The DA in KwaZulu-Natal wants Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka to investigate incorrect and unfair billing by municipalities in the province.
The DA also wants Hlomuka to implement a provincial strategy to protect residents and ensure that municipalities have functional and fair revenue management. DA KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson on Cogta Chris Pappas, said the party had found that 47% of residents received inaccurate bills while 26% said their meters were never read.
DA MPL Mbali Ntuli, sent written questions to Hlomuka in February.
Pappas said the numbers were revealed by a survey of more than 770 respondents from across KwaZulu-Natal which forms part of an ongoing probe by the DA into the state of local government in KwaZulu-Natal.
Other figures revealed were that 29% of residents indicated that their electricity meters are never read, 28% of municipal self-reporting services do not work and 19% of respondents have received an incorrect bill more than once, while 12% say every bill is wrong.
Pappas said DA councillors across the province were inundated with complaints about incorrect and unfair municipal bills. “The findings are both shocking and alarming and the DA is worried that KZN’s residents are being unfairly treated by inefficient and ineffective revenue management services in their respective municipalities,” he said.
Pappas added that 86% of residents claim that municipalities did not respond to complaints while 71% said they were not aware of debt relief programmes offered by the municipality.
Hlomuka responded to Ntuli’s questions and said meter reading in KwaZulu-Natal had been significantly affected by the national lockdown. “Employees could not go out to read meters. It must also be noted that when municipalities cannot get access to properties to read meters (buildings and houses are locked) municipalities continue to estimate until they are given access to properties. This usually takes longer than three months,” said Hlomuka.
Hlomuka said the municipal systems act does not prescribe when a meter should be read and when it should be estimated.
He added that municipalities are however encouraged not to estimate meter readings for a period longer than three months.