CITY LIMITS: Johannesburg’s CBD at night. Fixing the city's billing crisis was a key campaign promise of mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: BLOOMBERG
CITY LIMITS: Johannesburg’s CBD at night. Fixing the city's billing crisis was a key campaign promise of mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Following years of bungled utility bills and promises by Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba to rectify the crisis, the former chair of City Power says the billing system of SA’s biggest budget municipality is still dysfunctional.

Fixing the crisis was a key campaign promise of Mashaba, who took over the reins of a minority DA-led coalition government after the 2016 local government election.

The city has, however, denied that the billing system is dysfunctional, saying that it “cannot be true by any measure or industry benchmarks”.  

Lael Bethlehem was appointed City Power chair after the DA-led government took over and replaced ANC stalwart and former director-general in the presidency Frank Chikane in March 2017.

The entity contributes a large chunk of the city’s revenue.

Bethlehem did not re-apply to be board chair of the entity  and handed over the reins to new board chair Lerato Nage at City Power’s annual general meeting last week. 

In her presentation at the AGM, Bethlehem said the city’s billing system was “unreliable and fragmented”.

It was “impossible to improve revenue or resolve queries until this [the billing system] was addressed”, she said.

“All attempts to address this in a systematic and sustainable manner have been unsuccessful so far.”

She said an effort had been made to integrate the process of billing between the entities that generate the user and information and the people that generate the bill, but that “these things are divorced from each other” in Johannesburg.

Finance spokesperson Kutlwano Olifant said the city had introduced a regionalised approach to billing  and that all seven regional offices were staffed by employees from the city and the entities.

She said the billing department generated 1.1-million accounts on a monthly basis, and of this, 5,000 queries are registered, which amounted to 1% of total bills.

She said that 85% of queries “are to be resolved within 30 days”.   mailovichc@businesslive.co.za