Jo'burg: 'It's not a billing crisis'

The City of Johannesburg does not have a billing crisis, but a service crisis, its finance department said on Thursday.

“It is not really accurate to say we have a billing crisis, but rather to say we have a customer-service crisis,” said Roland Hunter, acting head of the city’s revenue shared services centre.

“If you say billing crisis, you get the impression we have cash-flow problems, and that was never so,” he said at a briefing of the portfolio committee on local government in the Gauteng provincial legislature on solving the city’s revenue challenges.

“Until we re-establish our credibility with customers, that will remain a problem,” he said.

The city’s revenue collection has been plagued with problems, including unread meters, incorrect bills and ratepayers battling to get queries resolved quickly or at all.

Hunter attributed some of the problems to the fragmented way in which the city institutions were designed, low staff morale, cash collection issues and the way arrears and indigent account-holders have been handled.

The city is planning to completely restructure its revenue organisation by establishing a new institution.

This will ensure customers only have to deal with one person when dealing with the city.

“No one is going to say revenue is the worst part of the city. Everybody is going to say revenue is the best part of the city,” Hunter said.

All the city institutions will also share a single computer software package to ensure compatibility and get rid of fragmentation.

The new body will also have to achieve economies of scale.

In the meantime, the city has introduced various short-term measures to alleviate the problems.

It has improved the rate at which it is resolving queries. Last July, it had 49 469 unresolved queries, and by the end of May this stood at 17 077.

Its cash collection rate had improved to about 92% each month and the city was issuing 84% of refunds within 30 days.

The time taken to resolve queries has also improved.—Sapa

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