council owed millions by the government

FAILURE by various government departments to pay a debt of more than R90million to the cash-strapped Ulundi municipality has affected service delivery in rural areas.

The IFP-led municipality mayor Mvuseni Luthuli said government departments and residents owed the council R91,4million.

He said this has also affected the municipality's 2010-2011 budget.

The departments with the biggest debts from 2005 is Public Works at R11,9 million, Land Affairs at R10,5 million and the Ingonyama Trust Board at R11,9 million.

Luthuli said they had decided to hire attorneys to force various provincial and national departments to pay up .

"We have an undertaking from the Public Works' head that some of this debt will be paid soon, while Land Affairs has suggested an out-of-court settlement.

"These outstanding debts are hampering our service delivery," Luthuli said.

He pointed out that their annual budget had also been affected by the unpaid debts.

"We have to depend on the equitable share and the rest should be raised internally," he said.

The municipality is one of the poorest in KwaZulu-Natal.

With its budget of only R147million the municipality is unable to render proper services to its population of 340 000.

Luthuli also revealed that some individual homeowners owed the council more than R50000.

He said it was hard for the municipality to recover these debts because some of the people in the municipality were unemployed.

"Though we have a friendly policy as far as debt collection is concerned, it is difficult asking residents to pay over 48 months when some people have no source of income.

"We have also been affected by illegal electricity connections in many households," Luthuli said

He said in an attempt to create jobs for the rural community, the municipality had established relationships with the Swedish and German governments.