Rates refund muddle

2013-07-01 00:00

SOMETHING Msunduzi Municipality needs to get right is better customer relations and a more responsive staff.

Gillian Richardson has been going around in circles trying to sort out a rates problem and, after months of trying, wrote to The Witness to air her frustrations. She finally received a response last week, which has left her even more confused. However, she also has an invitation to go in and see a senior official, which she plans to take up.

Richardson sold a property in December 2012 and, as the seller, was compelled to make an “advance rates payment” for the transfer of the property to the new owner to go through. This payment was in the region of R8 000, not a small sum of money by any means.

“The transfer has gone through to the new owner and I have been trying since February to get my due refund for this payment to the municipality, to no avail. Although one has to supply certified copies of IDs, bank statements, complete a refund form etc., etc. it seems impossible to get any refund or reaction from the municipality. Phone calls are useless and trips to the municipality are futile because no one seems to know what is going on,” said Richardson.

A week ago she tried the rates section yet again, hoping to get an appointment with a senior official who would be able to advise her on progress with the refund. Once more she was given the run-around and put through to staff who were unable to help her. One told her that she would have to wait three months or more. “I have already been waiting six months,” Richardson said.

The Witness received a lengthy response to this query from Brian Zuma on behalf of the municipality. It is worth publishing in full because perhaps readers will get a better understanding of how this all works. Richardson says the explanation leaves her confused.

The municipality responded: “Mrs Richardson sold her property in King Edward Avenue and a clearance was issued in January 2013. In order to obtain a clearance an amount of R12 366,61 was required to be paid. This was paid by the conveyancer at the time and was split between rates and services and paid into the seller’s accounts. The rates from date of transfer to 30 June are due by the purchaser and the conveyancer apportions the rates due by each party appropriately even though the credit sits on the seller’s account. The amounts for services including any advance/deposits, are due by the seller and once the services to the seller are terminated and the account finalised, any credit available is refunded.

“However, the services account has only been closed in June and a balance of R2 215,08 is still outstanding. The refund can only be processed once the services account is finalised. On the rates account a debit of R757,75 for the June instalment must be offset against the credit of R3 153,61. The credit of R2 385,86 will be transferred to the services account to be offset against the amount owing for services.” Richardson is asked to contact the rates section for a refund of the credit of R170,78 and will be provided with the forms required if these had not already been submitted.

Richardson responded that she could make no sense of the explanation offered by the municipality. Neither did she agree with the amounts quoted by the municipality. “My records from the conveyancer, with the letter from him regarding the huge muddle that they have experienced from the municipality, does not support Mr Zuma’s explanation. As the rates and electricity payments on the property were exactly up to date, I cannot see why on earth there is a current balance of R2 215. I cannot understand why no one at the municipality is able to explain coherently what this is all about,” she said. She will be seeking enlightenment by taking up the municipality’s offer to see a senior official.

ANOTHER citizen who has come up against unresponsive officials is a retired lawyer who has been trying to clear his name. The upstanding citizen, who shall remain nameless since his guilt or innocence has yet to be proved, received a docket in the post from the Msunduzi Municipality, charging him with illegal dumping. The docket said that he had committed an offence by illegally dumping rubbish on Old Howick Road. The alleged act was said to have been committed on a certain date in May, and he was allegedly seen committing the offence by a member of the public.

Shocked by the charge, the man has been trying in vain to get hold of someone at the municipality to seek clarity on the matter so that he can clear his name. The Witness sent a query to the municipality and finally last week he was contacted by the legal division. When last we heard, discussions were to be held this week. So here’s hoping that this is another matter that will end in a happy resolution.

DARRYL David’s electricity billing problem that featured in last week’s Witness Warrior column has been resolved. He received an apology from uMngeni Municipality and his bill was reduced. Lesley Soobrayan was also happy to receive his medical report from Northdale Hospital without having to pay a cent. Witness warriors alerted the hospital to Soobrayan’s plight that as a recipient of a grant, he could not afford R400 for the certificate. His woes started when he fell into a broken manhole and hurt his leg. He was treated at Northdale Hospital. When he went to get a medical report on his injury for the municipality’s insurers, he was told he would have to pay R400.

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