New policy for correct water billing questionable

2015-10-22 06:00

IN an attempt to increase revenue from the sale of water and sanitation Ugu District Council took two vitally important steps recently.

The plagued IT system, which plays an essential role in the correct billing of consumer consumption, was revitalised and repopulated.

A new policy, aimed at the eradication of illegal water connections, was unanimously endorsed by full council at its last meeting. This policy provides for the disconnection of water to people who do not pay their water bills, as well as for criminal prosecution of persons with illegal connections at their properties. Ugu employees who make illegal connections now face criminal prosecutions as well.

Ugu’s current monthly income from the sale of water and sanitation is about R26 million, of which approximately R20 million is spent on employee-related costs. The intention is to increase this to R29 or R30 million. The bulk of the lion’s share of Ugu’s income is from the state and the province to meet the annual combined operating and capital budget of a billion rands a year.

Even the best IT system in the world cannot generate accurate bills unless the water meters are actually read. To provide some indication of the scale of this job there are no meter readers left at Ugu. They simply refused to do their jobs and no disciplinary actions were taken against them, and they become supernumerary in other departments.

An unnamed service provider is now responsible for the herculean task of reading 43 000 meters at least once every three months to produce an actual reading, while 5 000 meters are not even linked to consumers.

With the debtors book standing at R254 million and rising monthly with most of it already impaired beyond redemption, any failure to ensure that the meters are read and billed accurately will lead inextricably to financial ruin and an unfavourable opinion from the Auditor-General.

On the other hand if the plans enjoy the strong political backing of the ruling party, and a frugal or even austere financial regime is imposed, there is a prospect of substantially improving the current situation of the district council.

Dave Snashall

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