THE ANC in the Free State has turned down the challenge by the DA to have the mayoral candidates of the two opposing parties for the Mangaung Metro Municipality debate their service delivery plans for the metro. The DA has nominated James Letuka as its Mangaung mayoral candidate and the ANC has nominated Olly Mlamleli. The DA’s challenge to have Mlamleli debate service delivery plans for Mangaung followed Letuka’s claims of shortcomings in service delivery to residents of Ratlou in Thaba Nchu during his visit here on Wednesday (06/07). Letuka visited this township which forms part of the Mangaung Metro to rally voters’ support for the upcoming local elections set for 3 August.Reacting to Letuka’s claims, Thabo Meeko, the ANC’s spokesperson in the Free State, said Mlamleli was too busy with election campaigns to bother with debates with Letuka. The ANC’s provincial executive committee campaigned in the Xariep district ahead of the election. “Letuka wants to shine on our platform. We will not give the DA airtime,” said Meeko, adding that residents have embraced Mlamleli as the Mangaung Metro mayoral candidate after she had addressed them at an the informal settlement in Bloemfontein on 3 July.Letuka has accused the ANC of neglecting the Ratlou township by failing to provide basic service delivery. “There is no access to adequate sanitation. I can see that when it comes to basic service delivery such as refuse collection, water supply and roads maintenance, that the metro has no intention of bringing those services here,” said Letuka.Letuka claimed Mlamleli had presided over the collapse of 15 Free State municipalities during her tenure as MEC for cooperative Governance. He also bashed Mlamleli’s administration and highlighted some of the challenges faced by municipalities in the province.Eskom’s R1,7 billion debt, the Free State’s water crisis and the Auditor General’s recent report on the state of municipalities are some of the issues Letuka has raised.The DA said the Free State had recorded 3 000 more bucket toilets in use, from 29 472 bucket toilets in 2014 to 32 551 in 2015, the only province in South Africa to do so. Letuka also pointed to irregular expenditure of R805 million while unauthorised expenditure in the province had been R3,5 billion in 2014-’15. “Wasteful expenditure grew from R95 million in 2010-’11 to R321 million in 2014-’15. In total, R414 million has been spent by municipalities on consultants to help chief financial officers. There is an infrastructure maintenance backlog of more than R1,9 billion,” said Letuka.