Ekurhuleni valuation roll riddled with errors and discrepancies

Refiloe Nt’skhe says DA will not stand by and watch residents and their homes being held to ransom

Ekurhuleni valuation roll riddled with errors, discrepancies, and ridiculous valuations

25 October 2021

Residents of Ekurhuleni know all too well how badly their lives have been impacted by living under an ANC-led administration.

Power outages that last for days, crumbling infrastructure, non-existent service delivery – a city teeming with waste and roads adorned with crater-sized potholes.

Media headlines that scream corruption, mismanagement and theft!

This has become the norm for Ekurhuleni and it shouldn’t be.

However, if this wasn’t enough, the ANC and their coalition partners have punished homeowners - effectively billing them out of their homes, by pushing through Council a bungled property valuation roll.

With this much arrogance and disdain for residents, their lives and livelihoods – this coalition has taken people for granted and so, people will suffer.

How did this happen? And more importantly, what has been done to keep the wolves at bay?

The Ekurhuleni Municipality appointed Opti&Blackdot Consulting Joint Venture as the valuer for the 2021 – 2025 Property Valuation roll.

The contract was awarded to Opti&Blackdot had an initial contract value of R62 899 866 excluding VAT.

The concern of this successful contractor is that the business was only formed in late 2019. Nowhere can examples of previous work conducted by this company be found by the DA, nor in fact, could any physical address for the business be found (how ironic).

What could be found however, is that the name of one of the company directors is the same as a member of the Valuation Appeals Boards of several ANC-run local municipalities… Coincidence? We think not. 

It is also of no surprise that two of the four directors of this company reside in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a province Mayor Mzwandile Masina is au fait with, where he recently enjoyed a pot of tea. However, whilst he enjoys his tea, residents of the City are struggling to meet the absurd rates imposed on them.

The Ekurhuleni valuation roll for is riddled with errors, discrepancies, and ridiculous valuations.

Property values are up between 50% to 300%. Don’t be under any illusion that this is problem for suburbs of Ekurhuleni: RDP houses and low-income homes too are bearing the brunt of this calamitous valuation roll.

Scores of Section 49 notices, that form part of the Municipal Property Rates Act - notices to inform property owners about the increase of property values, were found dumped in open area within Kempton Park. Some of these were opened and shredded.

These letters were recovered by DA Councillors and delivered to the Mayor’s office. To date there has been no word from the Mayor or City Manager to indicate whether these letters were eventually delivered to the homeowners. The DA has received no response to date on the matter.

Questions posed to the MMC for Finance indicated that Opti&Blackdot JV sub-contracted Mr. Delivery to deliver these crucial documents to residents. Whilst this was an innovative way of delivering services, the contractor and the City has absolved itself of responsibility for the delivery of these letters.  This poses a second concern in terms of the contractual agreement and obligations that was agreed to.

Due to this, many homeowners did not receive any notification or received the Section 49 letter after the closing date for the objections.

Sadly, these homeowners only discovered their property values had increased when they received disconnection notices from the City.

The DA kept raising this issue in council, it fell on deaf ears. In the meantime, other opposition parties in Council were silent on this issue. It was only the DA Ekurhuleni that fought for residents.

The actions taken by the DA to date include, but are not limited to:

DA presented a motion and petition in full Council requesting the City Manager to allow residents to submit objections on-line due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ANC along with their coalition partners, as well as all other political parties represented in Council, rejected this motion;

We have submitted questions to the Chief Financial Officer requesting information regarding the process and contractors appointed in the Opti&Blackdot Joint Venture as the Municipal Valuer, yet only rudimentary information was shared with us;

The DA presented an urgent motion requesting the extension of the current valuation roll as per Section 32 (2)(b) of the Municipal Property Rates Act, which was tabled at Special Council meeting on 31 March 2021. This urgent motion was rejected outright by the Speaker of Council;

The DA posed oral questions to the Mayor in the Council Meeting of April this year, much like the answers from the CFO, the response from the Mayor was watered down and brushed off very nonchalantly;

In May of this year, the DA presented a petition to Council with 15,156 signatories;

As the DA progressed with this issue, they held many public meetings across the length and breadth of the municipality to keep residents up to date with what progress made;

A collective of residents, through a consortium of different Attorneys requested urgent meetings with the City Manager – more than three months later they are still awaiting a response; and

The DA has been working alongside the Bedfordview Residents Association with legal action against the municipality.

According to the municipality’s Finance Department, the municipality received 47,322 objections of which 10,899 of those are Omission Objections. Objections received excluding omissions amount to 36 423 - this includes both public objections and the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) objections submitted. The DA believes that the number quoted for omissions is incorrect as DA collected information indicates that over 30 000 properties were omitted just in the Northern Region (Bedfordview & Edenvale).

The chaos that this messy valuation process has unleashed on the municipality’s already ailing Finance Department is shocking. Residents are being billed for property rates at the highest property value brackets. Residents must now apply every 3 months for an extension to pay a reduced rate because 90% of property owners cannot afford to pay these increased rates.

Ultimately, this ill-conceived tender will have long term ramifications for the municipality beyond the immediate impact to residents.

This bungled valuation roll will negatively impact residents who try to sell their properties based on the bloated valuations determined by the municipality. It will also have a negative impact on revenue collection, because residents will simply cannot afford to pay their rates and taxes.

In a municipality that already loses 4% of its entire R48 billion budget due to illegal electricity connections and wastes billions of Rands on failed CAPEX projects, it seems that the Axis of Evil is hell-bent on making Ekurhuleni a failed Metro.

Despite this, the DA will continue to fight for residents whom the ANC wants to bill out of their homes. 

When the DA assumes office in Ekurhuleni, setting aside the valuation roll is high up on our list of priorities. To this end:

A full investigation will be initiated to determine the calculation methods used by the contractor, the qualifications of the contractor, methodologies used and the full amount paid to the contractor.

Apply to the MEC for Cooperative Governance in Gauteng to extend the 2016-2021 valuation roll for a period of 12 months in terms of Section 32.2(b) of the Local Government Municipal Property Valuation Rates Act, whilst  initiating an investigation into this matter and preparing a new valuation roll process for the period 2022-2026.

All the charges implemented by Finance department on 01 July 2021 will be reversed and application of a nominal property rates increase for the 2021/2022 financial year effected.

Upon completion of the investigation, necessary action against everyone implicated in this tender including ensuring  the recovery the money paid to the contractor. Based on the outcome of the investigation, SIU will be  approached to further assist with bringing those accountable to book.

An online system will be developed to assist residents to submit valuation objections going forward.

The DA will not stand by and watch residents and their homes being held to ransom.

The best run municipalities in South Africa are all led by the DA. The best ran municipality in Gauteng is DA-lead Midvaal. Under the DA, Ekurhuleni can be a shining beacon of hope in a sea of despair.

Ekurhuleni residents, the DA is in your corner – fighting for you and your homes. The DA will not rest until this matter is resolved because the DA gets things done. 

By Refiloe Nt’skhe, DA Mayoral Candidate for Ekurhuleni, 25 October 2021