Gauteng MEC intervenes to stop power cuts
THE Gauteng provincial government has promised to enter into negotiations with Eskom to settle the electricity bills of its struggling municipality in a bid to avoid power being cut to Emfuleni and Merafong local municipalities.
Gauteng MEC for Finance Barbara Creecy made the announcement following a meeting she had with various members of mayoral committee for finance from all Gauteng municipalities. The MECMMC of Finance Forum was convened to assess the state of municipal finances, governance and services providers to ratepayers.
Gauteng municipalities owe Eskom a combined amount of R1 billion. “As the provincial government we are working around the clock with Eskom to finalise a clear payment plan that will be honoured by the relevant municipalities for outstanding debt to the power utility. We are committed to ensure that we avoid power cuts because this will impact negatively on citizens, businesses and ultimately local economies,” Creecy said.
She, how- ever, said the accounts of Midvaal, Mogale City and Lesedi Local Municipalities were current and within 30 days.
Earlier in May, the DA became critical about the plummeting debt at Emfuleni Local Municipality and called on Creecy to intervene when Eskom threatened to cut the electricity supply.
Emfuleni electricity debt stood at R114 million while it owed Rand Water R214m. At the time, the DA’s Emfuleni constituency head Kingsol Chabalala said: “Maladministration and poor financial decision making are to blame for the collapse of service delivery in Emfuleni. Schools and clinics will now be placed at risk without water, while the mayor conducts his business in luxury from the Shakespeare Hotel”.
Creecy and her team said their latest intervention would ensure struggling municipalities owned up to their debts.
Creecy said revenue collection was still a challenge in municipalities across the metros which are owed R49bn.
“The biggest debtors are residents and commercial customers owing municipalities R31.8bn and R13bn respectively for services and taxes. Government is the smallest debtor accounting for 3% of the total outstanding amount.
“In order to address household debt, municipalities such as the City of Ekurhuleni and City of Tshwane have embarked on various initiatives to encourage consumers to pay.”
She also lambasted these local municipalities for failing to spend their infrastructure budget, saying they had managed to spend only 78% of their capital budget by the end of June.
Municipalities collectively owe Eskom R1 billion