Municipality to switch billing to online system

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LOUISE CARTER

MUNICIPAL bills which arrive late or not at all are causing distress to Ndlambe residents.

Port Alfred resident Daphne Wilson spoke out about her frustration. She said she had not received any municipal statements in the post for months at a time.

She said having to go to the municipal office every month to enquire about her bill had become a time-consuming inconvenience.

Wilson said she is aware that many other residents receive a bill through the post and has noticed more and more people arrive at the municipal offices enquiring about the same problem.

“I don’t know what I owe most of the time, then I have to go to their office to ask about my account. I’m paying for the service which should include receiving my bill posted to me – not me running after them. But if they don’t get paid, my lights gets switched off,” she said.

Deputy director of finance Michael Klaas said the problem did not lie with Ndlambe Municipality or the service provider used for issuing accounts, but rather with the Post Office.

He told TotT that the statements are printed by the service provider and delivered to the Post Office for mailing. The service provider apparently provides evidence of statements sent to the Post Office for postage.

But there have even been problems with some account statements sent via e-mail.

“There are problems raised with accountholders, we have always engaged the service provider, the response has always been a system generated report reflecting accounts that were not successfully sent,” Klaas said.

“The reason given is that the e-mails are created with fire walls for security reasons. When such problems are brought to our attention, we always send a duplicate statement to affected ratepayers and we continue working with the service provider to eliminate the problem,” he said.

“Given the fact that the service provider is not the sole party responsible for the delivery of the statements, we could only hold them accountable for their role, as far as this is concerned we have done so all the time. The current situation in the Post Office is an open secret, there is not much we can do about it except trying to mitigate its impact.”

Klaas said the municipality is taking measures to address these problems such as adding a billing module to their data cleansing/geospatial system to enable accountholders to view their account online as well as to e-mail the accounts in-house and to do necessary follow ups to ensure successful delivery to the destinations.

He added that the municipality hopes this action will improve emailed accounts delivery rate. “We will still experience problems with posted accounts but when we are ready to use the module, we will persuade ratepayers with access to emails to consider migrating to the emailed option to reduce late delivered accounts,” he said.

According to Klaas implementation of the online account system is about to happen in a months’ time, and communication will be sent to advise ratepayers on the progress made and what is expected from them to link to the system.

Klaas agreed that it was not fair for ratepayers living in remote areas to have to commute back and forth to follow up on bills.

In terms of late payments of accounts, Klaas said that the interest charges will only be reversed on accounts if there is a reasonable and accepted non-payment reason.

 

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