HARARE residents are crying foul over the “shambolic” billing system used by the city council which has seen rate-payers “accumulating” exorbitant bills for services they would not have been rendered, Harare Residents’ Trust director Precious Shumba has said.
Shumba told NewsDay yesterday that several residents had approached the trust raising concern over the unjustifiable bills they were receiving. He said the trust suspected that the city was deliberately extorting money.
“What we have realised is that the problem could be emanating from the shambolic billing system used by the city, which is a deliberate ploy to extort money from residents,” he said.
Shumba said they had so far received more than 200 reports from residents, but they were dealing with each case on its merit before referring the aggrieved ratepayers to the municipality for possible redress.
He urged the council to resort to the old system where the due date for payment was the 7th of each month and not the last day to allow residents, many of whom are in the informal sector, time to honour their obligations.
He said although there were no problems with power utility Zesa, the major issues related to inconsistent load-shedding and the manipulation of the pre–paid system.
“The current billing system is open to manipulation by City Treasury officials and other senior managers who have unhindered access to the system’s servers,” he said.
Shumba said residents had raised complaints of being short-changed after receiving power supplies that did not tally with the pre–payments they would have made.
The city’s director of water Christopher Zvobgo has since indicated that they would embark on a pilot project to install pre-paid water meters for a more efficient billing system.
“We want to introduce pre-paid water meters and we will soon roll out a pilot project. If we install pre-paid meters, then consumers can manage their own consumption, doing away with the billing system,” he said.