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Water Board now owed R1.4bn by municipalities

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 02 August 2010

Debts owed by municipalities to water boards have risen by R200 million since May, taking the total now outstanding to R1.4 billion, which has the potential to wreak havoc on service delivery across huge swathes of the country.

Local Government Research Centre director Clive Keegan warned last week that water boards would have to warn municipalities to pay up or receive reduced supply, as Eskom had done with municipalities that had not paid their electricity supply bills.

However, he said the water boards could not cut off water supply completely, as that would be ‘unconstitutional’.

In May Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said municipalities owed R1.2bn to water boards, including R653m in current debt and R609m in arrears.

DA MP Gareth Morgan said on Friday that the figure now stood at R1.4bn.

According to the National Taxpayers’ Union (NTU), municipalities all over are not paying for water and electricity. The effect of this was felt in Phalaborwa recently, when water restrictions were imposed.

NTU president Jaap Kelder reported that the water supply had been restricted because R100m was owed by the municipality to the local water board.

‘This, we understand, has been reduced to R60m after the municipality made arrangements to pay some of the arrears,’ he said, adding that supply was now back to normal.

While Eskom yesterday declined to provide figures of outstanding amounts owed by municipalities for electricity, it is estimated to still run into hundreds of millions of rands.

The NTU said Frankfort owed R426 000, while Villiers, Cornelia and Tweeling, also in the Free State, owed R12m.

Morgan noted that payment backlogs affected maintenance. He noted that the Albany water board was recently taken over by the Amatola water board after the board went into the red.

By: Donwald Pressly
Source: Business Report

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