Nadaraj and his wife Siveni Naidoo received a R2.1 million metro bill and their electricity was cut off, despite it being a mistake. PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA  African News Agency (ANA)
Nadaraj and his wife Siveni Naidoo received a R2.1 million metro bill and their electricity was cut off, despite it being a mistake. PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

Durban Metro billing shambles: Merebank family's shocking R2.1m bill

By Mphathi Nxumalo and Winston Mfeka Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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Durban - Imagine opening your metro utilities bill to find you owe the eThekwini Municipality R1.4million.

Or worse, R2.1million.

This was the position Durban residents Ramesh Laldeo and Siveni Naidoo had to contend with.

Laldeo, of Merebank, said his metro bill last month was for R1.4million. This was the culmination of a series of problems he has had with the municipality.

In 2016, he experienced problems with a faulty water meter at his home and received high bills. The issue continued and, in one month in 2018, the bill was for R5 932, while his average monthly bill was about R3 000. He had the meter replaced, but it again became problematic.

“In July 2019, I received a bill of R672 608.57. When I queried it, (the municipality) said that they owed me a R1055 credit. In 2019, they replaced the water meter for the third time. The water guys come through on a monthly basis, between 11am and 12pm, to read our water meter.

“On February 23, 2020, my bill came to R1.4million. I made queries and I’m still waiting for feedback from the municipality. This is putting lots of pressure on my family, and yet we are paying our bill on a monthly basis,” Laldeo said.

Also of Merebank, Siveni Naidoo said she had to deal with a R2.1million metro bill in 2018.

Ramesh Ladeo's metro bill of over R1.4m. He is one of many Merebank residents who have complained about the incorrect municipal billing system.

“They came and cut off my lights. We had to take time off work to go to the electricity department and they apologised for the mistake,” she said.

However, even after talking to eThekwini officials, they were slapped with a R26 000 metro bill and had to pay R3 800 in cash. “We had to borrow money,” she said.

Naidoo said their bills were still getting higher, despite cutting down on electricity expenses and using gas stoves. The mother of three said she lived in constant fear of being hit with another huge metro bill.

The Daily News has regularly reported on the city’s problematic Revenue Management System (RMS), which cost the city about R600million. It was introduced in 2016, to replace the old Coins system.

IFP executive committee member Mduduzi Nkosi said he did not understand why the municipality had switched to the current billing system, as the previous system had worked properly.

“RMS has a number of problems, the first being in terms of migration. It took so many years for us to fully migrate to RMS. It’s obvious that RMS has problems with billing people,” he said.

Nkosi said he had been sceptical of the RMS system and revealed that the Ugu Municipality had declined its use, after conducting a study into its efficiency.

“It was known that RMS would create problems and its use only continues because it enriches certain individuals. Unfortunately the people of eThekwini will continue to suffer if a decision isn’t taken against this system.”

DA exco member Nicole Graham said they discovered, a few months ago, that some people were being charged commercial electricity rates, instead of residential rates. Graham said electricity meters were also not being checked on a consistent basis.

“Meters should be read at least every three months. Some people are reporting they are read every nine months, every ten months or not at all. Some of the problems are billing, some are that the departments are not doing their jobs,” she said.

“We have suggested the city have a billing open day, where people can bring their bills and the officials can correct what’s wrong, but that hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

“There are solutions the city can come up with to accommodate those in need.”

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said no billing system was perfect and all cities had billing problems.

He said the city had an open door policy to people having problems with their bills so they could resolve them.

Mayisela said the city also faced problems, where their employees could not access properties, which were gated and closed off.

This forced employees to bill people based on estimates. He said the city, therefore, had avenues such as SMS and email for residents to send accurate readings.

Mayisela said there were also people who did not pay for long periods of time and then complained when they received high bills.

“It is important to determine the correctness of the consumption. Customers can verify if the readings on their bills are in line with the readings on site

"The city can be contacted through the various channels to assist the customers with clarification. This includes visiting the Revenue Management Department, at the Florence Mkhize building,” he said.

Mayisela said electricity readings were taken every three months and water readings every month.

Daily News

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