City’s e-mail billing chaos

The Msunduzi billing nightmare is far from over. After months of not e-mailing statements to its customers, Msunduzi has resumed the programme but in many instances accounts did not reach the rightful owners as they were sent to wrong addresses.

Some astounded residents received not only their own bill but multiple others intended for other recipients.

The Witness has reported extensively on the City’s billing problems with many residents fearing electricity disconnections if they were alleged to be in arrears. Others have complained that they were not receiving their monthly accounts and struggling to get printouts when they go to the municipal offices. The blame for the billing chaos has mostly fallen on the R90 million Systems, Application and Products (SAP) financial system.

Msunduzi, which issues some 130 000 invoices monthly, stopped e-mailing statements, without prior request from customers, last year.

The contract with the service provider that was e-mailing statements to about 18 000 people monthly had expired and there were delays in awarding the new tender. This week several customers were surprised to see their statements in their inbox.

Megan Williams Nicol wrote on Face­book: “I’m very impressed ... I got mine via e-mail this month and didn’t even have to ask”.

Alastair Farrington said it was the first time since he moved to his house in 2003 that the City e-mailed his statement. “I always got it through the post and I’ve never asked them [Msunduzi] to e-mail it to me so it was unexpected. But I received eight different accounts,” he added. “One is mine and the others are for people I even don’t know,” he said.

Farrington lives in Prestbury but the other accounts that were e-mailed to him are for people living in Vulindlela and Northdale. “This is wrong. This is confidential information that the municipality is e-mailing to other people and the rightful owners of these accounts are not even aware that this is happening,” he said.

On the accuracy of information on his statement, Some city residents received several municipal statements — some belonging to people s entries delayed was a balance brought forward of more than R12 000. He said last month the municipality changed his meter as it was faulty and then nearly caught fire.

“Last month I paid R3 300 in full and since then I haven’t seen a meter reader so they are obviously thumbsucking this amount … There are only four people living in the house and we are not here during the day,” he said.

He said he hoped the City has not e-mailed his statement to other people as well because it contained personal information. Another Msunduzi resident, Kate Hoole, was also surprised when the municipality e-mailed a statement to her, in addition to four others belonging to other people.

“I’ve never received my statement by e-mail so when I got it I thought maybe they decided to start using e-mail because there have been issues with the post office,” she said.

She also received a statement for someone who lives in Northdale, another one for someone from Vulindlela and two belonging to a resident in Otto’s Bluff Road. Hoole has no connection with the people whose statements were sent to her.

Bruce Giles, who has lived in the UK for more than six years, was e-mailed three bills for people and properties he said he had never heard of.

“There are three people that now won’t have bills,” he said. He got statements for people living in Fairmead and Oribi.