Local losing business amid billing headache

2018-06-19 16:40
Local businessman Solly Essa had the power cut off at his store on Church Street by Msunduzi Municipality after he refused to pay the full amount on his utility bill as it was not clear what the extra charges were for.

Local businessman Solly Essa had the power cut off at his store on Church Street by Msunduzi Municipality after he refused to pay the full amount on his utility bill as it was not clear what the extra charges were for. (Ian Carbutt)

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A local man had to close shop after the City cut off his electricity on Friday morning.

Businessman Solly Essa (73) said Msunduzi Municipality cut him off because he had refused to pay an unexplained amount on his utility bill.

“I totalled all the charges on my bill and worked out that the total should have been R1 464,02 but instead it was R2 228,18. When I went to the Msunduzi offices no one could tell me what the extra charge was for and I was sent from one counter to another.

Essa said he then decided to rather pay R1 464,02 because no one could tell him what he was paying for.

“They cut off my lights and I lost business on Friday, Saturday and today [Monday] my shop is still closed.”

On Friday, The Witness reported that despite the continuing billing chaos causing many residents to receive incorrect bills or even no bills at all, the City was planning a big disconnection drive.

Msunduzi admitted to problems with the billing system and the accuracy of statements, but said it will not stop its controversial disconnections. Chief financial officer Neli Ngcobo said the disconnections were focused on debt that was more than 60 days in arrears.

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

Speaking to The Witness on Monday, Strachan said he believed that the implementation of the new Systems, Applications and Products (SAP) financial billing system, and the lack of management in this process, was the main factor of the chaotic billing system.

He said “residents are being disconnected without any consideration of outstanding queries, and inaccurate bills being distributed”.

“I believe this knee-jerk reaction is an act of desperation due to non-compliance and maladministration as pointed out by the auditor-general.”

Strachan added that revenue collection was a priority and a disconnection campaign should be rolled out, “but first the City must rectify the dysfunctional billing system that is inaccurately billing our consumers and then expecting them to pay exorbitant amounts due to errors on the municipality’s side.”

Msunduzi Municipality’s spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not respond to the query sent to her on Monday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  utility bills

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