by Melinda Hattingh, MPL – DA Constituency Head of Lohatla
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Date: 14 March 2018
The DA is calling on the new MEC of COGHSTA, Bentley Vass, to facilitate a bold and urgent intervention into Gamagara Municipality’s failure to fulfill its payment obligation to Eskom for outstanding debt exceeding R65 million.
Residents of Gamagara Municipality are now facing load shedding, starting on the Easter Weekend. This is a direct result the of former Acting Municipal Manager and current Chief Financial Manager, Moses Grond.
Last year, in a superficial attempt to subdue the out-of-control debt situation, Grond, on behalf of the municipality, entered into a payment agreement with Eskom to prevent load shedding. This agreement, however, was never sustainable given the dire financial state of Gamagara municipality.
The municipality is operating at a loss, largely due to its failed billing system. In as far back as 2016, the municipality blamed a malware attack of its billing system for its failure to pay Eskom. In January this year, Grond finally committed, at council meeting, to set up an urgent meeting with Vesta, the service provider who is largely to blame for the billing fiasco. To date, no progress has been made in addressing this dysfunctional system. In effect, residents, some of whom are willing to pay millions in outstanding municipal debt in a single swipe, and who stand in long queues to do so, cannot because of the lack of available accurate billing information.
Aside from debt owed to Eskom, Gamagara municipality also owes money to other institutions. At the last known date, Gamagara owed R62 million to Anglo American after it lost the court case against the disastrous property evaluations and R7.6 million to John Taole Gaetsewe District Municipality after at least two payment agreements were not honoured by Grond. The municipality is also believed to be in arrears on its repayments to the Development Bank of South Africa. They further owe at least R14 million to Sedibeng Water. This amount could be more, however, because despite numerous requests by councillors for Grond to produce proof of his agreement with Sedibeng, he has consistently withheld important financial information from council.
It is unacceptable that the disastrous state of this municipality, which has been self-inflicted by terrible management, most notably the instruction of Grond, is now threatening the livelihoods and quality of life of people residing in Kathu and its surrounds.
The DA has today written to MEC Vass, asking that COGHSTA places Gamagara municipality under administration. This municipality cannot operate as a going concern, it is in deep financial trouble and desperately requires outside assistance to get back on track. We will also request that disciplinary action be taken against Grond who, despite having failed dismally in managing the finances of the municipality, is still in control of the purse strings.
A failure by COGHSTA to address this matter will see residents paying for this impunity with their economic livelihoods. The DA stands with Gamagara residents who are at risk of losing their jobs or closing their businesses because of an uncaring government.
Melinda Hattingh, MPL
DA Constituency Head of Lohatla
082 494 6648
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387