Johannesburg billing plan 'disappointing'

2011-11-23 15:30
Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg's plan to improve its revenue management service was a disappointment, the DA said on Wednesday.

The three phase roadmap, announced on Tuesday, was of little substance and it was doubtful it would have the desired outcomes, DA Johannesburg caucus leader Mmusi Maimane said.

The plan followed a litany of billings problems in the city.

The city said on Tuesday that it would seek to fix incorrect bills, improve the quality of meter readings and update customer information.

Time frames

"It was widely expected that the city would announce a moratorium on all disconnections until the present chaos and incorrect billing in the revenue department is regularised," said Maimane.

"Instead, time frames, according to which present faulty bills are expected to be rectified only by the end of next year, were announced."

The party also warned that previous attempts to rectify the billing system had cost hundreds of millions of rand, with few positive results.

This was because the real problems had not been addressed. The present plan was no exception to the rule, Maimane said.

"It is absolutely imperative that the ANC administration employs officials who are 'fit for purpose' and are up to the mammoth task of turning the city's finances around.

"The ANC's policy of cadre deployment in Johannesburg has been one of the significant factors that have landed the city's revenue in the poor state that we are in," he said.

Shortcomings

The systemic shortcomings that needed to be addressed included the lack of measures to change meter numbers on accounts when a meter was changed, the inability to follow up if a reading was provisional for months and years on end and the inability to prevent the billing of highly-inflated amounts without due investigation.

"It is a pity that the city manager, in spite of all the other consultation done, had not seen it fit to meet with the DA as had been requested, to discuss the root causes of the problems."

Such a meeting would have ensured that all bases were covered in the road map, said Maimane.

One of the more worrying results of the billing crisis was the effect it had on the ability to collect revenue.

The party said the city was at present six percent (R1.3bn) behind its budgeted revenue figures.

The targeted revenue was also questionable considering the number of bills that were incorrect and/or highly inflated.

"The final corrective measures are planned to be in place in 18 months' time. One can only hope that the city's financial viability lasts until then," said Maimane.

- SAPA
Read more on:    city of johannesburg  |  da  |  mmusi maimane  |  johannesburg  |  politics  |  service delivery
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