Billing delay concern

2018-01-31 13:30
City ‘unaware’ of problem as residents wait months for statements.

City ‘unaware’ of problem as residents wait months for statements. (File)

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The municipality on Tuesday insisted it was not aware of the huge billing botch-up that has seen lights and water accounts either coming late or not at all for many Pietermaritzburg residents.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha once again urged residents to call or visit the City’s electricity department at the A.S. Chetty building to ensure their account was paid on time.

“Those who are facing such challenges can come to our offices with their account numbers so that they can make a payment,” said Mafumbatha.

She said the municipality was currently working on a new communication system in the form of an app that will have features that will allow residents to make payments and receive statements on their cellphones.

“Some challenges occur at the post office with regards to the incorrect addresses of residents. We encourage residents to update their details,” she added.

A number of Pietermaritzburg residents told The Witness that they had not received their utility bills by post or e-mail for over six months.

Residents who are panicking that their services may be disconnected or that their accounts may be accumulating said they have opted to make payments calculated on average estimates.

They said they feared the City might charge them higher tariffs for electricity consumption for the months they did not receive their bills.

Chane Taylor said on The Witness Facebook page that the municipality had already billed her an extra R5 000 for December. “We got billed R11 000 for December but no one ever comes and reads the meter. If we are lucky it happens every second or third month,” said Taylor.

Hanlie van Rensburg said she also has not received her municipal account and had resolved to make payments calculated on average estimates.

“I have to pay even without a bill otherwise they will cut off my electricity,” said Van Rensburg. She said she had given up on phoning the municipality as the phone rings unanswered.

Veenash Naicker said the system was “frustrating”.

“One month we receive the bill and the next month we don’t. We were told to pay the previous month’s amount. How do they monitor usage like this because we try to save energy as best we can and are not benefitting from it,” said Naicker.

Another resident said she was afraid that the municipality would disconnect her electricity as she had not received her statement and was unsure of how much to pay.

“I even went to my ward councillor’s office and she said that I should pay the same amount that I paid last month. When I went to the municipality, they said they cannot assist me without my statement so I do not know what to do,” said the panicked resident.

Meanwhile, other residents are concerned that despite installing prepaid meters, the municipality was continuing to bill them for electricity monthly.

Montrose resident Byron Ugljanin said the municipality has been billing him from last July.

“I went to the municipal offices to try and sort this out. The manager was too busy to see me. I have been invoiced R12 000 and no one can tell me how.”

A frustrated Ugljanin said when he went to the municipality to query the bill he received no assistance.

“The woman who assisted me told me it was not her problem. She couldn’t tell me how I was still being invoiced.

“I want to know what they are charging me for because I purchase my electricity up front,” added Ugljanin.

Alicia Emersleben said she had also received a R6 000 bill when she has a prepaid meter.

“It was a real shock. Upon questioning it we were left with no answers at first and were left to pay the R6 000 or else they would cut the prepaid meter,” said Emersleben.

Msunduzi used to SMS statements to residents, but this service was discontinued last May because it was deemed an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure.

What the Municipal Systems Act states

According to the Municipal Systems Act, a municipality must, within its financial and administrative capacity, establish a sound customer management system that aims to create positive and reciprocal relationship between those liable for payments and the municipality.

The act also stipulates that the municipality must ensure that those liable for payments receive regular and accurate accounts that indicate the basis for calculating the amounts due.

The municipality must also provide accessible mechanisms for those persons to query or verify accounts and metered consumption, and appeal procedures which allow such persons to receive prompt redress for inaccurate accounts.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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