The Department of Public Works owes a massive R420 million in utilities, rates and taxes to municipalities across the country. This was confirmed in a reply received today to a question submitted to the National Minister of Public Works by DA representative in the National Council of Provinces, Velly Manzini.
The Department of Public Works, together with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National Treasury and the Presidency, established a task team to address high levels of intergovernmental debt in June 2011.
Results of the task team’s efforts presented to the Portfolio Committee on Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs on 22 May were, however, unsatisfactory.
Some of the most disappointing findings include the following:
The task team set itself an ambitious target of effecting a 50% reduction in intergovernmental debt owed to municipalities. The average improvement achieved as at December 2011 was only 11%.
In 10 out of 20 municipalities targeted in the programme, there has actually been an increase in the debt owed by government.
In another 5 municipalities, the reduction in debt was less than 5%.
The task team found that persistent debt was attributable to, among other things, the high rate of management turnover in municipalities and insufficient reconciliation of the state immovable assets registers for all three spheres of government.
I will be requesting the task team on intergovernmental debt to provide detailed feedback to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works on the progress with this process.
Clearly, a different approach is needed. The inefficiencies in the Department of Public Works and the lack of co-ordination between various levels of government cannot be allowed to undermine the work of municipalities.