The Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) has received an unprecedented number of questions and complaints about incorrect water billing within the Buffalo City Metro and we were asked not only to assist in correcting these errors, but also to find out what exactly is going wrong.
So, the starting point was to find out who has issues and this list is never ending. To date we have worked on and resolved 89 disputes which resulted in a total of R556 516.80 being credited back to our members. We are now currently working on another two disputes which we hope to resolve shortly. The BKCOB is also always open to assisting more companies and citizens to obtain their correct water readings.
The question now is what is going wrong with the billing system? BCMM has implemented water restrictions and consumption above a certain rate will attract a higher punitive tariff which has been designed to try curb excessive water use. This is urgently needed at the moment because of low water levels in our dams so there can be no argument here. Attention should also however be paid to water losses where it was estimated, from the Buffalo City Unaudited Annual Financial Statement for the year ended 30 June 2020, that the city is losing about 36.31% of its water. This figure is very high and a focused attempt must be made to identify and very quickly rectify and leaking taps or pipe that distribute water in the metro.
Efforts were then applied into finding out exactly what is creating the issue with incorrect water billing. The answer to this question is however quite hard to pin point because there are multiple areas which seem to be culminating into the outcome of incorrect water readings and billing. The areas that are creating the problem can be attributed to there being two service providers within the city that are involved in metering and it is not clear if their two separate systems are not integrated with each other. This is why some customers may be receiving two different account amounts. There are then remote readings that can be taken versus physical reading and this is where human errors could start creeping in. Metering and then billing also seems to be operating in separate silos and where the transfer of data takes place, there may be an integration issue there.
The number of legacy systems combined with transfers of data and digital versus physical are quite clearly creating a problem which is hard to resolve. It is therefore the recommendation of the BKCOB for a systems and process flow audit to be conducted by BCMM starting from verified water consumption at the point of a customer’s meter though to the capturing of the data and transfer to the billing system. It is hoped that through this exercise the exact water consumption figures will be realised and the appropriate charges will be applied. This exercise would hopefully also detect areas which need to be improved and modified to ensure the system runs with 100% accuracy at all times.