FS municipal woes in the spotlight

The financial state of Free State municipalities and services delivered to communities will today once again come into the spotlight.

This, as members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) are expected to visit the Maluti-A-Phofung, Metsimaholo, and Matjhabeng Local Municipalities as well as the Mangaung Metro Municipality.

OFM News reports that their week-long visit forms part of parliament’s annual Provincial Week, aimed at addressing issues faced at local government level.

The visit to the Free State comes just days after the Maluti-A-Phofung and Matjhabeng Municipalities’ financial woes with Eskom made headlines.

The two municipalities are among those that have recently had  their bank accounts attached by Eskom due to non-payment.

The power utility last month attached the bank account of the Matjhabeng Municipality to recover a R3.4 billion owed for bulk electricity supply and that of Maluti-A-Phofung in efforts to recover more than R5.4 billion owed to them.

The utility’s Free State spokesperson, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said these steps were the result of the municipalities’ repeated failure to adhere to their payment obligations, as well as in the implementation of Eskom’s revenue recovery plan.

Whilst Matjhabeng has put up 139 of its farms as security for Eskom, so that they would be able to pay employees and render services, Maluti-A-Phofung on October 9 had the Free State High Court rule in its favour when the court ordered that the attachment of its bank account be lifted immediately.

Free State municipalities collectively owe the power utility over R12 billion, making it the province with the highest debt and one with the highest number of defaulting municipalities.

Of the R12 billion owed by Free State municipalities, Maluti-A-Phofung and Matjhabeng account for over 50% of the debt.

Coupled with escalating municipal debts, permanent delegates of the NCOP are expected to deliberate on the political instability in a coalition run Metsimaholo municipality and the state of service delivery in Mangaung after it was placed under administration.