First Look Blog

Articles written by the First Look team.


COJ INCORRECT BILLING

Published by Ken Nunes on 25/08/2018


We read with interest the Article titled: City Power to monitor meter linked to R17 million bilpublished in the Times Northcliff Melville, written by Andile Dlodlo.

The property owner claims corruption, where the Municipality claims the R17m invoice is due to a Billing Error. 

Suntricity has studied 1000’s of Municipal Electricity and Water accounts for Schools over the last 5 years, and it would be fair to say that corruption is the least likely cause of Billing Irregularities…the COJ Billing System does however, have a serious problem. 

Suntricity recently completed a study of the Water Accounts of 20 Primary Schools and 10 Secondary/High Schools in Johannesburg for the year 2017, where of the 30 Schools forming part of the study, Billing Irregularities were found on 10 of the schools Water Accounts.

Errors are generally the results of one the following reasons:

1.     Change Of Water Meter – One of the most common problems of Incorrect Water Meter Billing (this occurs in both Electricity Meters), where after the Municipality changes a broken Water Meter at any given school, the NEW Water Meter does not appear on the Municipal Account for a period of up to 6-months, (often more), resulting is a prolonged period of Estimated Billing and in most cases over-billing.

2.     Arithmetical Multiplication Errors – Where the Municipality details readings of say 1,000KL, but charge for 10,000KL, (a simple decimal point shift) resulting in extremely inflated Monthly Water Costs and extends periods of many months. This problem appears to be specific to Water Accounts.

3.     Water Meters Appearing On The Invoice Could Not Be Found At The School Municipal Water Accounts detail Water Meters that have never been installed at 2 of the 30 schools, the consequence is unjustified over-billing on a massive scale. (A similar problem was identified at one school's electricity account, which took 15-months to resolve).

4.     Vandalism Of Municipal Water Meters There were two schools where although every effort is made by the Municipality to install NEW Water Meters, the meters (installed external to the school) were vandalised within weeks or even days of installation and where unfair, (certainly inaccurate) consumption reading resulted.

5.     Extended Estimated Readings Period 8 of the 30 Schools studied had 10 or more ESTIMATED READINGS presented in 2017, creating totally inaccurate charges.

THE TOTAL OVER BILLING OF THE 10 SCHOOLS IS R40.35 MILLION.

Two Problems:

1.     Having identified the problem, it takes months and sometimes years to resolve. COJ has a clearly defined reporting system (the 800 numbers), which works well, although COJ ground staff are only permitted to report the problem, for the solution to be taken at a higher level, which we accept as correct. Therefore, the final decision is very lengthy and extremely frustrating, whilst during the extended resolution period, COJ regularly sends operatives to the schools to disconnect the service, which resulted from a problem they (COJ) created.

2.     There are approximately 1,500 schools under the responsibility of COJ in Gauteng. The study of 30 schools identified 10 with a R40million problem. Extrapolating these results for the remaining 1,470 is a worrying thought.