Eskom has warned of possible load shedding this week following industrial action by trade unions. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

CAPE TOWN - Eskom has started threatening or imposing scheduled cut-off penalties for municipalities that still owe the power-utility millions. 

According to a report by Fin 24, Between 2013 - 2017, municipalities that owe Eskom billions have had to return millions to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

It is believed that the top-20 defaulting municipalities are estimated to owe Eskom a total of over R10bn. Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality in February of this year owed Eskom R2.8bn.

eMalahleni Local Municipality in Mpumalanga owes Eskom about R1.6bn, but returned R33.4m in allocations.

Emfuleni Local Municipality in Gauteng was said to owe Eskom R606m in February.

Ditsobotla Local Municipality in the North West Eskom R293m.

Naledi Local Municipality in the North West Province owes Eskom R280m.

In a meeting with Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), councils blamed the increasing debt on ineffective revenue collection systems and residents' non-payment.

This response came after Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald had asked Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize, which municipalities failed to spend their full allocation for infrastructure.

Mkhize told Groenewald the Department of Cooperative Governance administers the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, the Municipal Disaster Relief Grant and the Municipal Disaster Recovery Grant, meant for the repair and maintenance of infrastructure.

"These and other grants are allocated through relevant administrative departments, which are also required to report expenditure figures as at the end of the municipal financial year to National Treasury in terms of the provisions set by the Division of Revenue Act," said Mkhize. 

Mkhize said National Treasury would, in terms of Section 22(2) of the Division of Revenue Act, consider and approve roll-over applications from municipalities on registered projects, committed and unspent funds.