'National govt meltdowns bad for municipalities'

2018-03-01 20:57
Mayco member JP Smith (Jenni Evans, News24)

Mayco member JP Smith (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - The national government's departmental "meltdowns" are having a bad effect on municipal budgets and normal services, mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith said in Cape Town on Thursday.

"I must just say, for me, there is a pattern emerging," he said.

He said the next "meaningful water intervention" in the Western Cape, by the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), will be in 2022.

"So for me, that's called 'caught napping'. And you have a situation where every time there is a meltdown in national government service delivery, we're expected to jump in and fill the gaps."

On Wednesday, a full parliamentary inquiry into the finances of the DWS was instituted, after it conceded it was billions of rand in debt.

The department presented itself before Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday, where its overdraft was the centre of focus.

The department blamed the overdraft on municipalities which failed to pay for services received, and significant budget cuts totalling R2.6bn in the 2016/17 financial year.

Smith said the same meltdowns were happening in policing, where inadequate national policing numbers and outcomes, left the City to police liquor, drugs and gangs, which they did not have to do before.

"And we're spending more and more money on that," he said.

'Incredibly difficult challenge'

Train travel was also in a meltdown with Metrorail's central line service cancelled for almost two months after the murder of a security guard , rampant vandalism and the theft of cables and other infrastructure belonging to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.

He said the City was expected to step in and deal with the security, as it had to scramble during the Eskom electricity crisis, which also had a devastating impact on the city.

"And water is the most recent example of this meltdown," Smith continued.

"Where now we have to repurpose very fragile City budgets that are precariously stretched already..."

Money was being taken out of budgets for repairs and maintenance to help cover the costs of water augmentation, when this should come out of the money that the City passes on to national government from its own rates.

"This for us is an incredibly difficult challenge because our services are doing as much as they can for communities that need a great lot and we are being put under incredible pressure."

Smith was speaking while giving an update on the City's plans to augment its own water supply during a prolonged drought and a cutback by the DWS on how much water the City is allowed to use.

The City has previously stated that the costs of the three planned desalination plants alone would be:

  • R56 to R58 million over two years for the V&A desalination plant;
  • R240m for a temporary desalination plant at Strandfontein Pavilion; and
  • between R250m to R260m for the Monwabisi contract.

In February, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille noted that although R6 billion had been included in the national budget for drought relief, it will have to be divided between five provinces facing droughts and will "hardly touch sides".

Zille said that no local government should have to shoulder the burden of capital and operational costs for a national function.

Read more on:    jp smith  |  cape town

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