Thirty defaulting municipalities, including Emfuleni in Gauteng and Mangaung in the Free State will have their bulk water supply restricted unless they settle outstanding debts to the Department of Water and Sanitation.
The department will also be writing to treasury to ask that money due to these municipalities be withheld until they make some sort of payment arrangement.
The department is currently owed R10,7 billion.
Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says the target is really the defaulting municipalities.
Paul Nell the Acting CFO of the Water Trading Entity elaborates, “This debt from municipalities has been growing steadily over the last seven years. If we look at just this financial year for the first six months its grown by R750 million so we estimate if nothing gets done its going to grow by R1.5 billion every year just grow and grow that’s money that we should be using elsewhere stopping the water is the one thing.
“We are asking treasury to withhold that money remember we are speaking about the free water the next payment, the 1st of December they can’t pay it across to us directly but they can withhold it until the municipalities have come to an agreement with us.”
The growing debt threatens the water trading entity and the water boards financial viability. Some of their duties include building new infrastructure and water quality and pollution control.
The Minister says in some instances the Municipalities are not billing customers.
“The issues about billing, because there are those who are willing to pay and there are those who are paying but they are being done a disservice. Today we are dealing with one of the business people in Emfuleni they’ve never been billed over the last four months, but they are ready to pay and when they go and ask they are given estimates.”
The Minister highlighted serious concerns around municipal budgets and how debts are reflected on the balance sheet.
Some of these municipalities receive money from customers and from government, but fail to honour their debt to the Department.
Mokonyane says they may have to review legislation.
“The municipalities have the responsibility of getting water from our dams into the reservoirs and then into our homes into our villages and stuff. What we are saying is where there is no such capacity. We should rethink the power of the municipality being a water service authority and let it be withdrawn so that we take full responsibility in the best interests of the end user.”
The Department insists that its stance will not affect citizen’s rights to water, which is protected by the Constitution.