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Wednesday Feb 13, 2013

Joburg aims to fix problems by June

Joburg has a 114-page Action Plan to deal with the auditor-general's queries. "The strategic objective is to get an unqualified opinion this year and a clean audit for 2013," says the plan.

The auditor-general gave Joburg a qualified report, the third in a row, for its 2011/12 finances.

The plan is a breakdown of the auditor-general's findings, with a list for most problems of actions to resolve each matter, management plans to prevent recurrences, names of the council officials responsible for making each happen, and deadlines.

The plan is part of the City of Joburg's draft annual report for 2011/12, which was released for public comment at the end of last month.

Problems listed include checking on IT security, bills not being paid within 30 days, staff vacancy rates and inaccurate billing for services. Many items note fixes already under way or finished.

Some of the auditor-general's queries are logged as being disagreed with by the council.

Deadlines vary, but the focus is on getting everything sorted out by the end of June, the end of the 2012/13 municipal financial year.

Electricity meter readings and billing problems take up more than five pages.

Problems include electricity meter readings being disregarded for billing purposes, bills issued for more than R3 000 for residential electricity and bills for more than R20 000 for commercial electricity.

The actions to address this include implementing an automated document management system which stores job cards, the development of standard operating procedures for using manual estimates and for when meter readings may be deleted, reconciliation of City of Joburg and City Power databases, and developing a meter-reading plan. Actions to prevent recurrences include reading all inaccessible meters, fixing faulty meters, and reading unread meters.

Joburg Water must sort out estimated billing amounts for extended periods, which could not be reconciled. The identified "3 851 change meter and data difference items" had not been processed by the billing department, so the system must be updated to ensure billing happened on actual readings, said the report, giving a deadline of May 31 and noting that, by January 21, a total of 2 529 items had been submitted to the billing department for updating.

Pikitup must sort out customers who are billed for more than one bin without evidence of extra bins.

There might be some good news for consumers who have long owed the council money.

Joburg Water has R5.36 billion "material impairments" (old debt unlikely to be collected).

"Long outstanding consumer balances that are not collectable have to be written off after considering prescription and legal action already initiated," said the report. The council's billing department must identify, by March 31, accounts that qualify to be written off.

Property records are another headache, which the development planning department must address.

The auditor-general found that there are 197 429 properties on the SAP system (the council's computer system) that are not on the council's land information system (LIS), and another 1 113 properties on the LIS that aren't on SAP.

The first group is listed as probably due to incompatibilities between the systems, and the second group probably relates to sectional title units.

There are also different market values listed for properties on the different systems; these will be fixed, starting with the areas with the highest values.

"A full dump of deeds records will be requested from the Deeds Office to validate property and ownership info on LIS. The project will commence in January 2013 and is a 12-month project," said the report in a note on preventing recurrences.

Various departments and entities are listed as having employees who got state contracts or who own their own businesses but failed to declare these matters.

Plans for better checking up on this and blocking it are included.

The Star

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