COMMON CAUSE OF INCORRECT BILLING – 4. WATER METER DAMAGED BY VANDALISM
- By: Ken Nunes
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 describes each of the 5 Categories, where a further and deeper understanding of each Category is felt necessary.
This article therefore focuses on the 4th most common cause of COJ Billing Irregularities: VANDALISM.
Vandalism Of Municipal Water Meters: There were two schools where meters were vandalised within weeks or even days of installation in spite of every effort made by the Municipality to install NEW Water Meters. The effect is of course, no consumption data is available, which results in unfair, (certainly inaccurate) estimated readings, which, in the cases identified, resulted in prolonged high water invoices.
As opposed to Electricity meters, (generally installed within school premises), Municipal Water Meters are installed in public areas, (outside the school premises) to enable easy access for monthly consumption readings. More recently, the meters are installed above ground, also facilitate meter readings. This of course makes the water meter very visible and extremely vulnerable to vandalism.
Whilst the Municipality cannot be held responsible for vandalism of their Water Meters, there comes a time when after a water meter has been damaged three or more times and estimated readings presented for an extended period of time (more than 24-months), a different solution is needed.
At one of the two schools, and at the recommendation of Suntricity, the school installed their own "water check meter" on the school’s premises, close to the Municipal Meter, where daily consumption photographs are being recorded, to provide "proof to the contrary" for the Municipality.
The consequence is purely financial – the school has been invoiced between January to August 2018, in excess of R420,000.00, where Suntricity estimates (from the monitoring results since the water check meter was installed) the actual cost should be less than R170,000.00.
After just two month, it can already be seen that where the Municipality has Estimated a monthly consumption of 900 KL to 1,000 KL, the Actual consumption of the schools water meter is in fact between 350 KL to 450 KL.
Attorney Hendry van Branden - Suntricity's CEO often explains to schools that without “proof to the contrary”, it is very difficult to challenge the “correctness” of the Municipal Invoice, even though (in this case) the Municipal water meter has been vandalised.
In the mean time, the Municipality is quite happy to continue presenting inflated Estimated Readings and high charges and the onus is therefore on the customer (in this case School), to establish "proof to the contrary", in order to challenge the Municipality, eventually in a court of law.