Chris Ndaliso
Senior journalist
3 minute read
13 Jun 2022

Msunduzi’s inefficiency to audit tampered prepaid meters draining City’s finances

Chris Ndaliso

The pace of auditing Msunduzi’s prepaid meters and clamping down on tampering is moving at a snail’s pace while electricity thieves continue to drain the City’s finances.

The pace of auditing Msunduzi’s prepaid meters and clamping down on tampering is moving at a snail’s pace while electricity thieves continue to drain the City’s finances.

The City’s executive committee (Exco) recently heard that only 1 984 of the 34 000 prepaid meters were audited over a year ago.

“The findings showed that 61,6% of the audited meters are tampered with and no revenue was collected for those,” read the report.

The committee resolved to recommend that the financial services business unit should monitor consumers who had rectified their metering circuits and try to recover any money lost because of faulty metering systems.

The Exco further recommended that the electricity department be equipped with the appropriate resources to follow up on the service provider’s audit process and continue auditing internally in the future.

Two machines for audits and accuracy testing had been identified and calibrated. The committee also sought provisions to be made on the budget to urgently conduct a citywide prepaid meter audit at least every three years.

“It should be noted that to replace all 34 000 prepaid meters would cost R119 million including VAT,” read the report.

The Exco also recommended to council that the auditing of meters be made a priority above any other means of revenue protection.

“The bylaws must be enforced where tampering is identified and progress reports be submitted quarterly.

The report read, “A budget provision must be made to change all meters that do not meet the Standard Transfer Specification as those meters would not be able to take prepayment tokens after November 2024.” 

DA councilor in Msunduzi, Ross Strachan, said the management over the installation of prepaid meters had been a controversy on its own within the beleaguered city. He said in 2015 it was discovered that 95% of prepaid electricity users had illegally connected themselves, and as a result the City’s finances have been bleeding excessively, and continues to bleed as the situation has not improved.

“If we do not deal with the criminality and corruption surrounding this crisis, unfortunately we are throwing money down the drain. The DA will continue to raise this, and it will also be an opportunity for the National Treasury to investigate this saga,” he said.

Theft using prepaid meters not new 

The African Christian Democratic Party in Msunduzi said theft of electricity from prepaid meters was not new in the city. Party councillor Rienus Niemand said the credit control policy clearly stipulated the procedure to be followed when tampering was suspected.

“The procedures have purposefully not been followed by the officials in contravention of their job descriptions … This corruption and mismanagement has brought the City to its knees financially with electricity being allowed to be stolen at such a phenomenal rate.”

Niemand said the meter audit was just another delaying tactic in addressing the problem. “The information at the disposal of the municipality clearly indicates the meters that show no purchases [some from as far back as 2012]. To check the meter and whether it has been bypassed is as simple as can be.

“The policy then prescribes the procedure — disconnection, criminal case for theft, etc.,” said Niemand.

He said that no action had been taken when the meters were audited more than a year ago and found to have been tampered with. He said the recently appointed administrator, Martin Sithole, should take decisive action; apply disciplinary measures to officials guilty of dereliction of duty and act independently in dealing with the situation.

The IFP and EFF in Msunduzi could not be reached for comment.