Brickbats for inefficient accounts dept

2014-05-05 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality’s accounts section desperately needs an overhaul to make it more effective and efficient. Frustration over sorting out accounts are a regular complaint in this column. We will continue to hammer on at this issue in the hope that the powers that be down at City Hall take note and shake up the system.

A recently retired Msunduzi employee got a taste of what it is like being on the outside and having to deal with an accounts query, while another city resident sums up everyone’s frustrations in a tersely worded letter to the municipality.

Anand Singh was a council employee until March 31, 2014. Money for his municipal bill had been deducted directly from his salary for the past 15 years. When last he checked his last salary advice slip dated March 24 indicated a deduction of R3 168 for electricity.

Singh was shocked when on Wednesday, April 23 a person arrived at his door with a disconnection note indicating that he was in arrears for R6 197,54.

Singh said that fortunately he was at home and managed to convince the person not to disconnect, other family members may have felt powerless to stop the disconnection. Singh tried calling his former colleagues to find out what was going on. As so many others have complained, phones were not answered. Next he fired off an e-mail to a long list of people that he knew down at the accounts section and received no response. By April 25 he got an e-mail from Marlin Hoskins informing him the municipal computer system had been down and promising to look into the problem by Monday (April 29). Next follows a flurry of e-mails from one person in the accounts section to another, telling the person to please sort out the problem. Eventually all e-mails pointed to employee Sumenthree Govender as the person who could sort out the matter. The problem was that Govender was on leave.

In the end, Singh had to leave for Pretoria, with still no resolution to his problem. Before leaving he went personally to the pay office on Wednesday, April 30. There he said a staffer by the name of Logan confirmed that he had paid and was not in arrears, he then took Singh to Govender’s office to sort out the mix-up — she was not there — still being on leave. A question all of this raises is how come so many of Govender’s colleagues in the accounts section, did not know she was on leave and kept on referring the query to her. More importantly why was there no one else capable of dealing with the problem in Govender’s absence. Singh said that as a precaution against disconnection while he was away, he decided to make an ex-gratia payment of R3 200.

Another city resident, Beulah John, spent months sorting out an overcharge on her water bill. The municipality acknowledged that there was an error and corrected the amount owing. However, it seems that the amount was not wiped out in other records and, she is still down as a person in arrears and is being charged interest.

The situation has further deteriorated. In her latest account she found that she is being charged a R361,38 “visitation/Disconnection fee”.

John wrote: “I do not understand why this charge has been made. There was no ‘visitation or disconnection,’ that I am aware of. The only visit that was made to our complex was that of a meter reader on 10th February, after I had complained on the 6th to check whether the meter reading reflected on my Jan­uary account was correct or not. If the charge is for this visit, it is totally inappropriate as the problem was created by the inefficiency of someone at the municipality in capturing my January reading”.

John wrote that she objected as a ratepayer “to the abysmally low levels of competence and work ethos that seem to prevail in the Msunduzi Municipal Accounts section”. “It is not acceptable that some staff are allowed to make mistake after mistake, compounding initial problems until they are almost insoluble. This type of incompetence is… costing this city’s ratepayers and users of municipal services millions and millions of rands in wasted time, effort and costs as they struggle to resolve problems that could be avoided by the minimum amount of effort and conscientiousness on the part of municipal employees. No modern city can … function like this.”

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