BLACK-OUT PANIC

2018-06-15 17:05
City to cut off users amid Eskom power crisis.

City to cut off users amid Eskom power crisis. (File)

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Electricity users are facing a triple whammy, with Eskom announcing the return of load shedding, Msunduzi Municipality promising a new blitz on defaulters this weekend, and a new tariff increase on the cards as Nersa gave Eskom the nod to recover a R32,69billion shortfall from consumers.

On Thursday, it emerged at a City Hall meeting that despite the continuing billing chaos causing many residents to receive incorrect bills or even no bills at all, the City is planning a big disconnection drive.

Msunduzi Municipality on Thursday admitted to problems with the billing system and the accuracy of statements sent to customers, but says it will not stop its controversial disconnections.

Chief financial officer Neli Ngcobo told the financial services portfolio committee that there will be another disconnection drive this weekend targeting defaulting customers.

She said the disconnections are focusing on debt that is more than 60 days in arrears.

DA councillor Ross Strachan felt that the City is being “forceful” with the residents, saying there have been problems with the billing system which resulted in outstanding queries on meters and utility statements.

“We haven’t quite rectified that, but now we are going out and disconnecting where there are outstanding matters. We are actually inconveniencing our residents,” he said.

Ngcobo responded by saying that in terms of compliance with the credit control policy, the municipality cannot stop disconnections just because there are queries.

“If we stop it’s going to come back as another audit query [from the auditor-general]. I do agree that we’ve had challenges in terms of billing and accuracy of our statements. We are sourcing assistance as we speak because we want to stabilise everything by month end in preparation for the financial year end,” she said. 

She said all the April bills were accurate but there have been some setbacks since, which she hopes will be resolved by July as they are currently correcting them.

“So it’s safe to say that over this disconnection weekend there might be a chance that you could be disconnecting people with outstanding queries with the municipality?” said Strachan.

“Like you said there have been issues with the billing where you’ve overcharged and it hasn’t been accurate and months and months have gone by without these issues being attended,” he said.

Ngcobo said in every organisation customers are disconnected if they are not paying.

She said customers need to come forward with their queries and the City’s offices will be open on Saturday and Sunday to attend to them.

“I cannot say that just because we have queries we must sit back and we mustn’t disconnect because the same councillors when the audit is being issued [say] why didn’t we implement the credit control [policy], and I will need to answer, so unfortunately I have to balance the two,” she said.

ANC councillors Caiphas Ndawonde and Sandile Dlamini questioned Ngcobo on the consumers that are not being billed and the 24 000 households that are on the R91 water flat rate in Vulindlela.

They said it is unfair that some consumers are billed for their consumption and yet others are enjoying services they are not paying for.

“This is happening at the expense of other consumers who pay on a monthly basis for the services for water and lights but some are living in luxury houses and they are not even paying a cent,” said Dlamini.

Ngcobo said the Vulindlela and Edendale meters are not being read because they are clustered. She said funding is required to separate them.

The areas also do not have street names. She said the matter has been brought to council on several occasions for more than three years but it has not been resolved.

“The question is, are we going to allow those people to continue enjoying those services and for how long?” Ngcobo asked the committee.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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