Joburg billing to be probed
Johannesburg - Johannesburg's billing problem, which mayor Amos Masondo recently said was not a sign of a crisis, will be investigated, the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department said on Tuesday.
The billing problem has resulted in residents receiving inflated bills and others having services cut off.
"Problems with municipal billing systems across the country frustrate the objectives of running municipalities that are efficient, effective, responsive and accountable," the department said in a statement.
"(It also) further destroys the citizens' confidence in local government," it said, adding that the investigation would focus on finding sustainable solutions for Johannesburg.
The department was commenting after Cooperative Governance Minster Sicelo Shiceka met with Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi on Friday to get his understanding of the problems highlighted by the media and residents who had called and written to the minister's office.
Mmemezi was given until February 18 to present Shiceka with a full report and a plan to resolve the problems, reflecting on the billing systems in Gauteng, but specifically Johannesburg.
"In the process of the investigation, the MEC further undertook to meet with the leadership of Johannesburg City Council and all the municipalities in Gauteng as the problem was not limited to Johannesburg," the department said.
It said that during the meeting it was agreed that the billing system problem in Johannesburg was old and could not be allowed to continue unabated.
A commission was being considered to investigate municipal billing systems nationally.
Masondo has attributed the problems to the implementation of a new IT project known as Programme Phakama, which was designed to improve the city's billing system.
"We empathise with residents currently experiencing difficulty and will ensure that the numbers affected are as minimal as possible," he recently told reporters at the council chambers in Braamfontein.
Masondo said that in December 13 404 ratepayers were issued with final notices for unpaid accounts.
Services had been cut off to 8 333 of these residents who collectively owed the city R320m.
"This represents less than 1% of the customers billed," Masondo said.
He said that when migration to the new system was completed in July, the city was initially able to bill only 744 852 customers.
"Through our data cleansing efforts we have progressively been able to increase the number of customers billed to 1 040 648," he said.
Of this number, no more than 8% of customers had queried their bills.