The City of Johannesburg - more allegations and denials

The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) has come out in defence of fresh allegations suggesting that it has failed to get to grips with the billing crisis which has been ongoing for over two years.

In this latest outcry, Johannesburg has been accused of erroneously removing queries from its database, without resolving the underlying dispute, in order to improve its query resolution figures.

“That is a spurious allegation and must be rejected with the contempt it deserves,” Johannesburg’s Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for finance, Geoffrey Makhubo told Moneyweb on Wednesday.

“We are committed to customer centricity so we can’t grandstand on the basis of showing statistics that we are resolving queries meanwhile we have not dealt with the underlying problem,” he said.

Makhubo told Moneyweb that of the 133 000 queries logged with the City prior to October 31 2011 just over 2 600 remain.

Of the approximately 120 000 queries logged between November 1 2011 and June 30 2012 around 30 000 remain.

Makhubo did not have numbers available for queries logged since 1 July but committed that any new query must be resolved within 30 days.

According to Makhubo, the City has employed a dedicated KPMG “quality assurance” team to monitor progress of its Revenue Collection Step Change Programme.

That team have “said that queries that are said to have been resolved, have been resolved”.
Makhubo did however concede that the allegation “may have something to do with” the City’s outbound team responsible for informing residents where a query has been resolved and of ensuring that there is agreement between the resident and the City on the nature of the resolution.

Prior to May this year the City would remove a query from its database even where residents had not necessarily agreed that the resolution was satisfactory, he said.

This, however, is no longer the case according to Makhubo who said that such disputes will now be flagged for escalation to be handled by higher management within the City’s revenue collection department.

The City is also in the process of establishing a dedicated appeal authority to arbitrate over such disagreements, said Makhubo.

On Saturday the DA held a “billing day” in Marks Park, Emmarentia, during which it claims to have received between 6 000 and 7 000 billing related complaints from residents.

According to the DA, the sheer volume of complaints received is proof that Johannesburg’s claims of significant improvement in its billing systems are a “lie”.

“Makhubo has ensured us that they are resolving the queries but what we have seen that it is actually not the case,” said the DA’s shadow MMC for finance, Patrick Atkinson.

Atkinson went on to suggest that Johannesburg has been “going around saying it’s resolving queries but it’s actually unilaterally closing queries”.

“It’s just closing queries as resolved when they haven’t actually resolved the issue … it’s a fairly common occurrence”.

Lee Cahill from the Johannesburg Advocacy Group, which has been intimately involved in the billing crisis agrees that the situation has not been resolved.

“Over and over we have been saying the billing crisis is bigger than anyone will admit to. Secondly its symptomatic of a far greater system problem, and thirdly we are in a situation where the people who are the custodians of our rights are actually lying to us,” she said


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