DA calls for resignations over Joburg billing chaos

2011-02-04 15:31

Johannesburg’s mayor, Amos Masondo, and committee member for finance, Parks Tau, must resign immediately for trying to cover up the city’s billing crisis, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said today.

“Masondo and Tau have presided over what is fast becoming one of the most serious municipal crises facing the people of Johannesburg,” DA caucus leader in the city, Vasco da Gama, and DA finance spokesperson, Patrick Atkinson, said in a joint statement.

“Following the shocking revelations this weekend, Masondo and ... Tau (must) resign immediately.”

The DA accused Masondo and Tau of “not being candid” with the council or councillors regarding the full extent of the problems faced by the city, and said their “misplaced arrogance” and “cool indifference” added to the plight of Johannesburg residents.

“They have repeatedly attempted to cover up the severity of the problem, setting deadlines for the resolution of this issue and missing these time and again.”

Atkinson said that last month ranked as possibly one of the most unfortunate months for the city’s finances.

The DA had apparently become aware of the billing saga last year and had made efforts to meet with Tau, but to no avail, he said.

“The DA introduced an urgent motion at the last council meeting of 2010. This was refused by the ANC administration as being not sufficiently urgent.

“The council subsequently disconnected more than 40 000 households, many on the basis of incorrect billing.

“Many ratepayers have received grossly inflated bills and the city has demanded payment under threat of disconnection. This is pure extortion.

“Johannesburg has seen a significant slippage in its credit rating under the stewardship of Masondo and Tau.

Another year of this toxic duo could have a fatal effect on the city,” Atkinson said.

The Mail & Guardian reported today that Johannesburg’s billing problem started five years ago when a R208-million tender to upgrade the system was awarded to “an inexperienced company whose directors have a record of high-level involvement with local and national government links and ANC politicians”.

The newspaper reported that the city awarded the contract to Masana Technologies.

The contract price expanded to R496 million, and when the country cancelled it in September 2009, with R156 million of the work unfinished, Masana went into liquidation.

Subcontractors Dimension Data and IBM had to take over.

This cost the city a further R306 million, the report said. The city has denied this, however, stating that it cost R170 million more.

Masondo said at a news conference held by the Gauteng provincial ANC yesterday that the billing problem might take up to two years to sort out.

He said the city would continue cutting off services to those who did not pay their electricity bills, but would not “wrongfully” cut power.

Masondo said “significant progress” had been made in dealing with the situation.

He earlier drew widespread criticism for saying that the problem did not constitute a crisis.

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