Joburg meter audit fuels billing crisis

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Johannesburg - Efforts to resolve Joburg’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, destined 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 three months later it has stalled.

Unbeknown to residents, Motla Consulting Engineers, the company hired to audit the meters, has announced on its public help-line that the “audit has been terminated”.

No notification of this has been given to residents. The last communication by the council with residents stated that Motla is conducting the audits. Joburgers were specifically warned to expect visits from the auditors, who would arrive at their properties in uniforms branded with Motla and City Power logos.

Now, only after questions posed by The Star has the city admitted that the audit project has been suspended. It will start again on September 17, and will be done by a different company, Tsekema Consulting Engineers.

The council announced in June that the meter audit would help the city understand “the challenges that customers face regarding the conditions of electricity supply and that customers are serviced effectively”. Furthermore, it said, this exercise would also “ensure that correct data was used when customers were billed”.

This comes after the revelation last week that 23 percent of all electricity readings are “implausible”, which is rendering accounts incorrect. A large percentage of billing complaints revolve around incorrect readings, estimates and wrong meter numbers.

The meter-audit project started in June through Motla, and raised the ire of many residents whose electricity was cut off when the auditors could not gain access to properties.

The city 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 city admit on Friday, in a carefully worded statement, that Tsekema had taken over and that the audit would “recommence on September 17 for a period of 12 months”. The original project was supposed to run for 12 months from June.

The statement, issued through City Power spokesman Sydney Mphahlele says: “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 being done by Motla were different to the audits tasked to Tsekema.

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

The statement says: “City Power has started, and continues to engage with the regional and ward councillors and the media to ensure that customers are made aware of this project.”

The Star


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