‘City got it wrong’, says local school

2019-10-21 16:43
Ward 28 councillor Lucky Naicker says Msunduzi should write off the R1,2 million it claims Regina Primary owes for water.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA NTULI

Ward 28 councillor Lucky Naicker says Msunduzi should write off the R1,2 million it claims Regina Primary owes for water.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA NTULI

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Regina Primary School, in Northdale, could be next on the City’s disconnection list after it refused to pay more than R1,2 million that Msunduzi claims it owes for water.

Governing body chairperson Vasen Naidoo said the school was obviously the latest victim of the City’s billing fiasco and unrealistic estimations.

He said the problem started in July when the school received a bill of more than R1,1 million. He said they were shocked because their monthly average was around R10 000.

Naidoo said the water meter was not working and that was reported to the municipality more than two years ago, but it was never replaced and Msunduzi just continued estimating the consumption.

“Only when the bill came in July and we went to query it then they sent someone to change it in August. They said they were going to do three-month reading on the new meter but that meter is either not working or we don’t know how to read it because there is no movement on it,” he said.

Naidoo said there was no way the 600-pupil school was liable for a consumption of more than R1 million a month because it does not have hostels nor a swimming pool.

“We also have two 10 000-litre Jojo tanks for harvesting rain water, which we use for servicing toilets.”

He was concerned that the school could be unfairly disconnected because Msunduzi seemed not to care about complying with its own bylaws when it came to cutting off supply.

“Last month we were charged a disconnection fee for electricity even though we were never disconnected — because our payments were up to date — so I can’t put it past the municipality to come and cut off our water even though there is a pending query on this account,” said Naidoo.

On whether the school would pay or make some payment arrangement if it was disconnected, Naidoo said they would not pay for water they did not use and, besides, Regina Primary could not afford that amount.

“Our running costs for a year are about R1,2 million and we get an annual subsidy of R50 000 from the Department of Education. We do a lot of our own fundraising because at least 30% of the parents can’t afford to pay school fees so we can’t afford to donate more than a million rand to the municipality just because they are having financial problems.”

The matter has also been reported to Ward 28 councillor Lucky Naicker, who went with The Witness to assess the new water meter.

The device was not moving and only zeros appeared on the digital screen for more than two minutes that The Witness was there even though water was being used at the time since the school was on a lunch break.

Naicker concurred with Naidoo that Regina Primary should not pay the money because the school had been faithful with its payments and had nothing outstanding.

“How do you get a million rand deficit from July but it never reflected before like it would with an account in arrears? There is obviously a mistake here and Msunduzi should just write off this amount because the fault is on their side.

“They must also replace that water meter because something is wrong with it, you can’t have a meter that a consumer can’t read,” said Naicker.

He said the City should have written off the R1,1 million when it changed the meter in August.

“Since I got into office — two months ago — I’ve been inundated with complaints about incorrect bills. My concern is that the municipality is not taking the billing problem seriously because they are disconnecting even people who have pending queries on their accounts. This is going to severely dent the trust between the municipality and its citizens,” said Naicker.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the water meter on the school was “under-read”.

She said the account has been corrected and the amount under-billed recovered.

“The council is in the process of installing a new water meter at the school to match the consumption on the new meter against that billed on the old meter.”

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality
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