Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

EFF hails Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings on high Tshwane water, electricity bills

By Rapula Moatshe Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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Pretoria - The EFF has hailed the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding that the high water and electricity bills in Tshwane were the result of the metro’s failure to take meter readings regularly.

Her investigation followed about 70 complaints from residents, between 2018 and 2021, who said their queries were falling on deaf ears.

The investigation found that the City had started to charge residents “a fixed monthly amount described as the Water Network Access Charge and Sanitation Network Access Charge”.

“These are fixed charges that are not related to consumption. This was uncovered after perusal of the consumers’ municipal accounts and later confirmed by the City in a letter dated February 25, 2021, in which it advised, inter alia, that on June 30, 2020, the City approved the new tariff structure for both water and sanitation accounts,” Mkhwebane said.

In one case, complainant E van Wyk was billed more than R1.6 million due to the erroneous updating of new meters on the City system.

“Once the City uploaded the correct meters and readings, the bill dropped to nearly R360 000, resulting in a credit of over R1.2m,” she said.

Mkhwebane cited a case involving a T Khanyezi, who fell victim to the City’s estimation on his water consumption for the period June 29, 2018 to April 2, 2019.

When the actual meter readings were obtained, the necessary adjustments were applied and Khanyezi’s invoice stood at more than R143 000.

“Based on the evidence obtained, it can be concluded that the CoT did not take meter readings at regular intervals and ensure that persons liable for payments receive regular and accurate accounts in compliance with the applicable legal prescripts,” Mkhwebane said.

EFF regional chairperson Obakeng Ramabodu said his party “has noted with joy” the public protector's report.

Hesaid residents had been subjected to massive bills since the DA-led administration took over the municipality in 2016. He said the report vindicated the EFF, which waged “endless battles” against the administration.

“It is a great relief to know the economic sabotage waged by the administration against the residents, in the face of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, has reached the attention of the public protector,” he said.

Ramabodu said the EFF had engaged with the DA administration over inaccurate billing complaints, but they were not resolved “due to incompetence and disregard for the majority of our black people in the townships and informal settlements”.

“Not only did the DA watch and do nothing as residents sank deeper and deeper into debt, they allocated R120 million in the 2021/22 budget to hire debt collectors to harass residents to pay these unjustly inflated municipal bills, and this was done at a time when many households in the city were faced with job losses and loss of income as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns,” Ramabodu said.

The EFF called for the immediate cancellation of inflated water and electricity bills.

In response to Mkhwebane’s probe, Tshwane divisional head for revenue management, Ronny Shilenge, said the municipality had a customer care or query and dispute resolution process.

Acting city manager, Mmaseabata Mutlaneng, acknowledged the shortcomings to the existing complaint resolution mechanisms and undertook to enhance them.

Part of her recommendations ordered Mutlaneng to table the report before the council for engagement, and to pass a resolution in line with its legislative powers indicating measures to be taken to address deficiencies in the billing system.

Pretoria News

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