And the bills poured in

2015-12-31 12:00
Jason and Nicole Rose-Innes of World’s View were the winners of the informal competition of who received the highest water bill. Their bill amounted to more than R8,5?million.

Jason and Nicole Rose-Innes of World’s View were the winners of the informal competition of who received the highest water bill. Their bill amounted to more than R8,5?million. (Kailene Pillay, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Hilton residents could not help laughing when they saw their water ­accounts this week after a glitch in ­uMgungundlovu’s billing system ­resulted in some receiving accounts amounting to millions of rands.

The Hiltonians took to their Facebook group, Hilton Chat, immediately and once the “ridiculous” bills started pouring in, started an online competition for the resident with the highest bill. An amount of R250 000 paled into insignificance when the winner ­produced an account of R8 569 703,93.

The winners of the light-hearted competition were World’s View couple Jason and Nicole Rose-Innes.

“My husband opened the bill and he just burst out laughing. He showed it to me and we had a good giggle. The bill was only page one of 1 000-plus ­pages,” said Nicole Rose-Innes.

She said they knew it was not ­“entirely normal” and when she logged onto Facebook, she realised they were not the only residents presented with enormous bills.

“I saw that people were posting ­pictures of their bills and soon everyone was competing with each other. I just had to add my two cents and I was the winner,” laughed Rose-Innes.

She said her husband called the uMgungundlovu District Municipality yesterday, which acknowledged the error.

“When I told the lady why I was calling, she sounded like many people had already called her and just asked how many thousands my bill was sitting at. When I told her it was R8,5 million, she also started laughing,” said her husband.

The couple said the “very helpful” ­lady on the other end of the phone ­immediately told them it was a glitch in their system and they need not worry about the amount on the latest bill. They were immediately given the ­correct amount owing on their water ­account, which was around R180.

“The municipality handled it all very well and were very helpful. It would have been mutiny if they asked us to pay the bill and then query it, as some usually do,” said Rose-Innes.

She said they chose to make light of the situation as “there was nothing else we could really do but laugh”. Rose-Innes said she shared the story with her mother living in the United Kingdom.

“I called my mother and told her to sit down because I was going to give her a good laugh for the evening,” said ­Rose-Innes.

More than 30 Hilton residents shared their stories on their Facebook group, with President Jacob Zuma and his ­notorious difficulty in saying large ­numbers the butt of some comments.

Nicky Erasmus, whose bill was around R763 000, wrote: “Happy Christmas from Mr Zuma who has amazing counting skills. Enjoy your ­water bills this month Hiltonians.”

More than 40 comments were posted after Erasmus.

“Yes ours is the same! Hopefully it will be sorted by next month!! Amazing how nobody checks before accounts are sent out,” wrote Sue Lloyd ­Montgomery.

“If Zuma can’t say it, we can’t pay it!” wrote Jean McKean van Heeswijk.

Kevan Zunckel said his bill amounted to almost R700 000 and he received “page 1 of 1 061”.

DA uMngeni caucus leader Pam ­Passmoor said she received her bill of R241 000 and immediately e-mailed municipal manager Sbu Khuzwayo.

“While these outrageous charges are obviously the result of a huge computer error, it is disconcerting to see that no routine quality control checks appear to be done before the accounts are posted. Surely bells should have started ringing when the debtors were hundreds, if not thousands, of times bigger than the usual monthly amount?” said Passmoor.

UMgungundlovu District Municipality spokesperson Mbeko Nzimande could not be reached for comment.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  bill  |  water

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