Some embattled KZN municipalities have paid up their Eskom debt: MEC

10 June 2021 - 16:44 By suthentira govender
KZN Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka gave an update on embattled municipalities in the province on Thursday. File photo.
KZN Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka gave an update on embattled municipalities in the province on Thursday. File photo.
Image: Supplied

A more than R200m debt to Eskom has been settled by the Msunduzi municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is according to co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka, who provided an update on the state of municipalities in distress on Thursday.

“The municipality’s Eskom debt, which was a significant challenge in the past, has now also been fully settled.

“We are also aware that the municipality has entered into an agreement with Eskom in relations to the maintenance of its electricity grid. We view this as an important development which will hopefully solve the electricity challenges faced by this municipality,” said Hlomuka.

He said there was a total of 10 municipalities among them Mpofana, Nquthu, Uthukela, Inkosi Langalibalele, Umzinyathi, Abaqulusi, Emadlangeni, Mtubatuba and Umkhanyakude under administration.

“In practice, this means that we have temporarily taken over some executive functions in these municipalities to assist them, through our appointed administrators, to draft and implement wide-ranging turnaround plans to allow these municipalities to return to stability so they can resume these executive functions as soon as possible.”

Hlomuka said it was important to outline “the successes we have achieved in the context of these support measures, as well as the challenges we have encountered”.

He said the Inkosi Langalibalele local municipality had paid up most historical creditors dating back to 2016.

“Arrangements were also made with Eskom for a three-year payment plan. The municipality has fully honoured this commitment as the whole amount of R138m has now been settled.”

At the Umzinyathi district municipality the council has “written off R276,303,312 of its irregular expenditure as per the unaudited annual financial statements submitted to the auditor-general”.

When it came to the Abaqulusi local municipality, a finance official who misappropriated funds from the municipal accounts has been disciplined and dismissed.

“The matter was also reported to the police. R3.5m out of R3.9m has been recovered. The former official is now attending a criminal case.

“The municipality is approaching courts to secure the balance of the R400,000.

“The municipality’s old Eskom debt of R68m was settled in December 2020 and its current Eskom account is up-to-date. Its creditors have been reduced to R8.2m from R100m.”

Despite the successes chalked up, Hlomuka said no “tangible progress” had been made at Umkhanyakude municipality.

“There is persistent political instability which is frequently collapsing council meetings. The municipality is also, and as a result of this, unlikely to approve its budget before the end of June 2021. Needless to say, the current institutional instability at Umkhanyakude is having a negative impact on service delivery, especially the municipality’s water provision.

“Water provision remains intermittent and unreliable, particularly at Mbazwana and Ingwavuma,” said Hlomuka.

He said there was no progress at Nquthu.

“Our concerns with Nquthu include its failure to investigate unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, with the municipality’s Municipal Public Accounts Committee being dysfunctional.

“Nquthu has also forged ahead with irregular appointments of senior managers, despite resistance from Cogta. 

“It is also important to highlight that the judiciary agreed with us that the appointment of these senior managers was irregular.

“We also note the resistance to our support from the Nquthu council, as was clearly displayed last week when I, being a member of the provincial executive council, was locked out of the municipal building and had to conduct an official meeting in the parking lot.”

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