Protector steps in over bill


Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has instructed the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to update and correct the account of a resident who was incorrectly billed for more than R100,000.
Mkhwebane tweeted on Wednesday that the resident had turned to her office when the city dragged its feet in resolving the matter.
It is unclear who the resident is and when the matter was taken to Mkhwebane.
“According to the records, the complainant had been slapped with a bill of R117,021.25 for water and a further penalty interest of over R5,000,” she tweeted.
“The complainant turned to the public protector alleging that the municipality had incorrectly billed their account, and to make matters worse, were taking forever to resolve their complaint.
“This story is one of the bread and butter matters where the public protector intervenes on behalf of ordinary members of the public against injustices often committed by various organs of state.”
Acting city manager Peter Neilson said it was unacceptable that a resident had to resort to the public protector.
“It should never be that a resident turns to the public protector for an incorrect bill.
“Common sense, due professionalism and basic business principle should prevail within our institution.
“We are tasked to constitutionally deliver this service.”
Neilson said the incorrect billing could be attributed to the municipality’s consolidated billing system.
He said another problem was that all utilities were in one bill and not separately.
Neilson said this led to accounts being suspended when a resident complained.
“The sad reality of our business is that we have millions of rands worth of accounts that have been under query over a number of years.”
These could amount to R600m, he said.
“You can imagine when you have a couple of thousand accounts that are queried it’s not always possible for one to react as quickly as one would like and one can imagine the frustration of residents.”
He said many residents took advantage of this and would query their accounts to stall on paying accounts.
“Although I don’t agree at all for someone to approach the public protector because they are aggrieved, there are instances that are very difficult for us to deal with.”
He said the city would investigate ways of moving towards using smart meters.
“We must move towards smart meters where people can pay for their utilities on a simplified platform. We must adapt our business practices to technology.”..

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