Ethekwini residents have been hit with huge bills after the city introduced the new revenue management system. PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA
Durban - A R600 million billing system bought by the eThekwini Municipality is unable to monitor and track expenditure, and has created chaos in the electricity department.

This indictment of the malfunctioning Revenue Management System (RMS) came from department head Maxwell Mthembu, who detailed the system’s shortcomings and how the department was battling to function at full capacity.

The chairperson of the city’s human settlements and infrastructure portfolio committee, councillor Mondli Mthembu, wants an inquiry to be launched into why officials in the administration allegedly ignored letters about the problem by Maxwell Mthembu.

An angry Mondli Mthembu lambasted decisions taken by officials “without considering” the needs of consumers. He demanded a full report into allegations made by Maxwell Mthembu, who had told the committee he had written numerous reports to the city’s administration about the plight of the department.

According to a recent report to the portfolio committee, earlier reports on electricity failures and the causes thereof, and restoration times, were inaccurate.

Issues pertaining to the implementation of smart meters still needed to be resolved. Management at the department was no longer able to monitor and track expenditure at micro-level due to the migration to the “unreliable” RMS.

The department has been liaising with the city administration since July 1, 2016 to resolve the system challenges, which include the functionality to determine minimum and maximum stock levels, according to the recent report.

“The electricity department crisis is an urgent one and it needs intervention from the city’s political leadership. As a committee, we have not been receiving reports on the shortcomings of the system’s operation,” said Mondli Mthembu.

“Why migrate from a system that works to the one that doesn’t? As an oversight committee we can’t allow an administration (to make) decisions that are not in line with the needs of the public. You can’t remove a system that works and replace it with something that doesn’t work. This also affects the consumers, and what does the committee do about it?”

More than R600m was spent on the controversial RMS, which was introduced in 2016 to replace the old COIN system.

In December 2017, the city had raised concerns that the manual intervention in the RMS system resulted in delays, and in some incidents readings had been corrupted and had to be deleted. This resulted in charges based on estimated usage.

In April 2018, Daily News reported that mayor Zandile Gumede had misled the public by announcing she had set up a task team to investigate the malfunctioning billing system, as no such team was in place.

Attempts to get comment from city manager Sipho Nzuza were unsuccessful.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said Maxwell Mthembu was “perfect” for the job, but political interference resulted in inefficiency in his department. “Service delivery gets compromised in the process. What was the reason behind leaving the COIN system in the first place? Hundreds of millions of rands have gone with the system, and (there’s) no accountability for that,” Nkosi said.

DA councillor Martin Meyer said the city had struggled for years to get the RMS running because it was fraught with irregularities.

“This was a system we kept warning would not work and indeed, the migration resulted in many billing problems.”

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the COIN system’s programming language was outdated and no longer in use, creating risks during maintenance.

He denied there were reports detailing the RMS’s shortcomings and said that “all issues raised were discussed with the unit concerned and the staff in the unit”.

Daily News