NATIONAL NEWS - The newly re-elected Tshwane council said it will look into why residents’ water and electricity bills have skyrocketed under the temporary administrators’ leadership.
“We are concerned about the significant rise in debtor levels from R12.6-billion in March to R17.4-billion at the end of October 2020,” said finance MMC Mare-Lise Fourie.
She said a “high-priority” investigation would be held into meter reading performance, estimations and the success of the incentive schemes developed during the lockdown.
“These investigations will highlight problem areas for correction as soon as possible,” she said.
Recently, Tshwane residents have complained about receiving exorbitant water and electricity bills that would be double and, in some cases, triple their usual bills.
In August, the metro’s billing system came under the spotlight when the metro had appointed 34 debt collection agencies to recoup more than R12-billion owed to it by residential and business customers.
The debt collection agencies were appointed with effect from 2 November 2020 on a three-year contract to collect the outstanding debt from 93 113 residential and businesses.
Some residents have questioned the legitimacy of the debt.
Groenkloof resident Klarissa Engelbrecht said she was not willing to pay R800 or more for her bill.
Engelbrecht said she believed that Tshwane’s billing system was incorrect and she had first encountered this problem in 2005/2006 when it was resolved – until it started up again three years ago.
“It is highly unlikely that the R12.8-billion figure is correct,” she said.
“I am absolutely not willing to pay. We already paid more than we owe on which they earn interest and we do not,” she said.
She said she has sent queries to the metro, but none of their queries met with any action.
Engelbrecht said even though her bill was not extreme, the issue was a matter of principle and consistency from the side of the metro.
On average the metro receives about 1 457 notifications and queries regarding billing per month through their CRM platforms.
Fourie said on average 83% of those were resolved.
“Every effort will be made to ensure that each complaint logged with the city is investigated and resolved as soon as possible.
“Where a dispute is lodged on an amount owing by an owner in respect of municipal services, the owner shall make regular minimum payments based on the calculation of the average municipal account for the preceding three months prior to the arising of the dispute.”
The metro’s spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the metro had tried to recover the outstanding debt through other less drastic measures such as credit control actions, debt calling and via electronic reminders.
All these efforts were, however, in vain.
“The city was left with no option but to outsource the recovery process,” he said.
“The city constantly sends alerts to its customers whose municipal accounts are in arrears to remind them of their debt before their accounts reach 120 days.
“Debtors have also been encouraged to take advantage of the city’s incentive programme to bring their accounts up to date,” he said.
He said the metro had “stringent conditions” set that would not allow any commission to be paid should the agency collect less than 1.5% of the total book handed over.
“For example, if a R100-million debtor’s book is handed over, the total monthly collection should at least be R1.5-million to qualify for a commission.”