Councils clash over R46m water arrears

Metro claim of unpaid bills a big shock for Kouga

There is a standoff between the only two DA-headed municipalities in the Eastern Cape over a R46-million water bill which the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality believes the Kouga Municipality owes.

The metro, headed by DA mayor Athol Trollip, says it has been undercharging the neighbouring municipality for four years and is now knocking on Kouga’s door to pay.

The metro supplies water to Kouga, which includes Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp and Hankey.

Kouga mayor Elza van Lingen took a swipe at the metro, questioning why it had taken so many years to realise that it had been undercharging.

She said there was absolutely no way that the small municipality could afford the R46-million arrears bill.  “This will have a huge impact on our cash flow and our ability to deliver services,” Van Lingen said.

“I will be taking the matter up with the metro to find out exactly how the underbilling occurred, why it took so long to realise there was a problem and what solution can be found to address it.”

The metro says that although it was partly to blame for the undercharging, Kouga still owes the city the R46-million and will have to cough up the money.

Bay budget and treasury portfolio head councillor Retief Odendaal said the Kouga billing issue had been there for some time and the city was partly to blame.

“We have to admit our billing over the last couple of years has not been up to scratch. We are trying to ensure that we put in measures to ensure it is up to standard.

“What we have identified is that we were significantly underbilling Kouga. There had to be a rectification on their account.

“It is a significant amount of money they owe. Obviously, being such a small municipality, we are going to have to enter into some sort of an arrangement.”

Odendaal said Kouga had generally been very diligent in dealing with the metro, but had been in arrears for a number of years.

“It would be grossly unfair of us if we do not look at the account and enter into negotiations and discuss a way forward,” Odendaal said.

He would meet with Van Lingen and Kouga municipal manager Sidney Fadi on Tuesday.

Kouga’s monthly water bill with the metro ranges between R2.5-million and R2.7-million.

Van Lingen said she was upset and disappointed that the arrears would affect service delivery in the area.

“The municipality is totally reliant on water that is purchased from the metro.

“Both municipalities will experience growth in terms of the number of residents who require water.

“It is clear that we need to become proactive and work out solutions before our taps run dry,” Van Lingen said.

Odendaal said on average Kouga used 22ML a day.

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