The City took months to resolve a query a resident had about his exorbitant bills for electricity and water.
When Rugby resident Rezah Khan complained to me about his R6 700 bill for 69 000 litres of water, Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said: “The water and sanitation management department contacted Mr Khan and the investigation in to the disputed 69kl reading has been finalised and they have adjusted water and sewerage charges which will reflect on Mr Khan’s next bill.
“The 69kl was an anomaly where the dates showed a billing for one month but took place over two months. We have also addressed the issue of screen damage which Mr Khan believes led to inaccurate readings.”
But back to Mr Khan, who lives on the property with his wife, two sons and an uncle. The bill is in the name of CorpClo, the former business Mr Khan ran from his home 12 years ago, and he has been paying the municipal bills for the past 10 years.
“There was an underground leak on the property about eight years ago and when I received a bill of R20 000, the municipality said if I made arrangements to pay it off they would discount it to R10 000. So I did and I renew the arrangement every year.
“Everything was fine up until December 2016 when I received an enormous bill for electricity (over R7 000),” Mr Khan said.
“As it was an estimate, I took this up with the municipality who said they would reverse the amount after I gave them the actual reading. Even after the reversal, the outstanding amount was very high. I attempted to take this up with them, without success, as they were adamant I owed them the money. I asked the City Ombudsman to help and received an automated email response that they would respond within 90 days.
“When I still received inaccurate water readings. I asked them to replace my water meter as the screen was badly scratched and I could not see how the meter reader could make out the numbers,” said Mr Khan, who explained that the meter was replaced in March.
In April, he followed up with the ombudsman, who advised that they were still investigating.
The investigating officer, later said Mr Khan owed them the money. It emerged, however, that for the past three months they had been investigating the incorrect amount.
“They were referring to the amount that I had arranged to pay off and it was added to my municipal bill each month. Because of all of the issues with estimated readings, the arrangement had lapsed and it looked as if I was not keeping up with the payments.
“I asked for a reconciliation of my bill and was told they would revert within the month and then told me that I owed R12 000. All the back and forth was taking its toll on my life, my health and my marriage. Then in May, I applied to renew my arrangement on the entire amount owed,” Mr Khan said.
When he received his June bill it did not refer to the arrangement on arrears and Mr Khan was billed R6 700 for water use in May and over R700 for sewerage.
There was also an interest charge of over R1 100, bringing the bill for May, payable by June 30 to R9 540.86 which meant Mr Khan owed R19 590.49.
Again Mr Khan did battle with City Hall.
“The municipality said we used 69kl of water from April 26 to May 18. That’s 69 000 litres in less than a month: an average of 3 000 litres a day. I have been monitoring our water consumption daily and taking photos of the water meter to display the reading. My average of about 900 litres a day is far less than theirs.
“I have emailed them but have received no further communication as I believe they realise they are at fault. I have asked for a revised statement containing the reversal of the grossly incorrect reading and any other amounts which have been incorrectly applied to my bill. No one, so far has taken responsibility. I am so tired of having to deal and pay for mistakes I didn’t make. Even if this issue was resolved, another one is likely to come up due to inconsistencies in the municipality’s accounting department,” Mr Khan said.
After I asked the municipality to investigate, Mr Khan had a call and an email from Berenice Williams, customer service management, saying his “request for the adjustment of account due to damaged meter is in the process of being finalised”.
“I’ve also requested the verification of your meter reading and will inform you,” she said.
The same day Ms Williams emailed Mr Khan.
“The adjustment on water and sewerage charges from December 15 2016 to March 4 2017 has been done: credit for water R2 402.13 and credit on sewerage charges is R526.43 and the investigation on the disputed 69kl reading has been finalised and the amendment will reflect on your next account.”
We’ll leave it at that. But the municipality still hasn’t addressed Mr Khan’s claim that “the ombud’s office was investigating the wrong amount owed”.
“Thank you so much for all your assistance. I really couldn’t have reached this point without your help,” Mr Khan said.