The Department of Water and Sanitation will terminate bulk water supply to 30 defaulting municipalities next month, Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said on Monday.
This would mean that water cuts will be implemented.
Addressing a media briefing in Rosebank, Johannesburg, Minister Mokonyane said should the municipalities fail to pay their debts to the department and water boards, they would have their services terminated by 8 December.
“The department and water boards have at various levels sought to resolve the outstanding debt matter using various structures within the state such as the Inter-Governmental Relations framework and to date these have failed to yield the desired outcomes,” said the Minister.
The department is currently owed R10.7 billion for water supplied of which R3.9 billion is owed to the Water Trading Entity (WTE) of the department and R6.8 billion is owed to the various water boards.
Of the debt, R7 billion has been outstanding for a period exceeding 120 days.
This amounts to R3.5 billion to the WTE and R3.5 billion to the water boards.
In terms of the Municipal Financial Management Act (MFMA), municipalities are required to pay for bulk services within 60 days of receiving the relevant invoices. Section 41 of the MFMA further mandates the National Treasury to monitor payments made by municipalities for these services.
To date the department has issued 59 summonses and have six judgments granted by the courts against the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, OR Tambo District Municipality and the Phumelela, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Emfuleni and Nketoana Local Municipalities.
Minister Mokonyane said the OR Tambo District Municipality is the only one currently servicing its debt in line with a payment plan agreed to with the department.
“The rest are still failing to settle the debt and as such the debt is rising unabated. To arrest the growing debt and recover the monies due to the department, we have since come to the important yet unfortunate decision of issuing notices to the affected municipalities to either pay by 8 December 2017 or face water cuts.”
The National Water Act allows the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to restrict or suspend the flow of water to defaulting municipalities.
Responding to a question on water being a basic Constitutional right, and what the impact of the cut would mean for this Constitutional right, Minister Mokonyane said all role players should be responsible and transparent.
“It’s inherent upon local government to make sure that in their open process of budgeting they inform the end user where their budget items are and what you are paying for. It is only 30 municipalities [that are defaulting], the importance of what we need to do to protect the end user is for us to be responsible and accountable to [them] especially those of us who are at the end of reaching the end user.”
“So that consultation is very important but what is of importance is for us the three spheres of government is not for us to pass the buck and abdicate responsibility,” she said.
The department on Friday communicated with the affected municipalities notifying them of the decision.
The Minister highlighted that the failure by the municipalities to pay their debts affects the department and threatened the future water supply of the department.
She said the monies collected by the WTE are critical for the building of new infrastructure, repayment of loans and water quality and pollution control, among others.
Acting Chief Financial Officer of the WTE, Paul Nel, said debt from municipalities has been growing steadily for the last seven years.
“If we look at this financial year, for the first six months it’s grown by R750 million, so we estimate that if nothing gets done its going to grow by R1.5 billion every year. That is money that we should be using elsewhere,” he said.
Among those owing the local water boards are the Matjhabeng local municipality and the Nala local municipality.
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