Metro's new stringent measures to recoup R2 billion owed by residents and businesses

BY YOLANDA PALEZWENI - NOVEMBER 2, 2016

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on Tuesday announced tough new measures to curb a decline in its revenue collection at a press conference held at the Port Elizabeth City Hall. The new measures aim to reduce the R2 billion owed to the municipality by both domestic and commercial consumers.

Addressing at the conference, Nelson Mandela Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, said that the newly introduced measures are not to strain consumers but to sustain the municipality to continue to provide basic services to all citizens of the city.

“To make sure that we deliver the services fairly we have to make sure that the revenue is collected, because if the recovery of the revenue is not optimal then what we doing is not sustainable as the municipality and in order to remain sustainable we have to make sure that we get paid for the services we provide to those people who can afford,” said Trollip.

He added that, those who receive assistance through the assistance to the poor programme (ATTP), are given a basic free services amount of water and electricity and cannot be expect to use more without paying for it.

The Mayor said that the previous offset system that allowed accountholders to still buy electricity tokens whilst their accounts are in arrears, is also now a thing of the past.

“The municipality will soon become unsustainable, so from today if an account is more than 45 days on arrears we are going to cut you off,” said Mayor Trollip.

“In order to remain sustainable, we must be able to make sure that we get paid for the services that we provide for those, who can afford to pay for it.

“If we do not maximize our revenue for the services that we provide, the first consequence of that is that we do not have enough means to provide services for those who cannot afford to pay.

“Up until very recently, there has been an off-set system. When you go and buy electricity, some of the money will be off-set towards your arrears and you could buy electricity with the balance.

“It is no longer sustainable as it is not only poor people using that system. We got big companies, high energy users, and even residential areas not registered under the Assistance-to-the-Poor, that are off-setting.  No organization can sustain that."

However, there are some provisions that people, who do not afford won’t be cut off only if they make arrangements with the municipality on how they are going to settle their debts.

“The free basic amount of whatever will be provided even if one owes the municipality, but we encouraging everyone who has a debt that cannot manage to make arrangements with the municipality and by doing so that will allow you to continue buying electricity even though you have a debt of more than 45 days,” said Mayor Trollip.

He also encouraged residents to visit their ward councillors and make use of the customer care line in arranging the settlements of debts in arrears. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Customer Care Help-line is 041-506  5555, e-mail [email protected] or send a fax to 041-506 1304.

“We are not being unnecessarily unfair to the public, but we have to trade responsibly and not recklessly. The municipality will also relook at the policies and the ATTP programme and draw up a new policy that will be efficient and this is a step to make sure that what we providing is sustainable to citizens,” said Mayor Trollip.

The Nelson Mandela Budget and Treasury Executive Director, Councillor Retief Odendaal, emphasised that governments have to look after their finances and that the municipality is still trying to recover from the R2 billion owed by local consumers.

“In order to stop this growing debt, we have to implement these tough measures, it is a very hard decision to just block accounts but unfortunately there is no other choice,” said Councillor Odendaal.

“I want to assure the public that yes, we are getting tough on domestic accounts, but we are also getting tough on government accounts."

Tougher action

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality managed to collect revenue of R15.6 million over the last two weeks, after notices of intention to disconnect were issued.

Odendaal said the Coega Industrial Development Zone made an arrangement to pay their arrears of R21 million over the next six months and that they paid a further R6 million in August.

“They are expected to pay another R6 million this month. The Department of Health paid R6 million last week. A notice of intention to disconnect will be issued to the Department of Education to ensure that they pay R 5.7 million,” Odendaal said.

Last month, 3400 prepaid meters were blocked in order to collect outstanding revenue valued at R17.2 million.

Executive Mayor Trollip concluded that if the consumer fails to honour the new measures, both electricity and water will be cut off until one pays full amount due to the municipality.

Image:(Left) The Nelson Mandela Budget and Treasury Director, Councillor Retief Odendaal,(Middle) The Nelson Mandela Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, (Right) Chief Finace officer,Trevour Harper.