IF YOU ALLEGE YOU MUST PROVE
- By: Ken Nunes
When the Municipality submits an Actual Reading to your school, there are legal implications that are assumed.
- Someone has physically passed your school and have taken readings of your or water meters.
- In the case of a start meter, this can of course be carried out remotely, through the wonders of technology.
If the invoice is not questioned, the Municipality are legally in their right to assume that you (the school) agree with the details of the readings presented.
In fact, schools are able to question any "errors" going back a period of 36-months.
NOTE: The law also says that the Municipality can go back as far as they want, should an anomaly be detected on the account.
We have been involved in two cases where the importance of "recording data" has been critical, and we present the following as real case studies:
CASE STUDY - PRIMARY SCHOOL 1:
- The Municipality presented invoices that were totally incorrect, between the dates October 2016 to October 2017, resulting in the Municipality OVER BILLING the Account by over R900,000.
- Parallel to this, the Municipality also included on the same Electricity, a meter that was never installed at the school, resulting in the Municipality OVER BILLING the Account by a further R700,000.
- Both errors were reported which resulted in a Credit being emitted in early 2018, which resolved the problem of ITEM 2, although ITEM 1 was not resolved and to this day (March 2022) the ITEM 1 issue has still not been resolved, with the Municipality (City Power in this case), claiming that the issue is beyond the magic 36-months, in spite of the fact that the issue was reported at the same time as that of ITEM 2.
- The fact that this issue was reported and recorded to: The Municipality, The GDE, the IDSO and numerous discussions having taken place with City Power, it is being "claimed" that the issue is beyond the 36-month period.
CASE STUDY - PRIMARY SCHOOL 2:
- The average kWh consumption for the last 36-months of this particular Primary School is between 10,000 kWh and 30,000 kWh - R30,000 in the low season to R90,000 in the high season.
- Therefore, receiving an invoice in March 2022, documenting the consumption of 150,000 kWh and a charge of over R500,000, was a bit of a shock…which was quickly debunked through hard facts.
- Surely the billing system of one of the largest Municipalities in the country, together with the might of City Power, must include some RED FLAG algorithm, where a Manager would ask for some verification BEFORE the invoice is sent to the customer.
- Surely the cost to schools in wasted time spend waiting on the phone and queuing at the offices of the Municipality or City Power must be of interest to someone.
Fortunately, in both the above cases, the school kept well documented readings of the meters and the issues are relatively easy to challenge.
Unfortunately, the Municipality can take a lifetime to resolve these relatively simple issues and during the whole time, the school's accounts, which is sent to the Gauteng Department of Education and IDSO's every month, the Administrators and SGB's ability to manage the accounts of the school is laid bare for all to question, while those responsible for the cause of the problems of the account, hide behind the non-functioning machine of the Municipal Billing System.
Surely incorrectly invoicing a school of over R900,000 and not crediting the account as soon as it is reported must be theft and must be a crime. How is it possible that the Municipality and City Power can go back 15-years if they wish, and the school is only limited to 36-months.
Surely theft is theft irrespective when it took place, although the Municipality can hide behind this vail of immunity.
SO...WHAT'S THE TAKE-WAY: Schools must ensure that at the end of each month, they take a date stamped photo, which is then filed for record purposes, so that in the eventually of Municipal madness, you have evidence to prove the allegation false.