departments. Corruption and fruitless, irregular and wasteful expenditure remain the order of the day in municipalities as the ANC continues with its cadre deployment policy instead of appointing qualified and competent individuals to key posts.

The intervention by the national minister of COGTA, Pravin Gordhan, shows that the provincial government lacks the ability to deal with the problems created under years of ANC government.

Unless urgent measures are adopted the Free State could soon find itself under administration. If the provincial government under the premiership of Ace Magashule would like to avoid such an intervention, they should pull up their socks, acknowledge the problems, and table a concrete strategy in the Free State Provincial Legislature so that the implementation of these turnaround strategies can be monitored.

I will submit the following written questions to Finance MEC, Elzabe Rockman, in the legislature:

In view of the agreement reached between the Free State Provincial Government (FSPG) and ESKOM regarding the threats by ESKOM to cut off electricity in municipalities;

  1. What agreement was reached regarding further engagement;
  2. Whether payments will be made to ESKOM by the FSPG, if so, (a) what amounts will be paid, (b) what is the timeline for such payments, and (c) where the funds to service these payments will be reallocated from; and
  3. What measures the provincial departments of COGTA and Finance will spearhead and implement within municipalities to prevent a reoccurrence of this.