This follows Sutcliffe’s scathing attack on a Daily News article about the “council’s billing system headache”.
The article was published on April 11, following the presentation of a damning report by the electricity unit to the City’s human settlements and infrastructure committee about a number of factors, including the “unreliable” RMS which posed a headache for both ratepayers and employees.
According to the report, 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.
The “ongoing” unreliable information or data from the RMS was one of the root causes of the unit’s woes, according to page 153 of the report.
Unit head Maxwell Mthembu presented the report to the committee, with portfolio committee chair Mondli Mthembu demanding a full report into the allegations that numerous reports to the City’s administration about the plight of his department as a result of the malfunctioning RMS had been ignored.
Sutcliffe wrote to the Daily News saying that the published article suggested the officials, politicians or journalist noted in the story were not competent to do their jobs.
“For a start, RMS is not a general ledger which allows the monitoring of expenditure. So if the officials or politicians said that was the case, I trust the mayor or city manager will ensure there is consequence management. If the journalist incorrectly reported these pronouncements that RMS was to blame for expenditure monitoring, I trust a headline apology from the Daily News will be in order,” reads the letter.
“Having carefully tracked the city’s RMS and its direct costs for over a decade, and compared these to Johannesburg and Cape Town, there is no doubt that eThekwini’s RMS system has saved the ratepayers hundreds of millions of rand, and, importantly, has been able to migrate historic data with relatively few problems. All investigations, most of which I regard as having been wasteful expenditure, have shown that the RMS was not the problem, but the problem was in migrating historic data,” sentiments municipal manager Sipho Nzuza appeared to agree with.
Nzuza said it would be difficult to comment on the system because there was still an investigation and they had just received a briefing from the private investigator.
“For example, people would go and take meter readings and take the wrong reading in the process, and once those readings are captured in the system then the system will have the wrong readings. Let’s not be emotional about this let’s rather investigate the source of the problem,” he said. Opposition parties, however, said Sutcliffe had lost touch with reality.
DA committee member Martin Meyer said: “It’s very easy for Mr Sutcliffe to make comments when he has left us with the crisis that we’re dealing with now. He was instrumental in getting RMS up and running; he knows the problems and he knows how many times it came back to council, and he still has the audacity to defend it. He’s not the one that gets phone calls every day from residents with wrong bills. Right now I’m dealing with a resident, 70 years of age, living alone, with a R460 000 water bill. He’s more than welcome to contact me directly, or come to my office, and I will show him how this is a failed system.”
IFP committee member Mdu Nkosi demanded proof that the system was effective.
“To date we have not migrated fully after so many years since this system was introduced. The problem is copying things from other countries and failing to implement them properly. Unreliable information from this system is a problem for ratepayers,” Nkosi said.