Kouga could go the legal route over R49m bill

The Kouga Municipality could have its staggering R49-million water bill slashed in half by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality if the full council agrees.

It emerged yesterday that the Bay has been undercharging the municipality in Jeffreys Bay for years for its supply of water to the region.

Kouga has supplied the metro with meter readings for three years, but these were simply ignored, according to the Bay’s political head of budget and treasury, Retief Odendaal.

When the metro finally discovered that it had not been correctly billing Kouga, it slapped the smaller municipality with a R49-million account.

Odendaal said they had tried to negotiate with the neighbouring municipality to pay off the money owed, but Kouga pointed out that it could have strong grounds to legally challenge the city.

“To try to prevent this, and because the size of the bill would render the municipality financially rudderless, it would not bode well,” he said.

“We recommend to write off 50% of the amount owed.”

The municipality proposed that the remaining R24.7-million be paid off interest-free.

However, deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani, of the UDM, is dead-set against the proposal, saying Kouga must pay its debt in full.

“We must treat everybody equally. We don’t negotiate with ordinary residents when they owe us, we just cut them off,” he said.

“They [Kouga] are no different to other government departments. They must pay. I strongly object to this proposal.”

The coalition government would need a 61-member council majority to pass the proposal, and without the UDM’s support, it would need the votes of opposition parties to approve the write off.

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