Gauteng's MEC for local government has ordered all Gauteng municipalities to cut services to provincial and national government departments which default on their rates and services.

The irritated MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, made the comments during her budget speech in the legislature on Monday, saying municipalities were owed R20-billion.

"Recouping debt from the top 100 debtors, especially from business, government departments and residents who are able to pay but decide not to, could net R1,6-billion into municipalities' revenue in one year. This means there could be a cash flow of R130-million a month into municipalities' coffers," said Mahlangu.

The MEC also announced that she had set aside an amount of R24-million for a municipal support plan, Operation Consolidate, this financial year. Last year, the local government department spent R48-million on the support programme. It was aimed at improving the council's financial systems after the Auditor-General expressed concern over the management of the municipalities.

The department last year appointed chartered accountants to help strengthen internal controls and accountability, build finance-personnel capacity and establish internal committees.

While Mahlangu seemed optimistic about Operation Consolidate, which saw the deployment of engineers and graduates, the Democratic Alliance had a different view.

Paul Willemburg, the DA spokesperson on local government, said: "Unfortunately Operation Consolidate had no effect on municipalities with regard to their ability to collect their outstanding debt. At the end of February last year, the total amount owed to municipalities in the province amounted to R17,4-billion. This amount has risen to a massive R18,3-billion - an increase of almost R900-million - in just over a year."

He added: "It is clear that proper credit remains elusive to municipalities. It is no good allowing this to continue, because until municipalities become serious about credit control, the poor will continue to come off second best."