CAN MAYOR MEET HIS
JOBURG mayor Herman Mashaba will probably be “kicked out” by residents if their billing problems are not resolved by December 31.
Earlier this week Mashaba, speaking on the billing crisis after he had announced that he was personally intervening, said residents should “kick him out” should this not happen.
But attorneys and agents who assist residents and clients resolve their billing issues said the billing crisis will never be resolved by December as it was a massive job.
Attorney Chantelle Gladwin, who specialises in municipal matters, said there is no way that all the problems can be fixed by December.
“It is a serious systemic problem. The city recently announced that there are only 15 000 complaints a month, but this is misleading because the council’s IT system automatically closes down queries as resolved after 30 days.
“This means that residents have to re-log calls every month, so the statistics issued by the member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance, Rabelani Dagada, are deceiving,” she said.
She is personally dealing with hundreds of accounts which are incorrect, she added.
Gladwin said she had written to Mashaba to offer him assistance and advice on how to get the queries resolved, but she has had little response.
“I estimate that there are about 50 000 queries a month,” she said.
Two months ago, in an interview with The Star, Dagada admitted there was a billing crisis in the city of Joburg worse than initially thought.
Dagada said he had “grossly” underestimated the amount of work needed to fix the billing crisis. He thought it would take about six months, but now estimates that it will take between 18 and 24 months.
An agent who assists residents and businesses with billing queries, René Kilner, said it was impossible that all the errors and systems would be fixed by December. She has about R33 million worth of queries on her desk, she added.
“The council needs to start using technology – there are too many spreadsheets containing different information and data about residents and businesses in different departments. There needs to be complete data cleansing,” she said.
Meter readers, some of whom have “finger” problems and in some circumstances pose security threats, should be done away with, she said.
Technology must be improved between the city its residents and businesses, especially when it comes to uploading information. The morale of the city staff also has to be uplifted – it is no use simply changing management.
“There is no way this will all be done by December. The training of staff is also needed,” she added.
Dagada told Metrowatch on Wednesday that there was no billing crisis and that queries were being resolved. He was adamant that cut-offs for arrears would not be stopped, as this would “bankrupt” the city within two months.
DESPERATE: Wing Him Samm, 72, has been charged R71 000 for a property next door where the water and electricity meters have been disconnected.