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Johannesburg City Scape as seen from Ponte.7/2/2012. Photo: Gallo Images

Bad accounts: City of Johannesburg gets 30-days to fix irregular billing

The City of Johannesburg has been given 30 days to deal with irregular billing issues. It’s all down to the “estimating” of water accounts.

city of johannesburg cbd survey gcro

Johannesburg City Scape as seen from Ponte.7/2/2012. Photo: Gallo Images

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has given the City of Johannesburg one month to sort out electricity and water accounts that have been irregularly billed. The verdict comes after Mkhwebane was asked to look into an account that has raised several disputes.

Water and electricity estimates get City of Johannesburg in trouble

Businessman Fredy Nyathela and his company SARA, went to the Public Protector over disagreements with the City of Johannesburg. The city and Nyathela disagreed over “estimates” used to calculate his water and electricity accounts.

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After an investigation into the city’s billing and the Joburg Ombudsman, Mkhwebane found that the accounts for SARA were in fact based on estimates.

“The COJ had estimated the account previously and even though they informed the
Office of the Joburg Ombudsman that they had reconciled the account, they had
ignored the interest incurred as a result of the incorrect billing.”

Public Protector Report

Mkhwebane went on to find that the City of Johannesburg was carrying out water disconnections to SARA, in an illegal and unconstitutional manner.

“The COJ initiated the process of service disconnection, despite the fact that Mr
Nyathela/SARA had been disputing the bill received from them, an indication that it
had violated section 33 of the constitution by carrying out disconnections in an
unlawful manner.”

Pay up or get turned off

In the recommendations and findings of the report, Mkhwebane instructs City of Johannesburg acting city manager Floyd Brink to rectify the billing dispute within 30 days.

Also within that 30 day period, all City of Johannesburg staff need to be retrained in relation to the Consumer Protection Act and Municipal Finance Act.

And arguably most importantly for the general public? The fact that city has been given 30 days to make sure steps are taken to deal with the issue of estimating consumer accounts.