Msunduzi gets tough on govt

2010-09-10 00:00

IN a bid to stabilise its finances, the Msunduzi Municipality has asked its legal team to investigate whether there are legal provisions that will allow it to attach properties belonging to the provincial government departments that owe the council millions in unpaid rates.

The latest move by the cash-strapped municipality to try to resuscitate its drive to collect debts from government departments was revealed in yesterday’s executive committee (Exco) meeting.

The council’s chief financial officer, Mahen Sahibdeen, said: “We are looking at alternative avenues that could help the municipality collect the outstanding debts. That is why we have given our legal division a task to see if we can attach properties belonging to the provincial departments that owe the municipality.”

Sahibdeen said that last month the municipality was able to collect R23 million in rates and service charges from some provincial departments.

“Currently the provincial departments have outstanding debts of about R58 million that the Msunduzi Municipality can use to pay its bills to various institutions,” he said.

Administrator Johann Mettler said the council has received undertakings from provincial departments to make payment arrangements.

Mettler said it is difficult to get the defaulting departments to pay their outstanding debts or to attach properties because some of them say they do not own the properties.

This is why it has issued a directive to the legal division to see what provisions are in place to facilitate the municipality’s debt collection efforts.

“The Msunduzi Municipality and provincial departments are jointly investigating the correctness of the debts, and if they are legitimate then the payments will have to be done immediately,” added Mettler.

Yesterday’s findings are a continuation of a series of strategic moves by Exco to collect outstanding debts and undertake cost-cutting measures so that it can get the municipality to operate normally.

Mettler and his team have been able to reduce the debts almost by half. Last month The Witness reported that the municipality is owed about R101 million by provincial government departments.

Mettler said at the time that the municipality has no choice but to be tough, as Eskom payments stand between it and liquidity.

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