Public Works settles KZN municipal rates bills

2012-04-16 00:00

THE Public Works Department (PWD) in KwaZulu-Natal has finally paid off outstanding rates owed on its properties to municipalities in the province.

The news was welcomed by the provincial finance committee on Friday.

Municipalities have long complained that government departments make up a sizeable portion of their debtors’ books.

The head of the PWD, Roger Govender, said the department had received a grant from national Treasury to settle its outstanding rates bills.

He said each rates claim was not taken at face value, but interrogated and verified. Where a municipality could not substantiate its claim, the money was not paid out, Govender said.

He added that by doing this the PWD had saved about R50 million in eThe­kwini alone. It turned out that properties were listed as belonging to the province when upon verification it was established that they either belonged to the municipality itself or to national government.

Govender said the exercise had helped to clarify the list of provincial properties within the different municipalities and for the first time the province had a clearer indication of how much it would need for its rates bill in the next financial year.

He said the PWD received a grant of R67 million from national Treasury and had paid about R55 million in rates.

Money left over from the grant would be returned to Treasury.

Govender congratulated the team for their “driven” approach, saying they were determined to sort out the billings and ensure that the payments were made.

An issue of contention that came up for debate was whether provinces should be paying rates on provincial roads. It turned out that some municipalities were charging rates on roads while others were not.

Govender said where the PWD was asked to pay, it paid.

However, some finance committee members felt that this was setting a precedent.

Chairperson Belinda Scott said there was a need to get clarity from national government on the issue before a cent more was paid out.

She said a situation could arise where every municipality would be approaching the Department of Transport asking for rates to be paid on provincial roads.

But ANC MPL Sipho Gcabashe called for a more measured approach. He said paying rates was for land usage and if the province resisted such payments, ratepayers would one day point this out.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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