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Municipalities owe water boards, Water & Sanitation Dept R13.1bn

Paul Nel of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team has told Parliament’s Water and Sanitation Oversight Committee that of the R13.1 billion owed, more than R9 billion is older than 120 days.

FILE: Picture: Pixabay.com.

CAPE TOWN - Outstanding municipal debt for water is putting some water boards at risk of going under and affecting the ability of the Department of Water and Sanitation to maintain infrastructure, Parliament has been told.

Municipalities now owe water boards and the department’s water trading entity a total of R13.1 billion. This is R1.7 billion up on 2017’s figure.

This is according to a report by the Inter-Ministerial Task Team set up in 2017 to resolve the local government debt crisis. It warns that non-payment could see the “total collapse” of water services.

It emerged this week that municipal debt to Eskom has climbed to R17 billion.

The task team’s Paul Nel has told Parliament’s Water and Sanitation Oversight Committee on Wednesday that of the R13.1 billion owed, more than R9 billion is older than 120 days.

“Non-payment of this debt is (causing) serious problems, especially for the water boards. We’ve already had two of our water boards, Botshelo Water and Bushbuckridge Water, being disestablished because of non-payment by municipalities. That work has been taken over by two of the existing water boards, but we still have water boards (facing) a serious going concern threat if we don’t collect the debt from municipalities.”

Nel says maintenance of water infrastructure is being affected: “If we just look at the water boards alone they’re owed R8.6 billion and in turn, they owe the department R4.5 billion. So, it’s a chain of events. If they don’t get paid they can’t pay us, it means we can’t service our infrastructure and we can’t do our normal work that we’re supposed to do.”

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)