In the aftermath of Eskom’s attempts to recoup the R2.3 billion debt owed to it by Emfuleni Local Municipality – which saw the sheriff of the court seize property worth millions of rands last week – Gauteng’s provincial government has pledged to support local governments by offering officials “skills and finance management training”.
Speaking to City Press, Gauteng finance MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said the province had already set aside R100.3 million, through its Medium Term Expenditure Framework, to assist municipalities identified as priority cases and to train officials to adopt good business practices, including fiscal discipline.
In particular, she said, the money would be used for “building sustainable municipalities which can effectively deliver services to residents”.
During her provincial budget speech last week, Nkomo-Ralehoko also announced that R19.5 million had been set aside for “supporting local governments with regard to skills, financial management, service provision, and infrastructure building and maintenance”.
These measures would be put in place to assist the province’s worst performing municipalities, she said.
Lebogang Maile, Gauteng’s MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said that, as part of the province’s interventions, disciplinary action would be taken against “two senior officials who had misled council about its payment arrangements with the power utility”.
Maile was speaking to the media on Friday during an oversight visit to Emfuleni.
He said that after engaging with the council, it had become clear that a binding agreement between the municipality and Eskom had been concluded in 2018.
“In that agreement, it was stated that if the municipality reneged on its contractual obligations, as endorsed by the courts at the time, Eskom would be entitled to attach the assets,” said Maile.
“It became apparent that the mayoral committee and council were not given accurate information by some of the officials at some point. The information they were given is that the municipality was adhering to the agreement and that the municipality was able to pay its current account.”
City Press understands that the municipality’s chief financial officer, Andile Dyakala, is one of the two high-ranking Emfuleni officials facing the chop after Eskom seized furniture and vehicles from its municipal offices in Vanderbijlpark.
The two are expected to be served with suspension papers this week.
Nkomo-Ralehoko said one way of helping Eskom recover debt would be through the provincial government leading the way in ensuring that the payment of suppliers happened on time.
“In this financial year, the provincial government is paying 92% of its suppliers within 30 days, and just over 60% within 15 days. However, I continue to receive complaints about some invoices not getting paid on time. When this happens, Gauteng’s provincial treasury will intervene and assist to ensure that valid invoices are paid,” she said.
The provincial government’s intervention plans in Emfuleni come in the face of questions by the DA over why the ANC has placed Tshwane under administration, when the ANC-run Emfuleni is in an even worse financial state.