Johannesburg metro saddled with qualified audit — again
BILLING and overall customer relationship management continued to trouble the City of Johannesburg in the 2011-12 financial year, which led to the city again obtaining a qualified audit opinion, the Johannesburg metro council heard on Thursday.
Geoff Makhubo, mayoral committee member in charge of finance, said the auditor-general’s 2011-12 findings related to billing estimates and fixed assets. These included inaccurate meter readings for water and electricity, and poor record-keeping of waste bins.
The city’s finances were, however, stable, Mr Makhubo said. "We will focus on ensuring that the city does address these issues," he said.
The central government, as part of the local government turnaround strategy, has set a target for all municipalities to achieve a clean audit by next year.
Last year, Johannesburg was the only metro out of the eight in South Africa to receive a qualified audit opinion. The auditor-general raised concerns about meter-reading discrepancies and the verification of property categories, as what was recorded in the deeds office did not match details on the billing side.
In 2010, the city introduced a computerised billing system that resulted in thousands of customers being incorrectly billed.
Residents’ complaints have included incorrect billing, the attitudes of city officials, and dealing with recorded phone messages with no possibility of speaking to a person or having problems resolved.
In response, the city introduced a road map for revenue and billing enhancement, with a focus on customer service.
Among the positives in last year’s financial audit report, the City of Johannesburg made R5bn profit — after deductions — compared with R3bn in 2011. Rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s gave the city a stable outlook during that period.
Two out of 15 municipal entities, the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market and the Johannesburg Social Housing Company, achieved clean audits. The other entities achieved unqualified opinions, except for City Power and Johannesburg Water, which had suffered the most in terms of revenue collection as a result of the billing crisis.
City manager Trevor Fowler said the 2011-12 financial year had its own unique administrative and political challenges, as it coincided with the 2011 municipal elections.
Mr Makhubo said the city was happy that most of the findings from the 2010-11 financial year had been resolved.