06/11/2014. Department of International Relations and Coorporations owes the City of Tshwane millions of rands for electricity. Picture: Masi Losi

Johannesburg -

Power will be cut to government departments, embassies, schools, businesses and privates residents - including the homes of councillors and municipal staff - who owe the city more than R6.6 billion in unpaid municipal bills.

After impassioned pleas for payment fell on deaf ears, city manager Jason Ngobeni said the city had no choice but to take this drastic course of action.

“When the response was not satisfactory, we started disconnection, beginning with 38 of the 140 schools whose accounts are in arrears.

“At least six schools have since made some payment, but will remain disconnected until the arrears have been settled.

“A payment of R21 million is being processed, according to the Gauteng Department of Education. However, the payment voucher has not yet been received.”

National departments and utilities facing blackouts include Public Works, International Relations, Home Affairs, National Intelligence and the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

Departments with the highest bills are Public Works at about R28m for services, and R35m for rates and taxes, followed by International Relations with about R7m and the bill for Home Affairs sits at just over R2m.

Other municipalities also owe the city, with Madibeng the worst, owing about R48m for bulk water supply.

Provincial departments such as Public Infrastructure, Health, Transport, Sport and Housing have accumulated millions in unpaid Tshwane bills.

The bad payers include Thembisile Hani and Moretele municipalities, the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency, Metrorail, Telkom, Transnet, Government Employees Pension Fund and the SA Post Office.

Schools form part of the list, owing just more than R30m. Ngobeni said much as they sympathised with schools in the light of the year-end exams, the Education Department was given enough time to pay its account.

The city has also started docking the salaries of its employees and councillors to pay for their outstanding municipal debts. It was encouraging them to redeem their leave credits to settle accounts.

A campaign is under way to encourage customers to register on eTshwane. The installation of smart meters is also in full swing to overcome incorrect billing and make it easier for customers to monitor usage.

The city wanted local municipalities, whose bulk services fell under Tshwane as a result of demarcation, to connect directly to the suppliers, Ngobeni said.

Debtors who cannot afford to settle their accounts must visit the municipal offices and negotiate a settlement plan.

“We have engaged with the departments, entities, municipalities, business and residential consumers extensively with a view to get them to settle their accounts,” said Ngobeni.

“To date, thousands of notices have been sent out, reminding them of their debts and informing them of the disconnection process that would follow.”

Madibeng, government departments, businesses and residences, are next to be disconnected.

Ngobeni said the city had appointed 30 companies to execute disconnections and reconnections and put its debt collectors on terms to fast-track legal actions.

Summons have been issued to 481 of the top 1 000 in arrears.

“We could not allow ourselves to fall behind in terms of provision of services and cannot continue to efficiently and substantially administer the capital city if customers do not pay for the services they consume,” Ngobeni said.

“We are undeterred in our quest to recover the billions. There are no holy cows; we will spare no effort to recover every single cent owed to us.”

Finance MMC Dorothy Mabiletsa said the revenue collection drive was in line with the call by the Co-operative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan for municipalities to reduce the R94bn debt.

“Non-payment of services impacts the proper functioning of the municipality. If we continue along this trajectory, we will not be able to pay the salaries of staff, service delivery objectives will be slowed down and we would not be in a position to complete the infra-structure projects under way in the CBD,” Mabiletsa added.

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- Pretoria News