P­re­paid e­lec­tri­ci­ty u­sers for­ced to pay debt

Graaff-Reinet Advertiser - - Voorblad -

Re­si­dents who are in ar­re­ars with their mu­ni­ci­pal ac­counts and use p­re­paid e­lec­tri­ci­ty are in for a shock w­hen they next pur­cha­se po­wer.

The mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty is now de­ducting 40% of the a­mount ten­de­red for po­wer and ta­king it to­wards the sett­le­ment of the debt. T­his will ap­ply to re­si­dents in all towns in the Dr Bey­ers Nau­dé Lo­cal Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

A fu­ro­re e­rup­ted on so­ci­al me­dia last Wed­nes­day e­ve­ning w­hen one i­ra­te re­si­dent pos­ted on a lo­cal tra­ding si­te a­bout her ex­pe­rien­ce w­hen buying pre-paid e­lec­tri­ci­ty. She paid R100 at a lo­cal out­let and on­ly re­cei­ved 38.1 u­nits inste­ad of the ex­pected 63.4 u­nits.

On in­specting the slip, she no­ti­ced an ar­re­ar col­lecti­on char­ge of R40, which cau­sed con­si­de­ra­ble con­fu­si­on i­ni­ti­al­ly as “how can a PRE-PAID me­ter be in ar­re­ars?”

Af­ter so­me dis­cus­si­on, a copy of a no­ti­ce, is­su­ed by the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, was pos­ted on the si­te, and it be­ca­me cle­ar that the ar­re­ars con­cer­ned would be for wa­ter, ra­tes or ot­her ser­vi­ce char­ges.

The no­ti­ce, sig­ned by the Mu­ni­ci­pal Ma­na­ger Dr Ed­ward Rankwa­na, sta­ted that all pre-pay­ment u­sers we­re ad­vi­sed that the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty is de­ducting 40% from pre-pay­ment sa­les to sett­le ar­re­ar mu­ni­ci­pal ac­counts.

“T­he­re­fo­re, if you pur­cha­se e­lec­tri­ci­ty for R100, you will be is­su­ed with e­lec­tri­ci­ty for R60, and the R40 will be cre­di­ted to your ar­re­ar ac­counts,” ex­plai­ned Dr Rankwa­na in the no­ti­ce. Ap­pa­rent­ly, the sy­stem was tes­ted on 12 No­vem­ber (pre­su­ma­bly success­ful­ly, ac­cor­ding to the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s cri­te­ria) and is now being im­ple­men­ted.

The no­ti­ce con­clu­ded by en­coura­ging re­si­dents in the Dr Bey­ers Nau­dé Lo­cal Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty who are af­fected by t­his, to vi­sit their lo­cal re­ve­nue de­part­ment to ma­ke the ne­ces­sa­ry ar­ran­ge­ment to pay all ar­re­ars.

T­his ex­pla­na­ti­on did not sa­tisfy the re­si­dent con­cer­ned, as she was a­da­mant that her ac­count was up to da­te. W­hen con­tacted by the Graaff-rei­net Ad­ver­ti­ser last T­hurs­day, the la­dy said she had vi­si­ted the re­ve­nue de­part­ment, and was told that the sy­stem had not re­con­ci­led a pay­ment and that the de­ducti­on was, in fact, an er­ror. It would seem from the dis­cus­si­on on so­ci­al me­dia that t­his er­ror has al­so af­fected ma­ny ot­her ra­te­pay­ers. One re­si­dent com­men­ted that he won­de­red how ma­ny ot­her in­no­cent pe­op­le ha­ve been af­fected, but had not no­ti­ced the dis­cre­pan­cy.

W­hen the Ad­ver­ti­ser sub­mit­ted furt­her que­s­ti­ons on the mat­ter, acting com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons of­fi­cer Wil­ca S­mith re­spon­ded, on be­half on the mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger, that t­his per­cen­ta­ge de­ducti­on will on­ly be im­ple­men­ted if the mu­ni­ci­pal ac­count is in ar­re­ars for 30 days.

The re­spon­se al­so sta­ted that the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty had al­re­a­dy sent let­ters of de­mand to all af­fected con­su­mers, and is in the pro­cess of sen­ding out fi­nal de­mands. She ad­ded that le­gal acti­on will then be ta­ken should the con­su­mer not ma­ke ar­ran­ge­ments to pay or sett­le their debt.

A­not­her re­si­dent who had the sa­me ex­pe­rien­ce of mo­ney being sub­trac­ted for debt, ad­mit­ted that her ac­count ac­tu­al­ly is in ar­re­ars, but is a­da­mant that she had re­cei­ved no let­ter of de­mand from the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

No­ti­ces a­bout the de­ducti­ons for ac­count ar­re­ars ha­ve been put up at the pay­ment points in the mu­ni­ci­pal of­fi­ces, but the ma­jo­ri­ty of cu­s­to­mers que­s­ti­o­ned on t­his still did not un­der­stand why they had not re­cei­ved the full a­mount of e­lec­tri­ci­ty they had paid for.

S­mith con­fir­med that on­ly tho­se con­su­mers who buy their e­lec­tri­ci­ty from the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty are af­fected by t­his debt col­lecti­on. Tho­se who buy their po­wer di­rect­ly from E­s­kom, e­ven if their mu­ni­ci­pal ac­counts are in ar­re­ars, can­not ha­ve mo­ney de­ducted to­wards the­se debts.

It is well kno­wn that the Dr Bey­ers Nau­dé Lo­cal Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty (BNLM) is in debt to E­s­kom to the tu­ne of o­ver R30m, and just a month ago E­s­kom is­su­ed a di­re di­recti­ve that so­me towns in cer­tain mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties (in­clu­ding BNLM) would ha­ve their e­lec­tri­ci­ty sup­ply wit­hheld for long pe­ri­ods of the day, star­ting from 30 Oc­to­ber, if no pay­ment ar­ran­ge­ments we­re ma­de by the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

At the last mi­nu­te, BNLM ca­me to an agreement with E­s­kom, and the thre­at was re­mo­ved, and it is as­su­med that t­his ar­re­ars col­lecti­on pen­al­ty is part of the re­co­ve­ry of ar­re­ar mu­ni­ci­pal debt - in­deed, t­his is the tit­le of the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s do­cu­ment.

W­hat has rai­sed the ire of most pe­op­le is the lack of war­ning and no­ti­fi­ca­ti­on of t­his ar­re­ars col­lecti­on pro­cess, and que­s­ti­ons ha­ve been rai­sed as to the le­ga­li­ty of ta­king mo­ney in­ten­ded for one ser­vi­ce and u­sing it to re­pay a­not­her debt.

T­he­re­fo­re, if you pur­cha­se e­lec­tri­ci­ty for R100, you will be is­su­ed with e­lec­tri­ci­ty for R60, and the R40 will be cre­di­ted to your ar­re­ar ac­counts.

The bad­ly van­da­li­sed Graaff-rei­net rai­l­way sta­ti­on buil­ding.

Trans­net plans to de­mo­lish the old Graaff-rei­net rai­l­way sta­ti­on buil­ding.

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