Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG)

Friday, August 11, 2017

WELCOME

The Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG) aims to empower residents to take action on their own behalf in matters relating to local government or service delivery, either as individuals or through residents' associations and/or civil society groups. Please note that, as a small, voluntary group, we are unable to assist with individual complaints or queries. Contact your ward councillor should you need assistance with service delivery matters. Should the city's list of ward councillors be unavailable, you can search for your councillor's contact details on the IEC's web site.

Should you need to log or follow up on a municipal query, complaint or dispute, please refer to the 'Log a Complaint' section in the sidebar for further information. 

The contact information for consumer, government and oversight agencies that may be able to help with various issues facing residents can also be found in the sidebar.

If you would like to know more about simple ways in which to become involved in working for change in the City of Joburg, there is further information in this post.

Information leaflets, submissions and other documentation produced by JAG can be accessed in the JAG Document Archive.   

All posts on this site dealing with the billing crisis are tagged 'Municipal Billing Crisis Campaign', and can be accessed from the 'Labels' section in the sidebar. 

BILLING CRISIS STATUS AS AT 1 JUNE 2016:
1. Remember that the City of Joburg cannot discontinue any of your services if you have an unresolved billing complaint, query or dispute. A court order restraining it from doing so was issued on 11 December 2011. 

2. We regret to advise that the Public Protector has never released the 'comprehensive report' on the Joburg billing crisis that she personally undertook to supply to JAG four years ago (and then only after repeated requests for intervention over a period of two years prior to that). All follow-up e-mails addressed to her have been ignored. Every time we attempt to follow up on this or ask a consumer journalist to do so, the PP issues a media statement to the effect that the report will be released soon. As at the date of writing, the report has not been released and residents continue to experience on-going problems with municipal billing. 

BILLING CRISIS AS AT 1 AUGUST 2017: 
Please see the post entitled 'New Mayor Takes Action on Billing Crisis' below. 

COMMENT ON DRAFT LAND USE SCHEME

On 7 June, the City of Johannesburg’s Development Planning Department released a draft Land Use Scheme for public comment. Based on the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2103, it draws on both legislation and previous planning schemes in an attempt to put into place a single land use policy that will be applicable throughout the city.

Residents will be able to comment on the draft for two months from the date of release, and commentary should be submitted to dylanw@joburg.org.za. Public comments will be taken into consideration before the final draft is submitted to the Council for approval.

Once the Land Use Scheme has been adopted - but before it is put into  practice - there will be public workshops and consultations with interested and affected parties.

We encourage residents to read the document carefully and to take advantage of the public participation period.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

YOUR CHANCE TO GET YOUR BILLING PROBLEMS SORTED

 
Billing difficulties continue to dog the residents of Johannesburg as the new administration grapples with the legacy of chaos left by the previous administration.The new Mayor, Herman Mashaba, has personally stepped in and committed to getting the billing system back on track as soon as possible.

One of the remedies the city is offering affected residents is a series of open days; events at which they can meet with city officials face-to-face in an attempt to address unresolved billing issues once and for all.

One of these will take place this Saturday, 12 August, at Mark's Park in Emmarentia. The MMC for Finance, Rabelani Degana, will personally be on-site with his team to assist frustrated residents. Similar open days will be held in all regions of the city over the next few months. Further information is available in this report on TimesLIVE.

Monday, August 7, 2017

R12 BILLION LOST TO CORRUPTION UNDER PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION

 
The full cost of graft and corruption to the people of the City of Joburg under the previous administration is finally coming to light - and investigators estimate it's in the region of R12 billion. This staggering amount is brought into perspective when one considers that it would take nearly 32 years to count from zero to 1 billion sequentially.

Major General Shadrack Sibiya‚ who heads up the city's internal investigations unit‚ says he has been stunned by the level of corruption uncovered since his appointment by new mayor, Herman Mashaba, in November last year.

Read the full story on  TimesLIVE.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NEW MAYOR TAKES ACTION ON BILLING CRISIS


As residents are aware, a new administration under the leadership of Executive Mayor, Councillor Herman Mashaba, took office after the local government elections in 2016. Unlike previous mayors, Mr Mashaba posts regular updates relating to his activities in the social media, which enables us to share information that we know to be verifiable.

Yesterday, the Mayor took the important step of making this announcement about the billing crisis, which has plagued residents for so many years: 
Today, I am personally taking charge of the billing crisis that continues to leave our residents suffering in the City of Johannesburg.
When I was elected as the Executive Mayor, I promised the residents that they would get our very best to relieve them of the misery they have endured at the hands of our billing system. Unfortunately, to date, they have not received this.
Upon taking office, it has taken time to analyse the full magnitude of the billing crisis in our Finance Department. We have inherited a billing system where levels of corruption and mismanagement have historically flourished in an environment of chaos and disorder. For years, the system has failed our residents and treated them with contempt.

Today I report to the residents of our City that I have put the entire leadership of the Department on terms. Either there will be resolution of the City’s Billing system or there must be consequences.

The final straw for me on this matter related a program to regionalise the billing system, with an aim to reduce the time gap between consumption and payment for services. This move had the effect of bringing forward the due date for billing approximately 3 weeks, resulting in many account holders receiving two bills in one month. Account holders who did not pay both accounts were unfairly placed into arrears, accumulating interest on arrears and being charged fees for pre-termination notices.

This is an unacceptable treatment of our residents that I condemn in the strongest possible terms.

With immediate affect I have instructed the City to address the situation as follows:
1. All residents, who have been in good standing with the City for the past 12 months prior to February 2017, and have been put into arrears by the bringing forward of payment due dates, will have their interest owing on arrears and any costs relating to pre-termination notices and disconnections reversed. This will be actioned with immediate effect and will show corrected in their September statement.
2. Regional Open Days will be held across the City going forward on Saturdays, where the City will avail itself to residents at Regional Offices and other facilities to assist residents with billing related problems.
3. A service provider has been appointed and started work on a full diagnostic investigation into the root causes of all billing inaccuracies, from which the City will drive the solutions to remedy the billing system. I commit to the residents that I will communicate regularly on the progress in this respect.
4. All key vacancies within the Department, will be filled with a matter of urgency. Senior positions such as the Group Chief Financial Officer and Group Information Technology Officer will be appointed at the August Council meeting.Other strategic positions within the Department such as Head of Revenue, Head of Accounting will be filled by 1 October 2017.
The Department has operated with over 9 Senior Acting Appointments in key positions in the Revenue Department. These positions will be filled with the very best talent available in the industry by the end of 2017.
5. Efforts will be focussed on the resolution of billing queries logged by our revenue call centre. Currently, the turnaround time, lack of feedback and customer care experienced in this regard is unacceptable. The Department has been tasked with turning this situation around and ensuring billing queries are dealt with faster, and more focus on the care of our residents.

I would like to offer the residents of our City the most sincere apology for the manner in which they have continued to suffer from both the continuation of the billing crisis, as well as this latest problem.
I offer my commitment, that I will personally be taking charge of the situation and seeing to the alleviation of the suffering our residents have endured.
This City will be a caring City, one that will put its residents ahead of all else.
If you would like to follow the Mayor on Facebook, where you can read regular updates from him, you can do so here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

RESIDENT ALERT: MUNICIPAL BILLING


A landmark case heard recently in Gauteng means that your municipality now has to prove your bill is correct (more here) - it can't just demand that you pay inflated and/or incorrect bills.

"The important precedent set by this case (Euphorbia (Pty) Ltd t/a Gallagher Estates v City of Johannesburg) is that, in meter disputes, it is not the consumer’s responsibility to prove that the charges billed are wrong or based on a non-functioning meter. It is rather the municipality’s responsibility to first prove that the charges are correct and/or based on a functioning meter. Once a consumer has logged a revenue-related query based on justified inferences that the billing is wrong, the burden rests on the municipality to investigate the issue, and the meter, if necessary."

This is a big step forward in dealing with the on-going problem of incorrect municipal bills in the City of Joburg.

Thanks to Schindlers Attorneys for the information.

Monday, April 11, 2016

RESIDENT ALERT: LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR VOTERS (via EWN, 10 April 2016):

"The IEC says 15.9 million addresses are missing from its database. Please check if your details are captured correctly." Even people who registered a month ago may be affected.

In order to check the status of your voter information, SMS your ID number to 32810. You will receive a reply confirming your registration and voting station, and possibly get a second message to say that the IEC doesn't have your address.

If your address is not on the voter's roll or if you're not registered and would still like to do so, please go to any IEC office to do the necessary.



JAG contacted the IEC to ask whether voters with incomplete address records would be permitted to vote and received the following response at 13h20:

You are asking a very fundamental question – which is exactly the question on which the Electoral Commission is seeking clarity from the Constitutional Court in our appeal which is scheduled for hearing on 9 May.

The Electoral Commission strongly believes that being compelled to remove registered voters for whom we do not have addresses in our possession will deny them their Constitutional right to vote. But we await the guidance from the Constitutional Court on this issue – which we hope to receive soon.

In the meantime, we do not want to merely sit back and wait for the outcome. Having up to date and accurate address information for voters is a legal requirement and enhances the accuracy and credibility of the voters’ roll – and thereby the integrity of the elections. For this reason we are urging all voters for whom we do not currently have address details on record to please use this weekend’s registration opportunity to update their address details at their voting station.

As this information only came to light for many voters after this past registration weekend, we have subsequently requested a response on two further questions and will advise the IEC's feedback once this has been received.

UPDATE (Monday, 18 April 2016):
Regretfully, we have received no response to the further questions posed to the IEC last week, and there is still no clarity as to whether the problem with address details on the voters' roll will have any influence on voters' right to vote.

The most recent update on TimesLIVE gives an indication of where things stand at present.

Monday, July 20, 2015

RESIDENT ALERT: JOBURG BILLING


Please be advised that we have had a number of complaints about grossly inflated municipal bills for the June 2015 billing cycle (i.e. bills dated the beginning of July).

We recommend that all residents check their latest municipal bills carefully and, should they be incorrect, that they log a complaint with the City of Joburg as soon as possible.

In order to do this, dial Joburg Connect on 011 375 5555 or 0860 JOBURG. Insist on an 0800 reference number when logging your complaint and, if it is not resolved within a week, follow up regularly until it is.

If the call centre agent advises you that the complaint has been resolved, ask for a revised bill to be sent to you by e-mail.