Joburg billing backlog to be cleared by June

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The City of Johannesburg says it will clear all billing-related queries that date back to before the end of October last year by June, while all new issues will be sorted out within 30 days, as long as there are no external factors.

City officials and deputy minister in the Presidency for performance monitoring and evaluation, Obed Bapela, addressed the media this afternoon, after a meeting between national government and the municipality over challenges with the city's billing system.

The meeting followed the 8 000 complaints received by the Presidential Hotline over the ongoing billing crisis. Bapela explained that government had decided to meet with the city about the complaints, after initially dealing with them individually.

Currently, there are about 100 000 queries from the city's 1.3 million account-holders that relate to billing issues. Of these, 66 000 date back from the end of October, while 35 000 are “new” queries lodged since November, said the city's MMC for finance, Geoff Makhubo.

In January last year, former mayor Amos Masondo said there were about 65 000 queries that had arisen as a result of post-implementation issues with project Phakama. The project aimed to move the city's disparate legacy systems onto a SAP platform, at a cost of R580 million, although the Democratic Alliance claims the spend is closer to R1 billion.

Backlog promise

Makhubo said the city is committed to beating the query backlog. He added that the city has an obligation to provide correct bills, on time and to the correct address.

The city will issue a customer charter at the end of the month, which will bind it to certain levels of service delivery, said Makhubo. He did not elaborate on what these were as the city has yet to sign service level agreements with various departments.

Makhubo says the current backlog of issues that pre-date the end of October last year will be resolved by June. He says new queries, which have arisen since November, will be sorted out within 30 days unless there is an issue that involves an external entity such as the deeds office.

Good hands

Bapela said today's meeting was not a bid to intervene in the city's affairs, but to understand how it was dealing with the issues. He said it formed part of a number of visits to municipalities by the Presidency.

Some of the issues reported to the hotline included meters not being read, grossly-inflated estimates, property transfers not being concluded after houses were sold, and bills being sent to dead people, said Bapela. He said some of these issues were out of the city's hands as they involved external role players such as the deeds office.

The Presidency is happy with the city's response as to where it is and how the issues are being dealt with, said Bapela. “Your problems are being attended to.”

Gauteng's co-operative governance MEC, Humphrey Mmemezi, said “there is no need for citizens of this city to have their stress levels raised up”. He said the city had indicated how the backlog would be solved.

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