File picture: Timothy Bernard

Johannesburg - A service delivery crisis looms in Joburg over more than R30million in unpaid bills, which could grind the city’s ambulance fleet and fire trucks to a halt.

This potential crisis comes at a time when the city is without any political leadership, including a mayoral committee, following the October resignation of former mayor Herman Mashaba, and last week’s failure to elect a new one.

The Star has seen a letter sent to the City of Joburg on Monday by its vehicle service provider Afrirent, threatening to suspend 746 city vehicles “due to accounts which are in arrears; that is, non-payments and overdue accounts by over 60 days”.

The vehicles include 596 for the Joburg metropolitan police department, 57 for the city’s emergency services (ambulances and fire trucks) and 93 for its core administration functions.

The letter stated that the fleet should be halted by Tuesday, but insiders have said that, following negotiations which lasted well into the night on Monday, the city was given a reprieve until Friday.

“Please note that the suspension of services will have a negative effect on service delivery. Please also note that should there be any attempt to start the affected vehicle by any means possible, the resultant damage will be for the city’s account,” the Afrirent letter read.

Afrirent has a 30-month, R1.2billion contract to provide more than 2700 vehicles to the city.

The company acknowledged yesterday that it had sent a letter on Monday, but declined to comment further.

Insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the R30m owed was a 60-day lapse for payments on the 746 vehicles.

“However, if we were to quantify the total amounts owed, the city owes Afrirent well over R60m. But Afrirent can only claim R30m because its contract with Joburg has a 60-day clause,” a source said.

Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said contract obligations prevented the city from revealing how much it owed.

“Save to say that the city makes any payment after it has subjected the invoice to strict internal control measures, which in this case have subsequently been applied to ensure that the Afrirent payment is made expeditiously and within the prescripts of the law.

“The city and Afrirent have been engaged in positive discussions in line with control measures and, as such, both parties are comfortable that there will not be any need for contingency measures at this stage,” Modingoane said, adding there was no threat to service delivery.

The failure of the city to form a local government stems from last week’s decision by council speaker Vasco Da Gama to suspend the mayoral election pending a legal opinion on what constitutes a majority in the 270-seat chamber.

The Star