Chair of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts Mkhuleko Hlengwa lashed out at the inter-ministerial task team which was tasked to address the municipal debt owed to Eskom.
The inter-ministerial task team, chaired by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was established in 2016 to seek a solution to the outstanding debt, which only swelled to more than R26 billion since the establishment of the task team.
A visibly annoyed Hlengwa told Dlamini-Zuma that instead of finding a solution that helps municipalities pay what they owe Eskom, the task team has focussed on issues such as disputed debt from national departments, including public works and parliament itself.
“The IMTT failed, because the debt escalated under their watch. No one wants to discuss debt but would rather discuss the merits of policy approaches.”
Dlamini-Zuma told the committee that she would go back and attempt to lead a more meaningful discussion on the matter that will produce tangible results.
“I don’t have a lot to say, but I will say this. I think it’s true that individually, COGTA can’t do much. We have no leverage over municipalities. There have been some discussions I won’t get into for now, but we will go and put our heads together with Treasury on these issues,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Since the creation of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) into the long-term strategic outlook of Eskom – which is chaired by deputy president David Mabuza – there has been some confusion about who is responsible for addressing municipal debt.
But Hlengwa said that he wrote to Mabuza, who replied that dealing with Eskom’s municipal debt was not the IMC’s responsibility. “So, for all intents and purposes, we are back to square one,” said Hlengwa.
Hlengwa said he was tempted to resign himself to the possibility that SCOPA and South Africa were “likely to be saddled with the municipality debt to Eskom for the longest of times”.
“There is no coordinated approach. There is no understanding of who is doing what. The chair of the IMC is not here because this function does not rest with that body.” Hlengwa said SCOPA was told in December to engage with the IMC.
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