Joburg rolls up sleeves to sort out billing issue

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Johannesburg - In addressing the challenges emanating from its billing problems, the City of Johannesburg is to develop a Customer Service Charter that highlights the standards of service and turnaround times for customer queries.

Presenting an update on the city's progress in resolving the billing problems, Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing Humphrey Mmemeza said as an immediate intervention, the City has suspended its credit control process, established a billing project and will be monitoring and reporting on the implementation progress.

The City will place a moratorium on cut-off dates until it resolves the billing problem, and have bi-monthly meetings with the Public Protector. It will also send SMSs to ensure that customers are informed of the problems and are engaged in progress made to address challenges. 

Mmemezi said the key factors of the billing matter and related challenges were due to the previous 13 councils that had different IT systems. This necessitated the procurement of a new integrated IT system.

"Incorrect cut offs in some cases due to incorrect referencing by consumers, lack of billing of some customers and communication during the [billing] outcry should have been increased.

"As billing inaccuracies and unwarranted cutoffs [occurred], a total number of 65 000 billing [problems] were identified and to date, 35 353 have been resolved, which translates to 54 percent," Mmemeza said.

The City has also deployed Managing Director Gerald Dumas from the City's Water Agency in an attempt to fast track the resolution.

Dumas said the City will do a skills gap analysis and come up with comprehensive skills development to address the problem, adding that it will be completely resolved in six months.

"The moratorium will look at unresolved queries and we won't do any cut off until the matter is resolved. We have also established an outbound call centre, which will look at the query and interact with the customer to keep the abreast on the progress towards resolving their queries," said Dumas, who is Acting Executive Director of Revenue and Customer Relations Management Department.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela stressed the importance of ensuring that customers get feedback on a regular basis regarding their complaints.

"Until this individualized feedback works, we [Public Protector's Office] will continue to receive complaints. There should be early warning on water and electricity cut-off," Madonsela said, adding that her office will monitor the system every two weeks.

She also acknowledged the establishment of the Customer Service Charter, noting that it conformed with the Batho Pele (people first) principles.

"This is how we like to work with the government when dealing with such issues," said Madonsela. - BuaNews