Softline Pastel, in partnership with Eastern Cape Municipal Support Services (ECMSS), has introduced a billing software system designed specifically for use by low, medium and, to a certain extent, high capacity municipalities.

The system, created by ECMSS using Pastel’s topline business management software application, Pastel Evolution, enables municipalities to improve the accuracy and timeliness of billing and, therefore, substantially improve revenues collection and consumer relationships.
“As a government-established provider of support solutions to, initially Eastern Cape based municipalities, and now available to all municipalities in South Africa, we have a responsibility to contribute to the transformation and empowerment of those municipalities,” says ECMSS CEO, Jack Mdeni. “One of the most effective ways of doing so is to improve efficiency  in the revenue generating capacity of the municipality and their cash flow by enabling them to bill correctly, accurately and timeously.
“We thought about installing accounting software, but ordinary accounting solutions are not suitable for a municipal environment, for one reason, there’s an extremely broad range of customers – from commerce and industry to educational and other government institutions and individual householders that have special needs to be accommodated, especially the indigent support to needy members of the society – that have to be matched to different frequencies of billing – from monthly and quarterly to annual and bi-annual. And there’s a range of different services to bill for – whether it’s electricity and water, or rates and refuse removal.
“In addition, the values that systems have to work with fluctuate all the time – but at different frequencies. Rates and taxes usually change annually whereas water and lights tend to vary monthly depending on usage– and all of the amounts are subject to different, highly individualistic tariff metrics being applied. So the calculations are intricate and beyond the normal scope of a standard accounting system.
“Working on both strategic planning and practical implementation of business plans with municipalities, we knew exactly what a ‘delivery billing system’ should be able to do. We also knew that we’d have to create it ourselves. But we didn’t want to reinvent the accounting side of things, so we looked for an off-the-shelf solution built on a Microsoft SQL environment that had a track record for user-friendliness and superior reporting capabilities to which we could easily interface our new solution.
“Of the products we looked at, Evolution was the only one to meet all our requirements. And, because of Evolution’s business intelligence module, we would be able to easily adapt Evolution’s standard reports to match the requirements of the various acts governing the ways in which municipalities answer to central and provincial government, treasury, as well as other stakeholders.”
Two municipalities in the former Transkei are already operating on ECMSS’ new Pastel Evolution Delivery Billing System, with ten other municipalities in various phases of procurement across South Africa.
“The ECMSS Evolution package is more than affordable for smaller municipalities, whose revenue streams are more limited than those of metropolitan centres,” says Softline Pastel divisional director of Pastel Evolution, Mohammed Mosam. “Because it drives such a significant improvement in collections capability, the purchase price of the system amounts to only 10% of the financial benefits it delivers for a municipality over an extremely short space of time.
“At the same time, because it capacitates municipal financial staff, it drives benefits at the level of skills development and employee empowerment as well.
“And, because the system has been designed to be extremely flexible, it will easily adapt itself to the dynamic changes taking place in the public sector as transformation starts to take effect and makes continuous improvement of service delivery possible.”
Mdeni adds that because the Pastel Evolution business intelligence module allows for accurate record-keeping as well as sophisticated analysis and reporting of municipal activities at the touch of a button, the new Evolution Delivery Billing System enables a high order of municipal transparency and accountability. “It’s an exceptional tool, all round, for creating efficiency and streamlining internal processes by bringing municipalities into the modern era.”