The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality provided insights into the R349 million municipal debt it now finds itself owing to the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). Responding to Bloemfontein Courant’s questions following last week’s article “Could we be in for another water crisis?”, municipal spokesperson, Qondile Khedama, said, while a large portion of the debt remains unpaid, the municipality is already working on a payment plan with BloemWater.
“According to our records, an amount of R277 545 039 is outstanding (this excludes an amount of R223 101 862 of the Drought Tariff disputed amount as well as the interest of R38 940 760). Of the outstanding amount of R277 545 039, R135 983 654 is under a payment plan as agreed with BloemWater. All payments under the payment plan are up to date. The remaining amount of R141 561 385 constitutes approximately the last three months’ invoices,” Khedama said in an email.
He then goes on to say that ongoing talks with BloemWater are underway to ensure that water supply in the metro remains continuous. While he did not state outright what the reasons for the massive debt are, Khedama revealed that unresolved bill disputes with BloemWater were among the main reasons for the money owed. “Main reasons for outstanding amount were due to disputes relating to billed amounts from BloemWater. There were mainly two disputes: one relating to the Drought Tariff, while the other is related to a dispute about the Meter Accuracy,” Khedama said. With regards to the Drought Tariff dispute, Khedama said that these amounts are still being charged on current accounts from BloemWater and are therefore unresolved at this stage. With regards to the dispute on the accuracy of meter readings, he said that a dispute arose because the measurement of water as sold from BloemWater to the City and the measurements of the City’s meter and that of BloemWater differed. This matter was eventually resolved in favour of BloemWater, despite the fact that the municipality did not keep sufficient reserves to pay if the dispute was to be in favour of BloemWater. Minister at DWS, Nomvula Mokonyane, revealed last week that MMM is among the 30 problematic municipalities that owe the department and if the money isn’t paid by 8 December, these areas will experience water throttling until the debt has been paid.