Ministerial task team recouping R20bn is failing, says Eskom
President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced the task team last year, but to date it has not been able to recoup the billions of rand.
Eskom chairperson and acting chief executive Jabu Mabuza told MPs this week that it had been difficult for the power utility to recover the money. Mabuza said they had not seen the results of the inter-ministerial task team.
He said there were constitutional issues when it came to recovering money from municipalities.
“There are constitutional issues. Maybe we should take the equitable share from municipalities. The end user pays but municipalities don’t pass on to Eskom. The task team has not been able to succeed,” said Mabuza.
On the constitutional issues, it would be difficult to get the money that is transferred by the National Treasury to municipalities, he said.
Municipalities get 9% of the total budget of the country, and the allocations are done every year.
In some instances, Eskom has entered into payment arrangements with defaulting municipalities but these have not been met.
Mabuza said it was difficult to deal with the situation because Eskom needs the money and municipalities are not paying up.
“We have consumers who would say ‘I have paid, supply me with electricity’. Some consumers have taken us to court,” he said.
A few years ago businesspeople in Harrismith, Free State, took Eskom to court to force the supply of electricity after Maluti-a-Phufong municipality had failed to settle its debt of more than R1 billion with Eskom.
Eskom cut power in the municipality, but the businesspeople in the area obtained a court order that Eskom must not cut the power supply.
The businesses said they cannot suffer because of the problems of the municipality.
Eskom chief financial officer Calib Cassim said there were top 10 municipalities in the country that carry more than 70% of the debt.
Most of the defaulting municipalities were in the poor, rural provinces of South Africa.
Mabuza said they had hoped the task team would deliver results and resolve the R20bn debt, but nothing concrete has come out of it.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni recently urged all those who owe Eskom to start making payments. He said this would ease the financial crisis of the power utility.
The company is saddled with a multi-billion rand debt that would take up to 10 years to settle.