Billing crisis: mayor acts
Mashaba says sorry to residents Officials put on terms, heads will roll
JOBURG’s worsening billing crisis has forced the city to halt disconnections until the readings have been sorted out by a new company appointed to clean up the records.
The move is a welcome reprieve for Joburg residents who have been receiving double bills over the past few months because of the regionalisation of the billing system.
Residents were given the choice of the date they wanted to pay, but this resulted in many getting double bills and then being disconnected.
Mayor Herman Mashaba yesterday announced that residents who have been in good standing with the council for 12 months will not be terminated.
Mashaba said he was personally getting involved in the billing crisis that has left some households without water or electricity.
“Today, I am personally taking charge of the billing crisis that continues to leave our residents suffering in the City of Joburg. When I was elected executive mayor, I promised the residents they would get our very best to relieve them of the misery they have endured at the hands of our billing system.
“Unfortunately, to date, they have not received this,” he pointed out.
The mayor said it has taken time to analyse the full magnitude of the billing crisis in the finance department.
“We inherited a billing system where levels of corruption and mismanagement have historically flourished in an environment of chaos and disorder.
“For years, the system has failed our residents and treated them with contempt. Today, I report to the residents of our city that I have put the entire leadership of the department on terms. Either there will be a resolution of the city’s billing system or there must be consequences.”
The last straw for Mashaba, was a computer program to regionalise the billing system, with the aim of reducing the time gap between consumption and payment for services.
This effectively brought forward the due date for billing by about three weeks, resulting in many account holders receiving two bills in one month.
Account holders who did not pay both accounts were unfairly placed in arrears, accumulating interest on arrears and being charged fees for
Mashaba condemned this treatment of residents and immediately instructed officials to address the situation as follows:
All residents, who have been in good standing with the city for the past 12 months prior to February and have been put into arrears by bringing forward the payment due dates, will have their interest owing on arrears and any costs relating to pre-termination notices and disconnections reversed.
It is to take effect immediately and will show corrected in their September statement, the mayor said.
Regional open days on Saturdays, where officials will avail themselves to residents at the regional offices to assist residents with billing-related problems.
A new service provider has started work on a full diagnostic probe into the root causes of billing inaccuracies. The city will drive the solutions to remedy the billing system.
The mayor has pledged to communicate regularly with residents on the progress in this regard.
All key vacancies within the department are to be filled as a matter of urgency.
Senior positions such as the group chief financial officer and the group information technology officer will be appointed at the August council meeting. Other strategic positions within the department such as head of revenue and the head of accounting will be filled by October.
The department has operated with over nine senior acting appointments in key positions in the revenue division. These positions will be filled with the best talent available in the industry by the end of 2017, the mayor pledged.
Efforts are to be focused on the resolution of billing queries logged by the revenue call centre. Currently, the turnaround time, lack of feedback and customer care experienced in this regard are “unacceptable”, Mashaba said.
The department has been tasked with turning the situation around and ensuring that all billing queries are dealt with faster and with better care of residents.
“I would like to offer the residents of our city my sincere apology for the manner in which they have continued to suffer from both the continuation of the billing crisis, as well as this latest problem,” he added.
FED UP: Herman Mashaba apologised.