Cities consider drastic steps

2017-05-10 13:30
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube issued a stern warning to public servants, senior managers and senior business people who she said were pleading poverty and not paying for services.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube issued a stern warning to public servants, senior managers and senior business people who she said were pleading poverty and not paying for services. (File)

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KZN municipalities are trying to get their hands on ratepayers’ financial information in a desperate attempt to recoup more than R13 billion in unpaid rates and other municipal charges.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube on Tuesday issued a stern warning to public servants, senior managers and senior business people who she said were pleading poverty and not paying for services.

“It is unfortunate that some people prioritise payment for DStv over payment for municipal services. This has to change,” she said.

Should the councils get the go ahead to scrutinise ratepayers’ financial backgrounds then they will look to attach properties and assets of those who are in arrears.

She said the department would look at options of legally accessing creditor information from the South African Revenue Service, banks and credit bureaus in an effort to strengthen enforcement provisions in municipal credit control and debt collection policies and by-laws.

This as KZN municipalities are struggling to recoup billions owed to them.

Based on the audited financial results for the 2016 financial year, KZN municipalities are owed R13,1 billion.

• Household debt — R7,9 billion (60,43%);

• Commercial debt (debt owed by businesses) — R3,5 billion (26,8%);

• Government debt — R735 million (5,6%); and

• Other debt (such as traffic fines) — R413 million (3,15%).

Dube-Ncube said most municipalities depend on rates and services charges which constitute about 90% of their generated income revenue.

“If this problem is not addressed, municipalities are going to collapse. We are now looking at taking extraordinary measures to address this problem.

“We want to enable municipalities to deal decisively with deliberately defaulting consumers.

“A study group will be established to research a proper legal instrument and advise even on possible legislation we can pilot nationally to deal with this challenge. Consumers run the risk of having properties and assets attached for owing debt to municipalities,” said Dube-Ncube.

She said households that cannot afford to pay up in light of bigger macro-financial challenges will be accommodated within the municipal programmes that cater for the indigent and the poor.

“We have to uncover those who illegally benefit from policies meant to benefit the poor and the indigent. They own mansions in townships and rural areas while they do not pay for water and rates.”

She said the department would increase the education campaign on the importance of paying for rates.

The MEC said some municipalities failed themselves because the billing systems used were unsatisfactory.

The Witness asked her about Vulindlela in Msunduzi, which has nine wards but is not billed for rates and other services by the municipality.

Dube-Ncube said the department had uncovered some billing issues while Msunduzi was under administration in 2010.

“We do have a history of unreliable databases. While the municipality was under administration, we received complaints about incorrect billing where people were being billed for houses that they do not live in.

“There were also issues of collusion between municipal officials and business people where people were being charged far less than what they had consumed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dube-Ncube announced that since 2016, 25 cases of corruption and related offences had been reported to the department.

“A total of 23 forensic investigations were undertaken, with 16 forensic investigations already being finalised and reviewed, and seven investigations pending.

“Some of the finalised investigations were tabled in council and the reports have been handed over to the municipalities concerned for final processing.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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