Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): Some Good News on the Billing Crisis

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Some Good News on the Billing Crisis

We're pleased to see that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, whose department is tasked with monitoring the implementation of such legislation as the Municipal Systems Act and the Local Government Municipal Finance Management Act, is moving decisively to address the Joburg billing crisis.

Photograph courtesy of The Times

First came the news early yesterday afternoon of Minister Shiceka's intention to launch an official investigation into the billing crisis in the city, and then of the fact that he had called a summit with the mayors from all 14 municipalities to address more widespread billing irregularities in Gauteng.

JAG has expressed cautious optimism about the Minister's intervention, but continues to advocate for short- and medium-term relief for residents while the proposed investigation gets underway.

We've proposed a three-tiered approach to address the billing issue in the short-, medium- and long-term:

The first step was to call for an official investigation into the Joburg billing crisis in terms of the Municipal Systems Act because that's the only way to get to the root of the problem and to ensure that something like this doesn't - and can't - happen again.

But investigations take time and, in the short-term, we've called for a moratorium on power cuts until the billing system can be proved to be stable and functioning correctly. We'd also like to see power restored to residents whose accounts are currently in dispute until these disputes can be resolved.

In the medium-term, we'd like to see a "closed" complaints system being introduced off existing Joburg Connect capacity. A closed complaints system allows for logged tickets (resident complaints) to be closed off only if the original complainant agrees that the problem has been appropriately addressed. This, we believe, would prevent complaints from falling into a huge black hole of inaction, incompetence and corruption.

We've also suggested that it become mandatory for all city employees to wear name tags that reflect their employee numbers. This will enable residents to log complaints about inefficiency, poor service and corruption - all of which is widespread - more efficiently and effectively.

So again, we're cautiously optimistic about yesterday's developments, but continue to keep a vigilant eye on the billing situation in the city.


ceramicmatters said...

Thank you for all the effort, JAG!
We have received a credit on part of our bill, but we are now charged "INTEREST on ARREARS" on the erroneous account.
We hold thumbs that Minister Shiceka's intention to launch an official investigation into the billing crisis in the city will sort things out. We are getting frantic.

Lee Cahill said...

You're very welcome! In fact, we were just speaking about your case a few minutes ago.

We're also holding thumbs that the investigation will yield results, but in the meantime, we're advising residents to continue paying an average monthly amount based on the six months prior to the dispute, which should minimise the chance of cut-offs. They can also lodge an official dispute with the city (see our information leaflet published in November and available on this site), which should also protect residents against unjustified cut-offs.

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