Extra R900k for IT billing system

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The eThekwini municipality is throwing a further R900 000 into what has seemingly become a bottomless money pit: its yet-to-go-live, multimillion-rand revenue management system.

The city’s executive committee agreed on Tuesday to source and appoint an information technology expert to investigate the controversial system.

In a document tabled at the meeting by municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole and deputy city manager for treasury Krish Kumar, the committee said the IT specialist should be found soon to expedite a six-week investigation.

It added that the R900 000 to pay for the investigation would be sourced from funds budgeted for the project.

“It is also critical that this project be finalised before the submission on annual financial statements at the end of August,” read the report.

Sithole said the investigation would review the “entire” system.

“We will also be advised about how to best approach the system moving forward. We will then make a call of whether or not we want to continue with the system and how much more do we need to pay,” Sithole said.

The R474 million system has been a contentious issue with councillors and city officials because of constant delays in its go-live date.

It was approved by the city’s executive committee in 2004, and was intended to manage a number of other systems, including billing and revenue collection, debt management and disconnection of services.

Once it goes live, it will replace the existing Coin Billing System. Delays in developing the system and changes to its original specifications have been blamed for the cost ballooning from R150m to R474m.

The constant postponement of the implementation date has irked opposition parties, which repeatedly urged the city to consider pulling the plug on it.

Last month, Sithole said the system remained a risk issue because while so much money had been spent on it, the city was still “planning how to go live”.

He feared that if the system was not tested properly, the city could be faced with a crisis similar to that in Joburg, where residents had been billed with incorrect amounts.

The equivalent system in the Cape Town municipality cost R350m, including hardware, software and licence fees.

It took Cape Town 20 months to implement. Support and maintenance cost R50m a year, which included the latest versions of the software.

In Joburg, the implementation phases of the billing software began in November 2009 and ended in June 2010.

The initial budget for the programme was R352m, but the final cost came to R800m.

Earlier this year, the Manase forensic report found that the awarding of a R44m tender for system support had been irregular, with the city’s supply chain management policy not having been adhered to.

Opposition parties, including the DA and the Minority Front, welcomed the report. - Daily News

nondumiso.mbuyazi@inl.co.za


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