Concern over BCC billing system

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) finance department has been implored to improve its billing system as residents continue to receive exorbitant monthly bills.

Residents have been complaining of abnormal monthly bills and at one time called for the abolishment of the billing system.  

In an interview with CITE, a resident Newton Mutandi said the bills they have been receiving of late are exorbitant and they pay at least US$75 a month despite the fact that they use borehole water. 

Mutandi said the bills they pay and the services that are rendered by the local authority do not match.

“Every month I am shocked by the bill we receive from the council. When we look at the money we pay and the services we get do not tally. In our household we are only two, we both spend the day at work which means we don’t use much water but the bill always comes to around US$70 a month,” he said.

“For the past two months, I have been sending my meter readings but I haven’t really seen much difference. Can the city council take these readings seriously and charge people according to their usage? This will help people to pay their rates confidently, right now they have lost trust in the city council.

Another resident Semukele Mpofu said her bills have been averaging $60 a month and in December she submitted her readings to check if the charges would get better.

“The bill I receive every month is ridiculous. I stay with my sister and we spend the day at work. There is only one tenant at our house who also spends the day at work. It is only on weekends when we spend the day at home. Besides laundry, there is nothing much we could say we use bulk water for,” she said.

“In December we took our meter reading to the city council but since then we have not yet received our bill. Last week we submitted the January reading. We hope that the next bill will be realistic.”

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) Executive Council Secretary for Administration, Themeblani Dube, said the amounts charged are unrealistic considering that some residents in some wards still go for days without water. 

“Through estimations, BCC is mistreating its residents. The money they are charging is unrealistic. A resident from Manningdale once shared with me a bill of over ZWL$450k, that is daylight robbery. There is a pegged bill that they put for both the Eastern and Western suburbs. They had better use that and cross-rate it to RTGS, it would be more reasonable. Some residents do not even have water several days of the week,” Dube said.

Dube said they have supplied residents with council contact details they can use to send their meter readings and check their account balances.

“We have encouraged residents to normalise taking their own meter readings and send them to BCC. There are WhatsApp numbers they can use to send their meter readings and check their accounts. For meter readings, they can send to +263 71 334 7319 and for account balances, they can send to +263 77 466 8432,” he said.  

“We really encourage them to be proactive and to avoid these bills. BCC must stop this conduct with immediate effect. Of course they have been doing estimates for a long time but of late the discrepancies are too much. The bills they issue are abnormal. They need to find ways to issue correct statements and also issue them monthly.”

At the latest full council meeting, Cllr Rodney Jele reiterated that the finance department needs to ensure that it bills residents correctly.

“Now that the budget has been approved, may the finance department please start billing residents correctly. We no longer want to hear of the mistakes that you have been making. Many people do their work accordingly because residents are not amused by the incorrect and abnormal bills,” he said.

Bulawayo Mayor, Cllr Solomon Mguni, concurred with Cllr Jele, noting that residents have been getting inflated bills that are way above what they must pay.

“In my ward in Nkulumane, you would not expect to receive an abnormal bill after missing payments for a month or two. You can’t have a bill of around ZWL$ 40 000 translating to ZWL$120 000. May the finance committee see to it that this issue is addressed with immediate effect,” said Cllr Mguni. 

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