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Friday Aug 11, 2017

Open day for Joburg West account queries

Joburg West residents, here's your chance to get your billing problem resolved.

The City of Joburg has in recent weeks admitted there's a billing crisis. Mayor Herman Mashaba has publicly apologised to residents and pledged that he would be intervening to resolve the crisis.

As part of the solution, the city is hosting open days in its different regions over the next few months, where residents can have their queries personally attended to.

The first open day is tomorrow at Marks Park Sports Club in Emmarentia. for ratepayers of region B, which includes Randburg, Cresta, Rosebank, Emmarentia, Westcliff and the surrounding areas.

"These billing open days will be replicated in all regions of the city in the upcoming months, as the city tackles the backlog of incorrect accounts in its SAP IT system. Billing open days are designed to rectify anomalies in municipal accounts and help the city improve its customer database," said the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance, Rabelani Dagada.

"There are countless property owners who should be paying for municipal services, but are not doing so and we urge them to come forward so that we can remedy their billing issues," the MMC said, adding that resolving the billing woes would also improve their revenue collection.

The open days will give ratepayers a platform to interact with revenue front-line staff, who will assist them to resolve or update their municipal accounts, he added.

"This is also a chance for all stakeholders to take up their concerns with senior management in the city."

Dagada said the new measures would also help to improve relations between the metro and its ratepayers.

"We expect ratepayers to come out in droves so that officials can assist them to resolve long-standing billing problems," Dagada said, adding that the exercise was also tailored to help ratepayers reduce their municipal debt.

The billing open days are also aimed at compiling an accurate indigent register, introducing mechanisms to improve billing and revenue collection as well as improve the turnaround time for the resolution of queries.

The billing crisis began when 16 independent councils amalgamated to form the City of Joburg, some 17 years ago. When the previous administration upgraded its revenue-collection database software to streamline operations, the process was bungled, resulting in glitches during its rollout.

The Star's Metrowatch has for years been reporting on the crisis and observed when new systems were put into place, it only seemed to further complicate matters.

"Customers began receiving inflated and inaccurate municipal accounts for rates and services. Resources mismanagement in the revenue department is also to blame for having perpetuated the crisis," the MMC added.

This historical problem has since created a backlog in the operations of Joburg's revenue department.

Going forward, the city will conduct a frequent audit of properties and meters; enforce consequence and performance management, recruit skilled and qualified professionals and implement the SAP system successfully.

Plans are afoot to establish a "revenue nerve centre" to co-ordinate efforts and interventions across the revenue value chain.

Presentations on how the city inherited the billing crisis and its plans to fix it have been prepared for tomorrow, including exhibitions by the council's various departments and municipal entities.

Exhibitions by municipal entities will focus on services offered by the city including social development, emergency management services, Pikitup, Joburg Market; Joburg Water, Joburg metro police department, Johannesburg Roads Agency, City Parks and Zoo, and City Power.

All corporate account holders and ratepayers who are 60 days or more in arrears or have a query on their account are urged to attend the open day.

Anna Cox
City Watch
The Star

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