First Look Blog

Articles written by the First Look team.


COMMON CAUSE OF INCORRECT BILLING - 5. EXTENDED ESTIMATED READINGS PERIOD

Published by Ken Nunes on 11/09/2018

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The article published by Suntricity on the 25th August 2018 titled COJ Incorrect Billing, highlighted 5 Categories of Common Causes for Billing Errors of the COJ Invoice for Schools.

The article briefly describe each of the 5 Categories, where a further and deeper understanding of each Category is felt necessary.

This article focuses on the 5th most common cause of COJ Billing Irregularities: Extended Estimated Readings Period

OUTLINE:

The reason for Estimated Readings are varied and generally the result of one of the 4 other common causes of incorrect billing, previously described, namely:

1.      Change Of Water Meter 

2.      Arithmetical Multiplication Errors 

3.      Water Meters Appearing On The Invoice Could Not Be Found At The School

4.      Vandalism Of Municipal Water Meters

Should the reason not be one these four common billing errors, the consequence should be less onerous, although not to be ignored.

Legally, the Municipality is obligated to present an Actual Reading at least once every 3 months.

The results of the Invoices studied for 2017, highlighted the following:

PRIMARY SCHOOLS: Of the 240 (20 schools x12 months) Invoices presented by the Municipality in 2017, a Total of 61.25% were ACTUAL READINGS and 28.75% were ESTIMATED READINGS

SECONDARY/HIGH SCHOOLS: Of the 120 (10 schools x12 months) Invoices presented in 2017, a Total of 57.50% were ACTUAL READINGS and 42.50% were ESTIMATED READINGS

8 of the 30 Schools had 10 or more ESTIMATED READINGS presented in 2017.

As the end of the Estimated Reading Period, the Municipality generally present a “back-dated” Actual Reading Invoice, to correct the prolonged Estimated Readings, which – and depending on the reason for the Estimated Readings Period – is a relatively straightforward numerical exercise to follow.

If the Municipality has over-estimated the readings, the corrected invoice will result in a credit for the school.

However, if the Municipality had under-estimated the readings for several months, the corrected invoice will result in a high corrective charge (sometimes hundreds of thousands of Rand)…and the start of serious problems.

NOTE:  The management of Electricity (kWh) and Water (KL) CONSUMPTION, is the responsibility of each individual school, where schools should at least verify that consumption detailed on the Municipal Invoice (Page 2 of the COJ Invoice), is equivalent to that of the actual meter readings.

Unfortunately, the majority of schools, do not carry out this basic verification.

RECOMMENDATION:  Schools must make a date-stamped photograph (at least) at the end of each month, so that in the eventually of Municipal account problems, schools are able to present "proof to the contrary".