Metro exploring new ways to reduce water and electricity losses

A municipal worker removes dangerous illegal electricity connections
File picture: Herald photographer

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is on a mission to reduce water and electricity losses through a partnership with the SA Revenue Protection Association (Sarpa).

The metro is mulling over ways to stop illegal electricity connections, hoping to update its bylaws to allow the prosecution of offenders.

Water and electricity losses were the subject of a debate at an infrastructure and engineering committee meeting on Monday.

Water and electricity revenue losses were highlighted as areas of concern by the auditor-general in his report for the 2016-17 financial year.

According to the municipality’s mid-term report, presented to the council last month, the metro lost 45% of its water supply in the five months to November.

It also lost R172-million worth of electricity from July to December.

The report highlighted that the losses were a result of aging infrastructure and meter tampering.

In an attempt to curb electricity losses, the metro had hired Amat, but the contract ended in June.

Committee chairman Masixole Zinto said it was important that revenue loss be addressed.

“It is a problem when we don’t monitor our own assets and revenue,” Zinto said.

“We were hit very hard by the auditor-general and national Treasury on water and electricity losses.”

Presenting a possible solution to the committee, Sarpa technical advisor Rens Bindeman said Nelson Mandela Bay was faced with an electricity theft syndicate operating from prison.

“There are syndicates that are tampering [with connections] and doing illegal connections on a full time basis,” Bindeman said.

“They can move into your area overnight and cause huge havoc.

“We are trying to get them to go to other places or scare them away completely, because to stop them is impossible.”

Bindeman said the metro needed to undergo an auditing process, before establishing a unit to deal with revenue loss.

He further urged the municipality to hire experts to deal with the bigger commercial users.

“This can be stopped. Revenue protection and losses is not a onetime exercise, it’s a long term relationship – with all the departments and all the people – to get a real belief that you can bring the losses on utilities down,” Bindeman said.

“You have to look at who could pay, who does not want to pay and those who cannot afford to pay.”

During a debate on another report on electricity losses, councilors called for the metro’s bylaw on electricity losses to be updated.

DA councillor Andre van der Westhuizen asked why the electricity loss bylaw had not been updated to allow prosecutions.

“Our electricity losses are way too high – and we need a plan of action to address it,” he said.

There had been a commitment that the bylaw would be updated, Van der Westhuizen said.

Municipal official and former acting executive director Peter Nielson said the bylaw would be changed after the department received the mandate by the committee.

Despite this, Nielson said the bylaw did not need to be changed – what was needed was the political support to litigate.

“Our philosophy is you tamper three times, we charge you and remove your service cable.

“We have never had political support to litigate,” Nielson said.

A proposal to update the bylaw had nevertheless been submitted.

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