Power cuts loom for depts

2010-08-20 00:00

PROVINCIAL government departments face the prospect of having their electricty supply cut off by the end of next week unless they settle their debts with the Msunduzi Municipality.

This tough new stance was announced at yesterday’s sitting of the executive committee when it emerged that various government departments collectively owe the municipality more than R100 million.

Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler said letters were sent to the MECs of all the departments that owe the municipality money this week.

In the letters the mayor makes it clear that if the offending departments do not settle their outstanding debt by August 28, the municipality will have no choice but to disconnect them, said Mettler.

“We have our back to the wall with this one … With a projected deficit for September, we don’t know how we’re going to pay salaries, [so] we need that money and we need it desperately,” he said.

Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr said that if departments have not paid up by August 27, they “will verbally contact the MECs regarding payment and tell them they cannot allow us to go bankrupt”.

Mettler said the national government has turned down the municipality’s request to allow it to shift its municipal infrastructural grant (MIG), which would have helped ease the financial burden, but he said will take this up with the Treasury.

“There will not be a bail-out so no one should hold their breath … We are looking at our budget and I think it’s under threat,” he said.

Democratic Alliance caucus whip Rodger Ashe said he is shocked at the government’s refusal to allow the use MIG funds to protect the municipality’s assets and and the matter needs to be pursued further.

He said it is about time the municipality cut the services of government departments that owe money because ratepayers are not afforded the same grace.

“The government should not get away with owing over R100 million. There are always queries about who is responsible, but as soon you cut the electricity off, you’ll find out who is responsible,” he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader Dolo Zondi said the municipality must show government departments no mercy: they signed contracts and they need to pay.

“Even hospitals must not be treated differently. Once they are cut they’ll come here within 30 minutes and pay. No one will die because they have generators. I know because I worked at a hospital for over 30 years,” said Zondi.

Mettler said the raids on businesses in the CBD have gone well and the initiative — nicknamed “Project Pitbull” — is continuing.

Residential areas will also be targeted.

“If we make it through September then we’ll be through the worst in terms of cash flow. Project Pitbull will continue until we’ve covered the entire city,” said Mettler.

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