Huge Public Works debts crippling municipalities

2012-07-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The national and provincial Public Works departments owe various municipalities across the country about R443 million in rates and utility payments.

The department acknowledged the debt in a written reply to a parliamentary question and admitted the debt was increasing, despite the existence of a task team appointed to take steps to reduce the debt.

The task team comprised representatives of the national Treasury, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Public Works Department.

Democratic Alliance MP Annchen Dreyer said in a statement yesterday that the lack of co-ordination between various levels of government could not be allowed to undermine the work of municipalities.

In May the team’s report to Parliament showed that:

• It only managed an 11% reduction inthe debt, despite a target of 50%;

• In 10 of the 20 municipalities on which the task team focused, there had actually been an increase in debt.

The task team attributed this partially to an inadequate register of fixed assets.

Yesterday the department disclosed the figures owed to municipalities per province.

Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal are owed R100 436 943, second only to the whopping R213 697 780 owed in the Free State.

Derek Luyt, an analyst attached to the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), said this kind of debt, with other factors, such as defective management, could easily paralyse service delivery.

“It is simply about political will that needs to be shown.”

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