Debt relief bid to help all

The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) hopes to recover its dwindling revenue collection with the introduction of the debt relief incentive scheme on water and sanitation that will, on a larger scale, benefit residents as well.

The scheme is intended for specific categories of customers to encourage payment of outstanding debts, while reducing the burden on the consumer.

Customers who are eligible to participate in the scheme are domestic, non-profit organisations (NPOs) and indigent households.

Domestic households and NPOs are eligible for a maximum of 50% discount, while indigent households who have exceeded the 10kl consumption will be afforded a once-off 100% discount.

CHDM mayor Wongama Gela encouraged all qualifying people and organisations to take advantage of the initiative. Registration will run from September 1 until November 30.

“We have had an undesirable history of low collection over a number of financial years which has been lower than 10%. The scheme is part of the municipality’s revenue enhancement and management strategy to improve our collection rate. This will be beneficial to both the municipality and the consumer. The municipality receives minimal to no funds at all from those who owe it. This is to inform customers that they can make arrangements with the municipality so they get a discount.”

The  mayor said registration would be conducted in community halls and that all those who qualified to be on the indigent list needed to register so they may benefit from the scheme.

Government departments owe CHDM a collective R13m, while business establishments owe R5m, with the biggest debt of of R1.5bn owed by domestic households.

“We will be very harsh on those who owe us this time around, especially government departments who have a budget for water and sanitation, but still will not pay us. We wrote to them asking for payment and if they do not service their debts, we will, unfortunately, have to cut their water supply.”

Gela indicated that while the scheme was underway, field workers were collecting critical and updated data to ensure a timeous distribution of accounts and the elimination of “tedious” printing and delivery processes.

“We are also working on smart metre readers to eliminate incorrect billing that will also encourage payment from consumers because we are aware of complaints related to this.”

Residents who qualify for the scheme must bring a certified copy of their ID, proof of income from Sassa grant receipts, salary advice or a three-month bank statement, sworn affidavit from police for those who are unemployed, a copy of a municipal account and a sworn affidavit to disclose business ownership or directorship in business of the applicant and members of the household.

Gela indicated the huge municipal water bill was also caused by illegal connection, especially in villages where water provision was rationed.

“We understand that people need the resource, but this is detrimental to the municipality because it leads to the vandalism of our infrastructure. This delays our strides in water provision in those areas because we end up having to replace material we already had. Pump stations across the district have been the target of vandals, necessitating the municipality to redirect funds to replace valuable items that were stolen or damaged.”

Last month, MEC for co-operation, governance and traditional affairs, Xolile Nqatha, also cautioned against the growing vandalism of water infrastructure across the province.

He issued a stern warning against perpetrators, indicating the criminal act disadvantaged the most vulnerable communities.

“I have learnt with shock the rate of vandalism of water infrastructure which is detrimental, especially considering the urgent need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Vandalism of water infrastructure is among the worst offences being perpetrated by some criminal elements and this act has dire consequences as it causes interruption to water supply. According to the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, those found to have tampered with, damaged or destroyed essential infrastructure should face a severe penalty such as imprisonment of up to 30 years. We will ensure anyone who is found to be the perpetrator faces the full might of the law,” said Nqata.

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