PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release;
13/02/15
EXCO STATEMENT
IBM SMART CITIES CHALLENGE REPORT HAND OVER

THE team of experts from international computer giants, IBM, has handed over their report to the Executive Committee (EXCO) with recommendations on how to address the City’s identified challenges. Last year the Municipality was one of three African cities awarded a grant as part of the IBM Smart Cities Challenge which is a competitive grant programme that sends teams of some of IBM's most talented experts to select cities and regions worldwide to provide pro bono consulting expertise on the most critical issues faced by communities today.

Presenting the report to EXCO at its meeting on Tuesday, 10/03/15, IBM’s Ahmed Simjee said the IBM team consisting of six to eight business experts spent about six weeks interacting with City officials, business leaders and other interested stakeholders. The areas that the team focused on include how to develop Durban’s entrepreneurial environment, the City not sufficiently recognised as an investment destination, skills development and maximising the potential of the maritime sector.

The exercise was divided into three parts, looking at what’s best for citizens, for business and for the Municipality. Mayor James Nxumalo said: “We welcome the conclusion of this report. It will help us to deal with our challenges especially the four areas that were identified. We want our officials to implement these recommendations.”

City Manager Sibusiso Sithole said they appreciate the amount of work that has been put in by the IBM team in drawing up the report. “Different Units are already looking into what aspects of the report we can do, especially looking at the lower hanging fruits.”

He said the City has already taken the decision to conduct a skills audit within the Municipal area to have a better understanding of the skills needs and interventions, especially for young people. “We are working with young people to create a smart city,” said Sithole.
RMS UPDATE

EXCO has noted the significant progress that has been achieved in the implementation of the Revenue Management System (RMS), with the new billing system expected to go-live in July this year. IT Consultant, Leepy Shabangu updated EXCO on the implementation of the system which is expected to replace the current COINS billing system. He said billing for most of the services including rates are already running on RMS and with residential water and electricity still to come on. “These form the bulk of our billing system and we need to thread very carefully in bringing them on board,” he said. He added that between March and June parallel runs will be done from both systems to ensure that possible challenges are identified and addressed before the go-live date.

Chief Information Officer Robert Dlamini said they are currently testing and ironing out some data issues, “but it looks much better now than it was before”. “Great progress has been made in the process. The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of data that need to be migrated to the new system and we have to run tests,” said City Manager Sithole. “We are confident that come July 1 2015 when we switch on RMS alone we will be ready.”

He said tests are being conducted to ensure that the system will issue accurate bills to customers.

“We don’t want any state of panic especially from consumers. We want to ensure that when consumers receive a bill they won’t even notice that it’s from the new system.”

Sithole added that there will be financial implications for the process as some of the consultants, including a business analyst are still expected to assist until the system is up and running. 

“By now things are looking far better than they were on the project. We are not out of the woods yet because the proof of the system will be in the release of bills themselves,” he said.

“We are happy that we have moved from a stagnation point if you compare where we were last year,” said Chairperson of the Finance and Procurement Committee Fawzia Peer.

The cost for the retention of consultants is estimated at R3.5million per month until the end of the financial year in June. “These costs have come down tremendously from about R7m after we have renegotiated with the vendors,” said Shabangu. A report on the full extent of the costs will be presented to EXCO next week.

EXCO emphasised the need to develop internal capacity for people who can resolve challenges with the system once it’s running fully.

R300M NEEDED FOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE REPLACEMENT
The Head of Water and Sanitation Unit Ednick Msweli presented a comprehensive report on the water loss or non-revenue water which averages 39percent. The Municipality loses about R600m on water that gets lost in distribution and unaccounted for. Msweli said leakage due to the City’s old infrastructure is the major cause of the loss of water.

Records show that the Municipality has 564 000 listed properties of which 39542 have no connections to the City’s mains. About 63 805 properties that are connected do not have active accounts, 40 183 active accounts indicate a zero consumption and 56 870 are recorded as disconnected.

Msweli said the Unit responds to an average of 285 faults per day on Municipal infrastructure and 280 on customer connections. “Ours is an old city. We need to be spending money on rehabilitating and replacing our infrastructure which is 50 years old,” said Msweli.

He said capacity within the Unit is also a major factor but this will be addressed through the reorganisation of operations before a request is made for additional resources. He said it was also worrying that only 212 people have come forward to take advantage of the Water Amnesty between January 2012 and December 2014. The amnesty allows people who have illegal connections to be regularised and given proper connections.

The Unit has also not been able to respond to leaks in some areas due to unbecoming behaviour by community members which makes it impossible for teams to do their work. Vandalism of infrastructure and proliferation of informal settlement have also compounded the challenge.
An eight point turn around action plan was welcomed by EXCO members. It includes the internal reorganisation of human and other resources, metering of informal settlements and new housing developments (including upgrade of domestic metres older than 15 years), replacement of ageing infrastructure, smart metering, pressure management, eradication of the water backlog, intensification of the water amnesty campaign and regularisation of illegal connections.

Msweli recommended that the Municipality make available about R300million per year for the next five financial years to deal effectively with the infrastructure replacement.

EXCO members emphasised the need to educate communities about conserving water and the need to report leaks and vandalism. “We all agree that we should task Treasury to find the money to deal with this challenge. We need to improve community education and ensure that we have toll free numbers for people to report the leaks,” said Chairperson of the Governance and International Relations Committee, Nondumiso Cele.

EXCO RECEIVES REPORT ON SIGNIFICANT COURT CASES
EXCO received a report on 32 significant court cases of litigation against and by the Municipality. Head of Legal Services Unit Nokhana Moerane said the case involving Tactical Security vs eThekwini Municipality and Others has been resolved in favour of the Municipality. In the case the applicant had been granted an interdict to prevent the Municipality from advertising a new tender after the decision not to award the tender for security services and to prevent the implementation of a short term contract.

“The review was argued and the court dismissed the review application. The interdict against the implementation of the short term contract was also dismissed. After a delay of more than a year, the Municipality can now proceed with the tender,” said Moerane.

Another case, Makwicana vs eThekwini Municipality, the applicant, who had a permit to trade, had his goods impounded by Metro Police for failing to produce a permit, and the validity of the bylaws was challenged in court. The court has set aside the two sections dealing with this but the implementation has been postponed to May. “This means that we have to come up with new street trading bylaws within two months.”
Other cases include contractual disputes as well as damages due to alleged medical negligence, wrongful arrest, the Municipality vs Independent Schools over rates and the Municipality’s R52m claim and liquidation application against Municipal bus operator Tansnat.

EXCO GRANTS PERMISSION FOR METRO POLICE REVIEW
EXCO has granted City Manager Sibusiso Sithole permission to conduct a review of the Metro Police Unit and to source funds to the amount of R2.145m from within the Municipality to support the review. The review will be conducted by a team of international experts on policing to be led by experts from the universities in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.

A report tabled by City Manager Sithole revealed that the Metro Police have in recent years gained a fair degree of negative media publicity resulting in the likely loss of confidence from the general public. Allegations reported in the media include maladministration, abuse of powers, sex scandals, conduct that demonstrates a lack of respect for human dignity in the course of policing, leadership battles and a problematic labour relations environment.

“This review would lead to a process of redefining a vision/strategy for the Durban Metropolitan Police. Such a strategic engagement would well require definite shifts in the organisational structure and culture of the DMP.”

Sithole said they want to understand the nature of the challenges at the Unit. “We want to get to the bottom of what really are the challenges at Metro Police so that we can get an efficient and effective Metro Police without strikes, where labour can play a constructive role,” he said.
“We want to use a scientific process to try and get to the bottom of what is happening. We need expertise that resides within universities, people who have worked within the police service. These are the people we are already working with on other projects and they are also assisting the SAPS.

“We want to look at whether do we have enough police officers, are they properly deployed to meet the needs of citizens, the issue of discipline of police, their well-being, concerns about harassment that is meted out to citizens who are expecting to be protected, what training need to be done and resources to be deployed.”

The review and strategic planning process is expected to take place over a period of nine to 12 months.

Ends

Issued by eThekwini Municipality’s Head of Communications, Ms Tozi Mthethwa

For more information contact Municipal Spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng on 031 311 4820 / 082 731 7456 or email Thabo1.Mofokeng@durban.gov.za, or Gugu Mbonambi on 031 311 4855 or 079 751 4986 email: Gugu.Mbonambi@durban.gov.za