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Wednesday Aug 29, 2012

Criticism over R1m advice for Durban's billing system

An IT expert was paid nearly R1 million by the eThekwini Municipality to review the city's new billing system, but the advice he offered came in for criticism from ANC councillor Nigel Gumede, who felt he had not given the executive committee the solutions it needed.

Gumede said the council needed to be advised if it should carry on pumping money into the proposed Revenue Management System or ditch it.

Information technology expert Leepy Shabangu's company, Liepzig Advisory IT CC, was paid R900 000 to give an overview of the risks associated with going live on the new system and to prescribe the various options available to the city.

Liepzig Advisory was hired by the municipality in June because of uncertainty about further developments of the system and when the project was likely to be finalised.

After his presentation to exco yesterday, it became clear that Durban ratepayers would have to fork out millions more before the system, which has already cost nearly R500 million to develop, got off the ground.

"The presenter is too neutral for me," Gumede said. "We are saying we have a project that we feel has cost us a fortune... If you were running a business or an organisation as big as this one, which option would you take?" he asked.

Shabangu gave the council three options. It could stop any further developments of the system and continue using the current Coins billing system; install an ERP system (a generic system); or continue developing the system.

All the options came with risks and financial implications, he explained. The municipality collects just over R20 billion a year in revenue.

"When it comes to the RMS, things are not as good as we'd like them to be, but not as terrible as other people may make them out to be. The system has come so far and the city has an asset that is 70 percent complete," said Shabangu.

In response to Gumede's comments, Shabangu recommended that the city continue developing the system.

DA caucus leader Tex Collins said there were "red flags" throughout the report, and too many unknowns, but it was unfair to ask Shabangu to tell the city what to do.

"There is no way on Earth we can make a decision based on this report. I agree [with Gumede]: it is very neutral. But he [Shabangu] has given us a clear view of what's wrong with our RMS," he said.

Speaker Logie Naidoo suggested that the city hire external consultants to monitor the system from month to month.

Municipal manager S'bu Sithole said there would be a report-back to the council in two weeks, but the most favourable option was to continue developing the system.

The Mercury

 
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