A number of Port Alfred residents have contacted Talk of the Town about being billed for two months for both water and electricity use, as apparently no readings were taken for a month, and the readings for the latest bill made it appear as though they had used a lot more water and electricity than they normally use over a month.
For water use, this put people into the drought tariff category of use, while for electricity they have been bumped up into a higher use category with higher tariffs.
Some have approached the municipality to rectify this, but the unhelpful response in at least one case was that the meter reader came back just to confirm the reading that he took, which does not account for the fact the reading was for two months rather than one.
Last week, resident Mike Sinclair wrote a letter to Talk of the Town about the issue. He said his latest municipal bill was R1,000 more than any previous month.
“I know that the rates have gone up but on further inspection all is made clear (as mud),” he wrote. “Someone forgot to read the water meter last month, so this month they just took the total for two month which just gives one massive number and was charged at drought water rates.
“So instead of consumption rates 1, 2 or 3 we are now being charged rate 4. There are three people in [my] house and I have been billed for a house of nine.
“My whole street is the same, because someone did not do their job,” Sinclair said.
“I expect the municipality to amend all our accounts over the last two months with the proper water calculations made to mirror the correct water consumption of each month at rate 1, 2 and 3 and not in the higher rate 4 which we would never consume.”
Sinclair was later able to get the municipality to give him a revised bill, deducting R876.85 plus VAT.
Another resident, Jacobus Grove, posted his concerns on Talk of the Town’s Facebook group.
“Unless I don’t understand something, Ndlambe Municipality does not charge electricity in the prescribed tariff blocks: 0-50kwh, 51 – 350kwh, 351 – 600kwh and >600kwh. And if, like in July [there was] no meter reading, then [the] following month the reading pushes you into higher tariff blocks, so you actually pay on average more than you should.”
He advised resident to check their accounts. He said the municipality was charging block 2 tariffs before 50kwh is reached, and block 3 tariffs before 350kwh is reached.
“I believe this is illegal so maybe there is an attorney in Ndlambe who will take legal action against the municipality on a bona fide [pro bono] basis,” Grove said.
He received many responses. Among them, Gerald and Wanda Loxton wrote: “Mine went up to more than double the previous months and when I put in a query the answer was that the readings were accurate. So that was that!”
Hazel Schreiber wrote: “Mine for July and August was R1,000 higher each month. As a retiree am I just expected to dig this extra out of thin air? And as for water I haven’t touched municipal water for over two months and yet am still charged for it.”
TotT sent queries to municipal spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa and finance director Michael Klaas and asked what would be done to correct the overcharging, but we have received no response.