A view of the Johannesburg skyline. Picture: THE TIMES
A view of the Johannesburg skyline. Picture: THE TIMES

The City of Johannesburg has suffered a setback in its bid to resolve a long-standing billing crisis‚ which has been a headache for residents for several years.

Even Nelson Mandela and the ANC headquarters have been victims of municipal bungling.

Mayor Herman Mashaba has made the billing crisis one of his priorities since he came into office last year. But a recent work stoppage dealt a blow to the campaign.

"Two or three weeks ago we had a work stoppage in the revenue department after a few people were arrested‚" said Lesego Ngobeni‚ spokesperson for the finance MMC.

"That stoppage affected operations quite substantially. It lasted for about two weeks."

City of Johannesburg MMC for finance Rabelani Dagada said last month the metro’s billing crisis would be history by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal period.

On August 13 Dagada pronounced that the city’s billing drive was making headway. He said 17‚797 billing queries were yet to be resolved.

More than a month later‚ that figure stands at 17‚000‚ Dagada said in a statement released on Friday.

That means fewer than 800 queries have been resolved over the past four weeks‚ putting the city way behind its target.

It will have to clear roughly 2‚800 queries every month to resolve the crisis by the end of March 2018‚ when the 2017-18 fiscal year ends.

Dagada announced monthly "open days" in August to deal with billing issues. The first took place on August 12 in Emmarentia.

A second open day was due to be held in Sandton on September 2 but was cancelled after workers from the city’s Revenue Shared Services Centre went on strike in solidarity with 10 of their colleagues who were arrested on corruption allegations.

But Dagada said on Friday that the city was making progress. He said the DA-led metro had resolved about 30‚000 queries since it took over after the municipal elections in August last year.

"We are committed to improving on these gains and resolving the City’s billing crisis once and for all‚" Dagada said.

A Revenue Nerve Centre had been established to co-ordinate efforts‚ together with a technical support service unit to provide support‚ including meter readings and audits.

Hundreds of Joburgers have been plagued by inflated municipal bills.

In 2013 the ANC-led municipality was forced to apologise to Madiba after it erroneously sent a pre-termination notice to his home‚ claiming arrears of more than R6‚000. Madiba was gravely ill at the time and died a few months later.

The ANC itself was hit by a bill of R3.5m earlier that year‚ according to reports.

Officials have attributed the blunders to an IT upgrade that accompanied the amalgamation of the municipality’s 16 independent councils 17 years ago.

Resource mismanagement has also been blamed.

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