The Eastern Cape Province is owed in excess of R4.7 billion in outstanding rates and service fees by consumers.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question I received from the MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, I was informed that the total amount owing of rates, services and other fees stood at R4 707 407 922 as at April 2012.
The Nelson Mandela Metro was owed R2.25 million in outstanding rates, R30.12 million for water and R10.25 million for electricity.
The Camdeboo municipality is owed R2.84 million in rates alone while tiny Makana is owed R107 million.
Buffalo City Metro has a full R867 848 million owing for all combined services including rates.
With this amount of money owing to the province it is now time for MEC’s, Heads of Departments (HOD’s) and officials to stop hoodwinking the public by using “budget constraints” as an excuse when there are service delivery failures. There is far more money available for collection than we think.
The total of R4 billion would go a long way to build infrastructure, clinics and maintain schools, hospitals and roads.
What is needed is a hard approach to those who can afford to pay the outstanding fees but fail to do so.
While the current levels of unemployment and economic hardship are a reality for most in the province, not enough is being done to ensure that citizens who can pay something are assisted by payment arrangements to do so.
Municipalities must be suitably empowered to have qualified staff to focus on implementing revenue collection policies and by-laws.
With provincial revenue largely given by national government in the form of grants and Equitable Share, such large outstanding amounts will become unsustainable over the medium- to long term unless municipalities buck up and make a concerted effort to collect all revenue due where possible.
Failure to get serious and implement strategies to collect all revenues due will continue to keep citizens in poverty and deny opportunity for social upliftment as the demands for services escalate and outstrip current revenue levels.