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Another billing crisis setback

Efforts to resolve Johannesburg's billing crisis have hit a glitch and been set back by another three months.

As part of the City of Joburg's 19-month revenue roadmap, meant to resolve the billing crisis, an audit on about 400 000 meters was started in June. It was supposed to have lasted 12 months.

But now Motla Consulting Engineers, the company hired to audit the meters, has said the "audit has been terminated".

No notification of this has been given to residents.

Only after questions posed by The Star has the council admitted the audit has been suspended. It will start again next Monday, and will be done by a different company, Tsekema Consulting Engineers.

The DA has announced that over 3 000 unresolved Joburg billing queries that the Gauteng finance mayoral committee refused to accept last week would now be forwarded to the auditor-general.

DA finance spokesman Patrick Atkinson said the party would send spreadsheets and supporting documents to the team auditing the council.

"The billing crisis and the defective financial data it [the City of Joburg] has produced have been at the heart of Joburg's failure to attain an unqualified audit over the past two years," said Atkinson.

The council had been the worst-performing of SA's nine metros in terms of the accuracy and reliability of its financial data, he said.

The party would also send information it had gathered on unresolved billing queries to the public protector and the National Consumer Council this week.

This all comes after the council announced in June that the meter audit would help it to understand "the challenges that customers face regarding the conditions of electricity supply".

It said the exercise would ensure that "correct data was used when customers were billed" and that "customers are serviced effectively".

Last week the council admitted that 23 percent of all electricity readings were "implausible", which was rendering accounts incorrect. A large percentage of billing complaints revolve around incorrect readings, estimates and wrong meter numbers.

The meter-audit project that was started in June through Motla raised the ire of many residents whose electricity was cut off when the auditors could not gain access to properties.
The council said at the time that customers had been informed of the audit and that it had the right to cut off power, in terms of by-laws, if properties could not be accessed.

Only after several requests for clarification from The Star did the council admit on Friday that Tsekema had taken over and that the audit would "recommence on September 17 for a period of 12 months".

The statement, issued through City Power spokesman Sydney Mphahlele, said: "When the project started, City Power appointed Motla Consulting Engineers to conduct the audit.

"The company was later replaced by Tsekema Consulting Engineers to continue with the data collection and verification project. Motla is focusing on meter-reading audits."

He did not explain how the audits were different.

And on City Power's website, there is no indication that Tsekema has been appointed to take over.

Know your City Power auditors

The data collection and verification team visiting customers' properties, when the audit recommences on September 17, will:

  • Wear reflective jackets with City Power logo on the front and the Tsekema logo on the back.
  • Be in possession of identifications cards.
  • Be in possession of an audit authorisation letter from City Power.

Should customers have any doubt of the authenticity of the data audit contractors, they should contact the following numbers:

Verify your auditor: phone 011 493 4612.

City Power has made provision for repeat visits in areas where initial access was not obtained because customers were not available for the audit. Customers are urged to contact the e-mail address and phone number below providing their contact details (name and surname, cellphone or landline number, e-mail address), physical address including the area code, and the council will contact them to schedule a repeat visit.

Schedule your audit by e-mailing dataAudit@citypower.co.za

For all audit queries, phone 011 490 7484, Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm.
The City of Joburg call centre can be reached on 0860 562 874, 24 hours a day. The City of Joburg urges customers to welcome the auditors into their homes and business premises so that its services can be improved.

(The Star)


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