Crisis? What crisis? asks Joburg mayor
Embattled Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo says "there is no crisis" and that he does not want to comment on Corporate Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka's intervention in the city's billing debacle.
Masondo has, however, empathised with the 41000 residents whose water and electricity supplies have been disconnected erroneously.
Addressing a press conference at his Braamfontein offices yesterday, Masondo denied reports that the city's new IT system - which has not captured all residents' accounts from the old system, resulting in customers not receiving statements - was a failure.
"There is no crisis," he said. "There is no crisis, and I would not like to speak about the minister at this press conference. We have high regard for the minister . and we will continue to work with him to ensure that the work that was supposed to be done is done properly."
The problems that have left Joburg residents up in arms include:
The new system not linking to the deeds office, which has affected property transfers, clearances and refunds;
The billing department not being linked to City Power contractors, resulting in wrong disconnections; and
Account statements not matching the consumption of electricity and water.
On Monday, The Times reported that Shiceka was to hold crisis talks this week with Gauteng local government MEC Humphrey Memezi about Joburg's billing problems.
Shiceka, who said he had been a victim of inflated accounts when he was a resident of the municipality, revealed that he was considering introducing legislation that would give the SA Revenue Service control over billing and the collection of rates and services levies, for all municipalities.
"I would not like to comment on the minister. Let's leave the minister out of it," Masondo said yesterday.
He admitted that Project Phakama - to set up the new billing system - had not been implemented fully, with two of five modules not put into effect.
Councillor Parks Tau, a mayoral committee member responsible for finance, said that, problems notwithstanding, things were "calm".
Last week, furious residents staged a sit-in at the municipal offices in Braamfontein, protesting against the billing chaos.
"From where we are sitting, we think the situation is stabilising. Of course there has been a degree of anger generated by the number of credit-control action [cut-offs], but the situation, in our opinion, is stabilising," Tau said. "We are investigating all individual queries that we have received and in instances where [accounts] are incorrect, we are reversing credit-control action."
Tau said his employees were not adequately trained to work the new billing system. He hoped the communication problem between the old and new systems would be resolved in three weeks.
German specialists were periodically brought in because the billing system had been designed by a German company, Tau said.