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KZN Public Works laments incorrect rates bills amounting to millions or rand

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Published May 11, 2022


DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has complained about incorrect billing for rates by municipalities, saying it has been billed millions of rand for properties that do not fall under its control.

The department, which is the custodian of government property, said just this month, it received bills amounting to close to R24 million for buildings it was not tasked with managing including universities. Last month, it received more than R20m in such bills, it said.

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MEC Jomo Sibiya was speaking on the issue of rates following concerns that his department delayed payment of rates to municipalities, thereby compromising their finances.

He also clarified the issue regarding the department wanting to reduce the property rates it paid to eThekwini Municipality.

Yesterday, The Mercury reported that the department was looking to enter into negotiations with the eThekwini Municipality to reduce the rates charged on government properties.

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The revelation sparked outrage from some ratepayer organisations.

Sibiya said the negotiations related only to property rates for schools.

“We want to clarify that we are not talking about all government properties, as Public Works we only discussed negotiation of rates regarding schools.

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“We pay flat rates for all government properties and this will not change, discounts are only for schools as they belong to the community,” said Sibiya.

Sibiya added that the department was committed to honouring its obligations to the municipalities so it does not negatively affect their finances but his department has the responsibility to ensure that the bills it paid were verified as accurate.

He said the department was responsible for the property rates for the stateowned properties registered under the KZN government.

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“In 2021/22 financial year, Msunduzi Municipality billed the department an amount of R13.9m which was settled in full in March this year.

“The department was further billed an amount of R82m for previous years dating back to 2008. A reconciliation was done of these accounts and discovered that some payments were incorrectly billed to the department.

“These included payments for DUT (Indumiso campus) for R21m and other facilities which are the national mandate as well as (bills for) water and electricity which are the responsibility of the user department,” he said.

He said this month Public Works again received a bill of R70.1m which resulted in a number of government buildings around Msunduzi Municipality being disconnected. “Again this schedule has a number of buildings, such as DUT (R21m), Unisa (R3m) and other government facilities which are not the responsibility of this department,” he said.

Sibiya said the department did not want to deliberately delay payment but it needed to verify the accuracy of bills that it received.

With regard to the bills from Msunduzi, he said: “We have requested Msunduzi Municipality to submit invoices during July each year in order to effect payments by October.

“We have also agreed with the municipality that these accounts would be kept as annual accounts. It is administratively easier to process them as annual accounts,” he said.

Msunduzi Municipality had not responded at the time of publication.