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Mayor of Johannesburg facing arrest

Johannesburg mayor, Parks Tau, is facing a contempt of court order - this is the second one issued in recent weeks.

In the most recent incident, the managing agents of a Randburg complex have disputed a municipal bill that states they owe the city over R2.6 million for electricity.

The managing agents of Castle Hill took the city to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg in June 2012 when attempts to get the city's billing department to rectify the account failed.

The court ordered the city to repair or replace the electricity meter, to adjust the accounts and issue a full statement within 15 days.

This was ignored and in November last year the managing agent, Stuart Fyfe, went back to court for a contempt of court order application which was granted.

The city was given three months to once again rectify the situation. This has since been ignored.

Fyfe said the complex had had billing problems since 2008 and had been trying to resolve the matter with the council, with no success.

The complex was being billed estimates, instead of on its actual consumption.

The problem was identified by an electric forensic auditor as a meter programming problem.

He confirmed, in the court papers, that the meter had been incorrectly programmed and that the voltage transformer ratio was incorrect, leading to a 51.5 percent discrepancy in usage.

Although the city later replaced the meter, it remained 'dysfunctional in that it was still incorrectly programmed', he said.

In the contempt of court order, Judge AJ Beltramo said it was 'manifestly plain that the respondents took no steps to negotiate a resolution of the dispute'. The city argued that it could not comply with the initial court order and issue an account because the meter was faulty and it was therefore not able to give correct figures.

The judge found the city to be in contempt of court and ordered the city to pay a fine of R10 000 within 90 days and to issue a correct account, which has not happened.

Fyfe said that the city was responsible for about R500 000 of legal fees to date.

As head of the city, Tau is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the billing department responds to the court order.

This is the second contempt of court order against the mayor. The Star reported last week that Tau and his mayoral committee were ordered to pay a fine of R50 000 for contempt of court after the city refused to issue the Hellenic Community with a correct bill.

In that case, Judge CH Nicholls ordered that the papers should be served personally on Tau and the head of legal services at the city.

The city, in response to the Randburg complex issue, said by law it was not allowed to discuss or give out any private and confidential information regarding its customers.

'The city has noted the court matter by the Hellenic Community and is currently studying the judgment against the facts of this case. The city wishes to assure all ratepayers that significant progress has been made in improving the efficiency of our billing system and maintained a strong and robust financial position. All queries raised with the city are addressed effectively as a matter of (course). The city's legal department is currently arranging a meeting with this particular client,' said Nthatisi Modingoane, spokesman for the city.

(Via The Star)


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