Department of Education welcomes plan to install prepaid meters at Durban schools
Durban - The Education Department has welcomed an initiative of the eThekwini Municipality to install prepaid water and electricity meters to Section 21 schools, to resolve the problem of schools not paying their bills and accumulating huge municipal debts.
A report outlining the measures undertaken to recoup debt owed by Section 21 schools was tabled at an executive committee meeting on Tuesday.
The prepaid meters are expected to be installed before the end of this financial year.
The education department said the initiative would partly solve the problem.
Spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said schools with huge municipal bills were victims of illegal connections.
“We have a situation where people from the community were connecting and stealing electricity from schools. Water and electricity meters are running even during school holidays, leaving schools with huge bills,” he said.
The tabled report noted that arrears owed by schools were becoming a major concern for eThekwini, with the total debt owed by schools being R188.5million as at December 31.
Several meetings were held with the Education Department and provincial treasury to resolve the issue, the report states.
Section 21 schools are responsible for the payment of their services.
In a meeting held last year with the provincial treasury and representatives from the Education Department, it was decided that the municipality should implement its credit control and debt- collection policy.
The report notes that of schools that were disconnected for outstanding debt, a number had signed agreements to pay the outstanding debt over an extended period.
A total of R2m was collected as a result of the action taken.
According to the report, the city would continue with its credit control action against schools that are still owing money and would start issuing final demands and summons.
Further action to be taken includes sending out notices to schools notifying them about pending disconnections, the water department investigating the possibility of installing devices that will open water during the day and close it at night, and the electricity department installing prepaid meters.
The municipality would also help the schools with energy- and water-saving training workshops.