Kagisho Sonyoni, Executive Mayor of Sol Plaatje Municipality, accompanied officials from some government departments and companies whose municipal accounts are overdue to disconnect their electricity supply.
The Sol Plaatje Taxpayers’ Union (Sopu) ‘can only hope’ that the debt collection campaign of Sol Plaatje Municipality, Kimberley, to collect outstanding debts from ministries and businesses, comes in sufficient time to save the municipality.
Last week, Executive Mayor Kagisho Sonyoni accompanied officials from, among others, the Northern Cape Provincial Legislative Assembly, the Ministry of Education, Transport and Safety, Roads and Public Works and companies such as the Savoy Hotel, Superstone and Van Zyl Vleis to disconnect their electricity. supply.
Thoko Riet, municipal spokesperson, says “the reaction to our actions has been positive and payments have been received for the reconnections. Payment arrangements have also been made to reduce the large sums due. Ministries paid around R38 million and companies R18 million. We continue to enter into settlement and payment agreements for overdue accounts.
Tumelo Mosikare, Sopu’s project manager, says he has studied the latest monthly Section 71 budget monitoring report available (June 2022) to determine the financial health of the municipality.
“We hope that the collection of revenue does not come too late, given the high debt of the municipality, given its operating costs. The payroll is extremely high and the municipality continues to publish job offers while there are surplus positions. There are allegations that some employees were appointed without following proper processes.
“The bloated staff corps is not providing quality services while other departments lack adequate staff who add value. Overtime costs are extremely high, senior management is paid as if the city is a subway and there is general poor money management.”
He says the municipality’s average wages and benefits bill for the year ending June 2022 was R64.9 million per month. The highest amount was in December 2021 at a cost of R83.1 million. The overtime cost was R43 million, but the budget was only R31 million. This is an overrun of 38.5%.
Mosikare says the question remains whether paying overtime has resulted in better service delivery.
“In June 2022, they owed R863m to their creditors, with Eskom topping the list with R656m. The water bill was R166 million.
“The Department of Roads and Works gave R3.3 million for the Extended Public Works Program (EPWP), which the municipality topped up with R6 million. They spent over 11.7 million rand and ended up with 21 million rand, double what was expected.
“Despite the debt collection campaign, people who paid their bills continued to subsidize those who did not pay. The R800 million that the government owes is subsidized by households. It is unclear how much has been collected, but the high running costs lead me to suspect that anything less than R100 million may be too little, given the municipality’s indebtedness. Overdue accounts also bear interest.
Mosikare says Thapelo Matlala, the new city manager, has his work cut out for him.
“He has to clean up the rot that has become a culture of the institution. I have already met Matlala and I believe he can make a difference. Maybe he can bring all the parties together and steer the town in a new direction. We must unite to save the city from the black hole it has sunk into.