BCMM online, but systems are ‘offline’
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) re-launched their self-help online platform for rate accounts last month. However, ratepayers lament that it is always offline.
Lisa Stewart from Beacon Bay receives her rate account by post and via email. Most BCMM citizens would consider her ‘privileged’ because she receives her account on time every month.
However, being online has not meant that Stewart has a hassle-free system. In fact the Municipality disconnects her services regularly, even though she pays, on time every month via electronic funds transfer (EFT).
These are the perks of modern technology, working to make our lives easier and smoother. The online platform was introduced because of failure by the South African Post Office to deliver accounts on time, to the detriment of ratepayers.
The new system will see ratepayers getting their accounts via email, and they can also register on-line to access their accounts via the web to avoid costly delays. But, what is the use, if it already does not have benefits? “We have been experiencing delays by the Post Office in the delivery of the accounts. BCMM posts accounts at least ten days before the payment due date. Every month proof of receipt from the SAPO is received (Bulk Delivery Note). And yet, residents complain of not receiving their accounts,” said Samkelo Ngwenya, spokesperson for the Metro.
Despite being a current user of this electronic system, Stewart’s electricity has been disconnected a few times and she has been threatened twice by the Metro, claiming that she is not up to date with her payments.
Often, they simply deposit money back into her account claiming she has overpaid them.
BCMM continues threatening to disconnect her services when they are unable to keep track of her payments. With that said, technology suddenly does not sound so wonderful, at least not for Stewart and BCMM.
For years, Buffalo City Metro residents have been frustrated by irregularities in their rate accounts, from being late and being inaccurate, leading to disconnections of electricity and water supply due to arrear debt. There is a 14-day pre-termination that is sent to the customer prior to disconnection, according to the Metro. In addition, BCMM claims that they message account balances when the accounts are processed and send a reminder message before the due date. Customers are encouraged to supply their active cellular phone numbers to BCMM.
According to Buhlebendalo Simanga of Southernwood, he has tried the online platforms and has had no joy. “It’s laughable, it’s always offline every time I try it. I have not been able to connect not even once this year.” A citizen recently wrote on BCMM’s platform, “Please tell us why we have no rate accounts, not even on line. My online request which, according to the website “will be answered shortly” is still ignored, three days later. Phones are not answered; this is a complete and utter disgrace”.
Ngwenya labelled this a misconception, saying, “calls are received daily and any downtime is identified and dealt with within a reasonable timeframe.”