Municipalities owed R139bn for services - Cogta

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize has revealed that municipalities are owed R139bn for municipal services rendered.

He said that the outstanding billions made it difficult for them to pay money owed to Eskom.

Mkhize was responding to questions in the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday. The DA had queried issues earlier this month surrounding the debt municipalities owed to Eskom.

According to Mkhize, who is also the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on Electricity Reticulation and Distribution, plans were in place to assist municipalities.

He said that government was concerned that the municipal debt owed to Eskom was around R27.8bn. The overdue debt is R14.5bn and the current debt is R13.2bn.

"The top 10 debtor municipalities owe R11.8bn. We also need to attend to the general culture of non-payment for municipal services by the communities, the private sector and government departments as well."

He said an advisory panel was also set up to "co-ordinate and help all parties to work closely together to find lasting solutions to various problems".

"Some of the matters we are looking into also include resolving the perceived tension between Eskom and municipalities over the allocation of areas for servicing, as both parties supply electricity to different stakeholders within a municipality based on licensing by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa."

Mkhize said the government was also engaging Eskom regarding their credit control policy to curb the further escalation of debt.

"There are concerns from municipalities about the interest that the utility charges on the overdue amount. Eskom also needs to be engaged over the tariffs they charge municipalities for bulk electricity and the interest charged on municipal debt."

Mkhize said he also undertook to persuade Eskom to avoid the disconnection of electricity supply to municipalities which have debt.

"That tends to punish the innocent, including those who have paid for electricity."

He said the department was to report back to the National Assembly in September.