The fourth installment of the municipality’s Thetha Nathi roadshows was held on May 20 at the Gonubie BCMM offices at which MMC for Finance Afrika Maxongo confirmed that in the new financial year, there may be revisions made to the 80/20 debt collection measure.
The roadshows, spearheaded by BCMM revenue management, aim to resolve all outstanding disputes between residents and the municipality.
On Saturday, more than 400 people from Gonubie and the surrounds queued up to address municipal queries, some of which have been dragging on for years.
Maxongo said the roadshows had been successful and in June her team would visit ratepayers’ association meetings to promote awareness about the smart water meters and the smart water meter app to be released later this year.
The app aims to help residents track their water meters and resolve disputes regarding water consumption.
Maxongo said: “We have heard what residents are saying and we will be looking towards a new proposal for the partial electricity block.
“As the mayor has promised, we will find solutions towards challenges with the smart water meters within 100 days.”
Gonubie resident at the roadshow, Darryl Parish, said the debt incurred on his account through a billing mistake was written off. Parish said he was billed for two water meters which accrued debt of more than R30,000.
Parish said: “Our neighbor’s meter suddenly appeared on our account along with ours and they have promised now to write all that debt off.
“When we started getting the account for the other meter last year, we went to report it constantly at the municipal offices in Gonubie and Beacon Bay only to be told there was nothing they could do.
“We were being billed interest and our electricity purchases were being deducted because of this debt.
“When I heard the municipality would be here, I decided to take a chance and it turns out that coming to these events might be the only way you get solutions because going into the offices proved a useless exercise for me.”
Gonubie ward councillor Valerie Knoetzer said that Gonubie residents’ main issues relate to inflated amounts for water billing.
“I hope that these roadshows properly address the issues that residents have because there are ward councillors sitting with 500 queries from residents about billing.
“Residents come to us, as councillors, with their billing challenges, and our hands are tied because our access to the consultants and supervisors from the billing department was taken away earlier this year.
“We can’t even forward issues to billing anymore for feedback because their inboxes were becoming too full with the number of queries.”
When questioned on legal action residents have taken against the municipality to challenge the 80/20 debt collection measure, Maxongo said: “It’s everyone’s responsibility to pay for their account because receiving your municipal bill is the same as being issued with an official 14-day notice. It doesn’t matter how you are made aware of your debt, the bottom line remains that you must settle it.
“National Treasury maintains that we must collect revenue for our services and we are obliged to follow this directive. We must also stress that the 80/20 block is lenient, considering that it is a partial block and not a complete block as in the past.”
Maxongo said that proposals for new debt incentive schemes would be brought before the council in June.