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Thursday Oct 18, 2012

City of Joburg bills property R19.5m for 30 days of water usage

When I woke up, I was on the floor," said Swazi Coetzee, a sectional title administrator who received a whopping R19 542 488 water bill for a Florida North complex.

Coetzee said although he should not be surprised because he has at least 30 to 40 City of Joburg bills he is querying at any given time, this one "takes the cake".

"However, I decided not to pay it. Instead I asked our utility agent, who is virtually employed full-time for us to sort out bills, to investigate it," he said.

The VAT alone charged on this amount is R2.4 million.

The bill amount equates to almost a gigalitre - enough water to fill about 400 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The bill is for a 34-unit complex that is charged an average of R6 000 a month for water.

Werner Steenekamp, the agent who is handling the matter for Status Mark Properties, said he logged a complaint with Joburg Water as soon as he was given the bill.

"In August the complex was in credit of about R6 700. Their average bill is around R6 000 a month. Then suddenly in September we got slapped with this outrageous amount," he said.

Joburg Water officials agreed to meet with him on Monday this week, but failed to turn up.

"We are of course worried that they are going to disconnect the services at the complex. They often do that without giving pre-termination notices," he said.

Steenekamp said adding to the problem was the fact that the council replaced the meter some months ago. The complex only has one meter, and now the city is suddenly charging for three.

"The one meter reading was read incorrectly at a higher number than the end figure and this caused the clock to turn over, resulting in this huge bill.

"However, I believe it is an input error, not a computer one," he said.

Steenekamp said he was dealing with similar problems every day, but this was the highest recorded amount.

Common problems he experiences on a daily basis are errors when meters are replaced, estimates being sent on old meters and new meter numbers not being linked to the correct accounts.

There are also numerous complexes that cannot get bills from the council, however hard they try.

"Some are accumulating the money in case they eventually get a bill, but it is money lost to the council," he said.

The Star

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