Mystery of Msunduzi meter readings explained

2013-10-21 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality’s system that allowed residents to submit their own meter readings to the municipality has broken down. The Witness has since learnt that there was a major glitch in the system and no one bothered to tell residents.

The problem seems to have occurred in the last two months and residents have been left baffled as to why their accounts no longer reflected the readings they had submitted. In most cases they were getting averages, which were often estimated higher than their usual consumption, pushing up electricity and water accounts in some cases by an extra R500.

Alarm bells went off when The Witness received an avalanche of complaints after readers were asked whether they were experiencing difficulties with the municipality’s meter reading section. The biggest problems appeared to be meter readings sent by e-mail or submitted to the webpage, not being reflected on accounts.

The second was an on-going gripe about the phones not being answered in the meter reading section. Even more frustrating for residents was that when they did go down to the municipal offices at 333 Church Street to complain, they found the clerks extremely unhelpful. E-mailed queries also elicited no responses.

After a week of trying to get responses, the municipality finally admitted they “did have a problem where the server went down and all the captured e-mails were deleted, not only the e-mailed ones but all including telephonic, brought etc.”

They have apologised for the inconvenience.

A second response said: “We are receiving your readings, but most of the time the readings that are used are the ones that are picked up by our meter reader, you are not charged on an estimate but are charged on the actual reading.”

The question that remains unanswered is why, if there was a glitch as major as the server going down and submitted readings being lost, the municipality did not bother to inform residents that there had been a problem.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said there would be an investigation into this. Nkosi said the whole aim of introducing a system where residents could send in their readings was to do away with the averaging of accounts.

He also acknowledged that there were problems with the staff at 333 Church Street, adding that councillors had also complained about this. He said staff had been sent for training and there were other training programmes in the pipeline. The municipality was also going to introduce a system shortly where all staff would have to wear name tags, so customers would be able to tell who they had spoken to.

“If residents have complaints and can provide evidence, we will not hesitate to discipline a staff member who may be in the wrong.”

Nkosi said that customers were the bread and butter of the municipality and there had to be changes in attitudes as to how they were treated.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said where there are discrepancies with the readings and the averages on accounts, from next month the meter reading section would begin with the process of crediting where needed. “We have hired six quality control personnel whose job is to verify readings where different readings are provided. Readings should be sent by the 15th of the month,” he said.

• Customers who still experience problems can contact the process manager Moses Ngobese on 033 392 2400.

• Some readers’ experiences with the system on page 3 of The Witness.

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