City’s billing crisis

Furious and frustrated residents are demanding politicians and officials sort out the city’s chaotic billing system that has seen inexplicable increases in billing charges and the rampant disconnection of residents who have not defaulted.
Over the past months, several individual households, businesses and civic bodies across the city have complained about getting higher than normal bills for both water and electricity. Residents from various parts of Pietermaritzburg have also complained that they have not received their bills for months on end, and, if they do, it is often inaccurate.
Matters reached a climax this week as irate, worried residents flocked to AS Chetty Building trying to sort out billing queries but as many of them complained, some staff allegedly had a total disregard for the urgency.
Some of the affected residents are pensioners. They complained that meter readers do not conduct visits to capture the readings. One consumer has recently spoken about the shock of receiving a bill amounting to thousands of rands.
“I do not recall seeing a meter reader in my neighbourhood and yet I have been slapped with a massive bill,” said the resident from Copesville in reference to a R44 000 water bill. What was more shocking, the consumer added, was that he lives by himself and pays regularly. In addition to this, consumers blame staff for the problems.
Consumers also pointed out that bills stated disconnections will be done without notice, and that this is illegal as consumers must be given enough written notice to pay.
While the recently installed data processing SAP system has been blamed for the some of the problems, questions have been raised about the capacity at the municipality, especially understaffing within the billing division. Aside from grants from provincial and national government, revenue collection is the city’s main source of income and there are concerns that the municipality will collapse if the billing system is not adequately and swiftly addressed.
The billing system has also been a talking point at the finance committee over the past weeks where councillors have questioned the functionality of the current system calling on Chief Financial Officer Nelisiwe Ngcobo to implement more stringent measures to ensure that consumers get accurate bills timeously.
Finance Committee member, Mehmood Oumar, acknowledged that there were problems with the billing, and singled out staff shortage as the main problem. “The SAP system is one of the best out there, but it is only good if there are sufficient people to make it operational,” said the councillor. He added that in any environment when there is staff shortage, as was the case in the billing division, people were prone to making mistakes as they were overworked.
City resident, Khumbu Kunene, alleges to have had a rude run-in with staff at the centre on Tuesday morning when she went to settle her bill. She said she normally makes payments at a shopping centre although she has not received her bill for many months.
“I went to the cashier and told her that I want to settle my bill. She had a bit of attitude in her tone; she shouted but she did not swear at me. She said that I must go to customer enquiries as she cannot check the amount for me. I informed her I had already stood in the line for an hour and I did not want to wait longer.”
Kunene said she asked to speak to the cashier’s supervisor to which the cashier said that she did not have a supervisor. “I then said to the cashier I know she must have a supervisor. Suddenly, a lady appeared from the other counter and said she was the supervisor and told me to go back to enquiries. I said that one would need three hours to sort out a matter  for billing, I eventually left. What happens to old people who cannot speak for themselves or do not understand what needs to be done? I suggest they have marshals who can assist us,” said Kunene.
Moses Ngobese, the acting senior manager for revenue at the centre, said such an incident is impossible. “The cashiers are trained and they know how to deal with people. They will not swear as they know that they are being watched by cameras. This was the first time that an incident of this nature has been brought to my attention. I would like to ask why the matter was not escalated by the consumer,” said Ngobese.
Richard Juan, a consumer who witnessed the incident, said his sense of justice forced him to speak up.
“I stood up and decided that I would not allow her to be alone. So I told the cashier she could not do this as Kunene was already in the line for an hour. The cashier eventually put the screen down. The cashier started screaming and went on and on. She behaved so badly because Kunene had asked for something as simple as a balance.”
Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson, Thobeka Mafumbatha, said it is the municipality’s responsibility to help the customer but that the customer in this instance was found to be in the wrong after an investigation. “The alleged incident was investigated and we discovered that the customer was rude and unreasonable. In an incident where the customer is not happy, they can escalate it further. Customers are encouraged to send their queries via email, as well or contact our offices,” said Mafumbatha.

  AUTHOR
Shorné Bennie

Latest News

COMMENTS

Top

Thanks for your referral. We have no doubt your friends will love our newsletter as much as you!

Don't forget to verify your email.

to our FREE newsletter
SUBSCRIBE to our FREE newsletter.




SELECT your titles:

Maritzburg Sun
Public Eye


Get regular news updates sent directly to your inbox.

Your source of local breaking news and trending stories from across the country.

Be a part of our growing community

1MILFacebook Fans
98KTwitter Followers
5MILMonthly Readers
12MILArticles Published Every Month
72Local Community Websites
CLICK HERETo view an example of our newsletter

SUBSCRIBE to our FREE newsletter

SELECT your titles:

Maritzburg Sun
Public Eye

Get regular news updates sent directly to you inbox.

Your source of local breaking news and trending stories from across the country.

Be a part of our growing community

Subscribe Here
1MILFacebook Fans
98KTwitter Followers
5MILMonthly Readers
12MILArticles Published Every Month
72Local Community Websites
Your details:


Your friends: