Johannesburg - National Treasury has warned municipalities not to suspend measures to collect the R93.3 billion they are owed in order to win public support ahead of next month’s general elections.
In a 2014/15 municipal budget circular, dated March 17, the National Treasury notes that this has come to its attention and describes it as “completely irresponsible”.
“… it also jeopardises the financial sustainability of the municipality, and is outside the policy framework governing the municipality,” reads the circular.
According to the circular, a debt collection and credit control policy is a resolution of the municipal council and only through that resolution being rescinded by the council can debt collection and credit control measures be suspended.
It says no municipality is allowed to suspend these measures prior to the national elections. It warns accounting officers (municipal managers) should their municipalities be found to have suspended these measures, this will be considered a serious violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Such moves will also constitute an act of financial misconduct and action will be taken by the Treasury.
The warning comes a few days after Westergloor, Randfontein, residents took to the streets alleging that their ward councillor had told them not to pay for services in the run-up to the 2011 local government elections. The councillor apparently promised that they would receive services for free once he was elected.
Last week, he had to be rescued by police after angry residents emptied refuse containers in front of his house. And his illegal promise never materialised and instead the Randfontein municipality disconnected non-paying residents from the electricity supply.
Westergloor residents will meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
Rate-paying households in the country’s 278 municipalities owe the municipalities R59bn of the R93.3bn debt.
National and provincial government departments and state-owned entities owed municipalities over R4bn by the end of December while businesses have more than R22.2bn in outstanding debt.
The Treasury also cautioned municipalities against making any contribution, be it monetary or in kind to any political party.
“Any municipality found to have contributed to the national and provincial election process, be that directly or in kind, will be in direct contravention of legislation and the associated expenditure will have to be dealt with as unauthorised and irregular,” warned the Treasury.
Political parties participating in national and provincial legislatures on an equitable and proportional basis receive money from the Represented Political Parties Fund, which is controlled and managed by the Independent Electoral Commission.
For the 2014/15 financial year, political parties have been allocated over R121.4 million, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette.
According to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Andries Nel, the department encourages parties to engage in constructive dialogue aimed at resolving disputes concerning debt.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli has also raised government’s debt with his colleagues.