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Thursday Sep 27, 2012

Thswane mayor must shed light on billing mess

The Tshwane Metro Council's billing system has again come under the spotlight with residents complaining about cut-offs even when not in arrears.

Some residents were forced to do without electricity for more than four days after their power was cut off before the long weekend, despite their municipal accounts being up to date.

Residents who had been cut off formed a long queue at the municipal offices in Centurion last Friday to find out why. They brought along proof of payment attached to their accounts and said they had been cut without any warning.

Their complaints came a few days after the member of the mayoral committee responsible for finance Dorothy Mabiletsa visited the BKS Building (finance department) last Wednesday.

Mabiletsa was accompanied by council officials and the visit was aimed at checking on the operations and assessing the level of job commitment and customer satisfaction .

Problems related to the billing system are not new.

Residents have in the past complained about their accounts, with some claiming that their electricity and water consumption had been

T"guestimated" - this despite the fact that their water and electricity meters are easily accessible outside their yards.

There have also been complaints regarding the cutting off of electricity on a Friday afternoon or public holiday when residents cannot make arrangement to pay because council offices will be closed.

Surely the council should make an effort to reconnect electricity immediately and at no cost if the mistake was theirs.

Council should run an awareness campaign to inform customers of the process to be followed before water or electricity is cut off.

Details on the "green" (14-day final demand) and "red" (cut-off if no payment has been received or arrangements made) should be provided so all can understand the process leading to cut-offs.

Residents should also be advised to pay their accounts at municipal offices and not at third party outlets (Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Post Office) if their accounts are in arrears as it takes three to seven days before the payments go through.

The metro council recently approved a new policy aimed at collecting an estimated R4 billion owed by private households and businesses.

Chief financial officer Andile Dyakala stated in a report submitted to the council that the policy had been through a public participation process and the feedback received "was positive and supportive".

During the debate DA councillor Adrianna Randall asked if council was still using private contractors for disconnections.

Executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the contract was under review after council noted the delivery of notices and cut-offs were being done by different companies. Ramokgopa said this was the "most sophisticated form of fraud", adding that the job could be done by one company.

Randall said this week that with the non-renewal of the cut-off tender, the municipality decided to manage the credit control and disconnection services on accounts in arrears. According to Randall, since June the average monthly disconnections were about 1 000 but this month picked up to 3 000.

One hopes this issue will be raised at today's meeting and that Ramokgopa will provide clarity.

Patrick Hlala
Metro Watch
Pretoria News

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