Council’s own owe R700 000
8 metro officials have to cough up
EIGHT City of Joburg councillors, current and former, owe the metro a staggering R700 000 in arrears for their utility bills – though in some instances the debt is contested.
The massive debt is listed in the city’s 2015/16 annual financial report.
Some of those implicated are no longer councillors in the city.
Current serving councillor Dave Dewes sat with the highest bill, owing the city R340 449.
However, Dewes told The Star that the bill was being settled after lodging a query with the city’s billing department.
He believed that it was a result of the city’s ongoing billing crisis. Dewes said he had signed an acknowledgement of debt on all his accounts.
“The issue has been resolved. There are a few queries outstanding that the city still needs to resolve, and everything will be in order,” he said.
Dewes said he had been trying to clear queries on his account for about two years. “If you speak to a majority of Joburg citizens, you’ll find that most of them have had issues with the billing accounts,” he said.
It was the second time such a large bill had landed in his post. “The first issue was resolved,” he confirmed, saying he once had his vacant plot of land billed R80 000 in water consumption when it did not even have a meter.
“Probably down the line we’ll pick up the more serious ones where there’s absolutely no response. We’ll then decide to take action if there’s no response from a certain councillor,” he said.
Another former councillor owed R263 000 to the city, while the other bills in arrears ranged from R40 000 to R16, as recorded on June 30, 2016 when the financial year ended.
Because the majority of the councillors were associated with the DA, council Speaker Vasco da Gama referred comments to chief whip and DA councillor Kevin Wax.
The Star understands that some of the accounts are being queried by those implicated as they believed the figures were enormously inflated.
Wax said the metro’s billing system might be a major contributor to exorbitant accounts.
However, he said, “we have got internal procedures that we deal with”.
“Effectively, what normally happens is we get a list (of councillors in arrears), we have a look at it and refer it to the different political parties through chief whips or directly with the concerned councillors,” he explained.
“We start off by just asking them to make arrangements and then we follow through… eventually we get to a point of disciplinary.”
He said he was aware of councillors in arrears but would not comment on the figure.
“We are following procedure for them to make arrangements and we are following up on that,” he said.
“The tricky part, in terms of arrears, is that there are a number of issues to be considered.
“It’s not only delinquency on the part of the councillors. A lot of times it’s an issue of billing. For years there has been an issue with billing in the city,” he said.
Wax said he did not get involved with the technical side as most of the time individual councillors went to the billing department to query accounts, “to discuss them, to make arrangements”.
“It’s still a process we are still settling into as we are a new council,” said Wax.
Several efforts to get comment from some of the other councillors who find themselves in debt were unsuccessful yesterday.
SYSTEM ISSUES: DA councillor Kevin Wax says billing is a problem.