Shiceka to meet MEC over billing

2011-01-24 15:00

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka will meet his Gauteng counterpart before the end of the week in an effort to help sort out Johannesburg’s, and the country’s, billing mess.

“Yes, the minister wants a provincial picture, but he is also aware that its not just a Johannesburg problem. This is the first step toward the resolution of this issue countrywide,” his spokesperson Vuyelwa Qinga Vika said today.

The meeting with Gauteng MEC Humphrey Memezi would be a “listening” one, she said.

“This is a listening meeting. There is a programme highlighted by the City of Johannesburg to address the problem.”
Residents frustrated by having their services cut off and by getting inflated water and lights bills staged a sit-in at the city’s Braamfontein offices last week.

A long-term solution could involve “re-looking and reviewing” legislation, which may see billing become a “national competency”.

“This would get municipalities to focus on service delivery... and free them from this headache. It could be considered that maybe the SA Revenue Service could be given the responsibility. We know they have done very well and are very efficient.”

Vika said the issue could be on the agenda of the next meeting between the minister and all provincial MECs.

“This is a national problem and many residents are angry,” she said.

The Times newspaper today quoted Shiceka saying he would meet Johannesburg authorities after discussions at provincial level with Memezi.

“Even myself, I used to complain when I was a citizen of that municipality. They demanded a lot of money for water and electricity even when I stayed only once or twice in that house in a particular month,” he said.

“The billing system in Johannesburg has been a serious problem. The situation there is not getting better. That situation can’t be left unattended.”

The meetings follow the city’s disconnection of the services of more than 41?000 households, the report said. Many of them had received inaccurate and hugely inflated bills.

Democratic Alliance councillor Dave Dewes recently threatened to sue city manager Mavela Dlamini for failing to perform his duties.

The billing woes experienced by the country’s largest metro stemmed from the failure of its R580 million Project Phakama. The information technology system was intended streamline the city’s municipal service accounts. It had reportedly been unable to process meter readings, causing residents to be billed with estimates, the report said.

City of Johannesburg spokespersons Gabu Tugwana and Nthatisi Modingoane could not immediately be reached for comment.?

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