FOLLOWING concerns of harassment and fraud raised by residents under Msunduzi Municipality, the municipality released a statement refuting the claims.Some residents in the Northern suburbs expressed concern regarding the debt collectors that were recently appointed to assist in recovering money owed for rates and services. Residents also say they feel that they are being grossly overcharged for the services they actually receive.Resident Rob Bestel said: “I questioned our rate increases in June 2019 and the [municipality] has not even had the courtesy to respond to my six e-mails. In my opinion, this is just a form of extortion. The only way to rectify this is to vote the ruling party out in the next municipal elections,” said Bestel.Another resident said he wondered what is it rate-payers are really paying for. “What are we paying rates for because Msunduzi Municipality does nothing with the money paid to them. The roads are filled with potholes; it is hard to walk on the pavements in the CBD; and I don’t know how many street lights are not working on our street in Cinderella Park yet we pay these rates every month, religiously,” said a resident who asked to remain anonymous.In a statement, the municipality said it noted the news circulating regarding “ruthless” debt collectors who were brought in to collect on debts in the Northern suburbs.The statement reads: “It should be noted that the municipality appointed 24 debt collectors onto a panel to assist in recovering the moneys owed for rates and services. “The municipality handed over 67 000 customers whose debts have been in arrears for longer than 120 days. The debtors are not only from the Northern areas. The municipality is therefore refuting the allegations that the residents in the northern suburbs are being subjected to harassment.”Furthermore, the municipality said that rate-payers who have arrears on their accounts are urged to come forward and enter into a payment arrangement. They warned that failing to do so will result in legal action being taken to recover the debt. The statement also highlighted that the debt collectors are tasked with a responsibility to ensure that payments happen, emphasising that the collectors will not be deterred from doing their job. ‘The municipality remains resolute and determined to ensure that the Credit Control and Debt Collection policy and strategies are implemented efficiently. The consumers have always been treated in a manner that is respectful and fair; they also have a duty to cooperate and bring their accounts up to date,” read the statement.In concluding, the municipality said: “Collection of revenue is furthermore fundamental to the long-term financial and economic sustainability of the municipality and to the achievement of the municipality’s constitutional responsibility of addressing the needs of the community. “The credit control and debt collection by-laws empower the municipality to utilise lawful methods to collect outstanding arrears. The recovery of debt is a constitutional right and duty of the municipality in terms of Section 95 of the Municipal Systems Act, 32 of 2000 and Section 64 of the Municipal Finance Management Act, 57 of 2003.”In response to the statement, dissatisfied resident Dumsani Shelembe said the municipality has no shame.“The municipality, not so long ago, was placed under administration because of corruption and maladministration however, since then, no one [has been] suspended and charged. “Before you appoint debt collectors, please arrest those who were involved in corruption and maladministration, fix the potholes and deliver proper services. “I think that it’s high time that the residents of Msunduzi Municipality stop paying these criminals, so that they feel the pain that we are feeling as residents,” said Shelembe.