Call for plan on Eskom pay­ments

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS - By SUE MACLEN­NAN

Acoun­cil­lor has called for Makana to ringfence rev­enue gen­er­ated from the sale of elec­tric­ity for the sole pur­pose of pay­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s cur­rent ac­count and set­tling its out­stand­ing debt. Mean­while, se­nior Coun­cil of­fi­cials were sched­uled to meet this week with ex­perts to ob­tain ad­vice on man­ag­ing the Eskom re­la­tion­ship.

In a writ­ten pro­posal to Coun­cil dated 2 Oc­to­ber and tabled at a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, Ward 12 coun­cil­lor Dar­ryn Holm noted that be­cause of Makana’s fail­ure to ad­here to its pay­ment plan with Eskom, its debt would in­crease in the long term. Holm noted that Eskom con­sti­tuted the bulk of Makana’s out­stand­ing cred­i­tors at the end of the fourth quar­ter of 2016/17, at around 42%.

Sub­mit­ted ear­lier this month, the pro­posal now comes in the wake of Eskom’s an­nounce­ment last week that it would throt­tle Makana’s sup­ply be­cause of non-pay­ment to­wards its out­stand­ing amount of R52 366 886.70. In a no­tice pub­lished in a re­gional news­pa­per, Eskom said the sup­ply to Makana would be in­ter­rupted from 8 De­cem­ber should the mu­nic­i­pal­ity fail to ad­e­quately ad­dress its pay­ment breaches.

In Wed­nes­day’s Coun­cil meet­ing, speak­ing to the pro­posal, Holm said, “We have a con­sti­tu­tional man­date to de­liver elec­tric­ity and it’s un­fair for those who are pay­ing to be threat­ened with the with­drawal of that ser­vice.”

Holm said the threat­ened cuts were at the start of the fes­tive sea­son, also a time when crime was higher.

“Some­thing dras­tic has to hap­pen,” Holm said. “The money re­ceived for that ser­vice should go to pay­ing off those debts.”

Holm said Makana’s debt to Eskom was in­creas­ing by around R20 mil­lion each year.

“Our monthly bill ranges from R12m to R16m, but we can only ever pay R5m-R8m. There’s no real plan to cut down this debt and it’s a se­ri­ous con­cern,” Holm said. “By the end of next year we will owe around R70m.”

He said he’d hoped, in re­sponse to the tabled ques­tion, for a cost anal­y­sis that would show why the right amount to Eskom couldn’t be paid, and what would be done to solve it.

“I’d like to know what the plan is go­ing for­ward,” the coun­cil­lor said.

Ear­lier in the meet­ing, Speaker Yan­diswa Vara also raised the Eskom threat.

“We must pay Eskom without chang­ing our pay­ment plan,” Vara said. She said the Mayor Nomhle Gaga and act­ing mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Nomthandazo Mazwai were among the se­nior Coun­cil of­fi­cials who would be join­ing her in a meet­ing to seek ex- pert ad­vice on man­ag­ing the Eskom threat.

Com­ment­ing on the Ex­pen­di­ture Re­port for the quar­ter end­ing 30 Septem­ber, Coun­cil­lor Mab­huti Matyumza re­ferred to the ta­ble of pay­ment plans to var­i­ous en­ti­ties in­clud­ing Eskom (owed R59 641 041), the Au­di­tor Gen­eral (R10.3m) and the De­vel­op­ment Bank of South­ern Africa (R51.1m). He noted that Ama­tola Wa­ter should now be added to that plan.

Kabuso up­date

Mean­while, a progress re­port on the Kabuso In­ves­ti­ga­tion (the re­port re­lease in 2015 in which sev­eral coun­cil of­fi­cials were im­pli­cated in cor­rup­tion or wrong­do­ing), noted that the re­port had been handed to the South African Po­lice Ser­vice for in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

This would “also cover all al­le­ga­tions of fraud against all em­ploy­ees men­tioned in the re­port” act­ing mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Nomthandazo Mazwai wrote.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port tabled, ac­tions were taken to im­ple­ment the Kabuso Re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

For­mer mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Pravine Naidoo had been dis­missed af­ter a dis­ci­plinary process and lawyers were in­structed to re­cover the R489 620 he owed Makana.

“Dr Naidoo could not find em­ploy­ment for some time and could there­fore not pay back the money,” the re­port noted.

It had been es­tab­lished that he was now em­ployed and had sub­mit­ted a re­quest for a 24-month grace pe­riod be­fore he en­tered into a pay­ment agree­ment. “The in­struc­tion to mu­nic­i­pal at­tor­neys is to refuse the re­quest,” the re­port says.

An ap­pli­ca­tion had also been made to the Labour Court to re­cover R280 000 from for­mer strate­gic man­ager Mnce­disi Boma. The mat­ter was to have been heard late last year but was post­poned at Boma’s re­quest.

In ad­di­tion to the civil claim against Boma, a crim­i­nal case had been opened be­cause of his unau­tho­rised pos­ses­sion of a mu­nic­i­pal file of Naidoo.

Coun­cil em­ployee No­luthando Santi had re­paid an ex-gra­tia pay­ment un­duly paid to her and no dis­c­plinary process had been ini­ti­ated against other staff men­tioned in the re­port. This was be­cause nearly two years had lapsed since the re­port was sub­mit­ted to Coun­cil in 2015.

“The Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Agree­ment pro­vides that the mu­nic­pal­ity can in­sti­tute a dis­ci­plinary process three months af­ter be­ing aware of a mis­con­duct or trans­gres­sion,” the re­port states. “If that has not hap­pened the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has to ap­ply for con­do­na­tion to the Bar­gain­ing Coun­cil.”

The re­port said hand­ing over the re­port to the po­lice meant al­le­ga­tions of fraud were cov­ered.

“Our monthly bill ranges from R12m to R16m, but we can only ever pay R5m-R8m.

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