Jo’burg scrambles to clear billing crisis backlog

Johannesburg aims to resolve about 66 000 outstanding revenue related queries to address the billing crisis, the city said on Monday.

“The backlog is being dealt with expeditiously. As of October 31 we had a total of 136 000 outstanding revenue related queries. As of March 13, we narrowed this down to 66 000 and plan to deal with the outstanding queries by June this year,” mayoral committee member Geoffrey Makhubo told reporters.

Makhubo added that all new queries would be dealt with in 30 days.

The Jo’burg billing crisis has been a bone of contention since July 2010, when Project Phakama — designed to improve the city’s billing system — was introduced.

In many cases, residents did not receive statements for basic municipal services for several months, while many others receiving statements claimed to be grossly overcharged.

Phakama aimed to reconcile the details of all Johannesburg rate-paying residents under one system, but allegedly caused massive confusion due to “wrong information amalgamation”.

“We are hoping to be completely out of the woods by June 2013 but in the meantime we will soon be introducing a customer charter, which will address accountability for non-performance in the city,” said Makhubo.

The newly unveiled plan follows a meeting between city officials and deputy minister in the presidency for monitoring and evaluation, Obed Bapela.

“We received around 8 000 queries on the presidential hotline regarding issues in Johannesburg and we wanted to find out how city was attending to them. For the moment we are quite happy with the way the city responded to our queries,” said Bapela.

As this meeting takes place a few months after central government took control of several provincial departments in Limpopo, Gauteng and the Free State, Bapela was quick to dispel any rumours of President Jacob Zuma wanting to flex his political muscles.

“This does not amount to presidential intervention. We are merely responding to the queries of our citizens. If any municipality is grossly mismanaged or near collapse it would be the ministry of finance that would intervene. We are here only to evaluate performance,” Bapela told the Mail & Guardian.

Bapela said the ministry would return in September to monitor progress on the matter and that the presidency is planning to visit other municipalities to monitor performance and service delivery.

But opposition parties and civil society are not convinced the new plan will bear fruit.

Democratic Alliance leader in the Johannesburg city caucus Mmusi Maimane said that the plan is “credible” but he fears there wouldn’t be the “required capacity” to execute it.

“The city has set themselves quite a challenge. Dealing with the backlog in such a short space of time is going to be difficult,” said Maimane.

Lee Cahill, founding member of civil society group Johannesburg Advocacy, said it would be “virtually impossible” to clear the backlog by June.

“There is nothing in the way they have handled this process to date, to suggest this new plan will be successful,” Cahill told the M&G.

Cahill suggested the city’s billing and revenue collections functions should be outsourced.

“The city has proved time and time again to be unable to handle these vital services. The ultimate solution would be to outsource or billing and revenue collection to several recognised and successful service providers,” said Cahill.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Nation of curtain twitchers

Now that we are in the second week of lockdown, South Africans seem to be taking their unwritten civic duty of snitching very seriously

Linda Twala — the father of the nation of Alex

​Linda Twala was born to one of the original residents of Alexandra. He is now known as the father of Alex, a title he takes very seriously

New and lesser-known faces in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet has brought some lesser known politicians to the fore

No resolution on Mahumapelo’s future as Ramaphosa urges calm

President Cyril Ramaphosa is in Mahikeng to intervene after days of unrest which has led to one death, scores of arrests and violent protest action

ANC will ‘tread carefully’ to quell unrest in North West

The ANC is facing mounting pressure to recall Premier Supra Mahupamelo

‘ANC cowards’ are hiding behind the EFF – Mahumapelo

Several members of the legislature have been calling for national leaders to intervene in what they now describe as a "totally dysfunctional" province

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday