Water & Electricity Meter Audit – Your Safety, Residents Rights & Sol Plaatje’s right to access.
On 2 June 2015 alarmed residents asked on WhatsApp groups about persons in safety vests (field agents) asking for access into private houses to take photographs of the house as well and water and electricity meters. The field agents had no ID cards or letters identifying them as working for or contracted to the municipality. The field agents claimed to be on orders from Sol Plaatje Municipality, but residents who contacted the municipal call centre were initially informed that there was no knowledge of the field agents. Kimberley City Portal (KCP) went out to investigate, and found four of the field agents in the Streets of El Toro Park.
When asked for identification or an Authorization letter from Sol Plaatje Municipality we were informed that they have not been issued with any by the company who are employing them. They did however show KCP the data capturing application on the Samsung Smart Devices they carried, with a Boffin & Fundi logo on the main screen.
While speaking to the field agents, Thoko Riet, of the Sol Plaatje communications department, also arrived. After numerous calls to the Municipality, Thoko Riet managed to obtain verification that Boffin & Fundi was contracted by Sol Plaatje Municipality for a data gathering project. We also left a number and a request for contact with the field agents.
We requested that the Municipality only allow the contracted company to continue with the data gathering after residents have been informed and educated on the project, and the field agents have been supplied with valid ID cards and authorization letters from the Municipality, especially since requiring or encouraging residents to allow unidentifiable individuals into their house create grave security risks which can be exploited by criminal elements.
Later on the same day a representative of Boffin & Fundi contacted us. He apologized for the fact that the field agents were sent out before ID Cards and authorization letters were supplied by the municipality, that he was on his way to a meeting with the Sol Plaatje CFO to resolve these issues and to ensure residents are informed of the project.
At that time Kimberley City Portal published an information notice on Facebook. The content of the Kimberley City Portal information notice was also picked up by the DFA and extracts were published as part of an article on June 3. The DFA also stated in the Article that the CFO of the Municipality, Lydia Mahloko, would issue a statement on 3 June 2015.
On Monday Morning, 8 June still no information in regards with the project was send by the municipality, and residents again asked about unidentified persons moving through Beaconsfield taking photos of water meters and electricity boxes. One resident claimed that the field agents did not produce ID’s or a letter of authorization when they entered his neighbour’s premises.
After KCP again pointed out on Social Media that Sol Plaatje has not yet provided information on the project as promised, information was finally released.
Now that details have been made available and the field agents have been equipped with ID cards and authorization letters, we recommend that residents work with Boffin & Fundi to complete this project on bettering the municipalities billing system for water & electricity. Residents still have the right to allow access at reasonable times and if needed with reasonable notice. When possible please allow the field agents immediate access, but if not read below about the Rights of Access by the Municipality and it’s agents as well as the rights of residents.
Information released yesterday by Sol Plaatje Municipality
Sol Plaatje Municipality confirmed that a Gauteng based company, Boffin & Fundi (Pty) Ltd, has been appointed to provide Meter Audit and Data Cleansing services to Sol Plaatje Municipality over the next Four months. Boffin & Fundi is assisting the municipality to ensure that billing systems are accurate, accounts are sent out to residents, and follow-ups are made to collect revenue owed. This project will enable Sol Plaatje Municipality to understand the status meter reading challenges, as a step towards identifying existing gaps/errors in the billing data. This will in turn contribute to a clean and reliable billing database, which is a vital part in the optimisation of revenue generation from municipal services rendered. This audit entails a ‘field’ verification of the data that Sol Plaatje Municipality use to collect revenue.
‘Field agents’ will go into the communities to physically collect and verify data from residents.
The field agents will be identified by an identification card which will consist of the name and surname of the agent, an ID number, the logo of the municipality, the logo of Boffin & Fundi, and contact details for verification. The field agents will be dressed in formal attire, carrying a clip-board and a Meter Reading Device.
Most importantly, they will have an Authorisation Letter from Sol Plaatje Municipality in their possession, which they will present upon request.
Residents who are not satisfied with the above or have further questions can contact the municipality on the landline and cell phone numbers provided on the letter.
Your and the Municipalities Rights
Many residents have enquired if they can refuse the field agents access to their primes or houses. Below are extracts, summaries and a “use at your own risk” general interpretation of the By Laws governing access by Sol Plaatje Municipality & it’s agents in regards with water and electricity services. To obtain a formal opinion on your rights we recommend that you contact a lawyer or attorney for a professional legal opinion.
Public view of your property.
Anyone can take a photo of your house from a public street or sidewalk.
Your water meter has to be accessible to the municipality or it’s agents and should be located in a publicly accessible area, thus they may take a photo of the meter at any time.
Prepaid Electricity Meters
Regarding entrance to your premises and the inside of your house according the Sol Plaatje Municipal Electricity By-Law of 2006
– The Municipality or its agents may enter and inspect the electrical installation and meter after the municipality gave you reasonable notice by way of a written notice specifying the date and time as well as reason, intend and extend of the access. If it is to take a photo of the prepaid electrical meter, you may ensure that only a photo of said equipment is taken and not of any other private areas of your property.
What this come down to, is that they may enter your private residence or place of business to take photos of the metering equipment, but they cannot arrive at any time without notice and require you to give access at that time. They may however give you reasonable and fair written notice of when you HAVE to be there to give access.
If access at the time when the field agents arrive is not possible or inconvenient, we recommend that you try come to an amicable arrangement for a convenient time, and avoid the necessity of a written notice.
Residents are warned that any situation which requires right of access to their homes can easily be exploited by opportunistic criminals. When individuals arrive at your house, idenditifying themselves as field agents of this project, ask for their ID cards as well as the letter of authorization issued by Sol Plaatje Municipality, before allowing access. If you are not satisfied with the credentials call Sol Plaatje Municipality and confirm the specific credentials provided. We are waiting on SPM to confirm the numbers published on the authorization letter, as numbers printed on a letter handed to you can be falsified.
For future reference we recommend that you use your cell phone to take a clear picture of the credentials and the authorization letter.
Source & CreditsToday’s follow up article in the DFA
Sol confirms meter readers
PATSY BEANGSTROM NEWS EDITOR
Jun 9 2015
THE SOL Plaatje Municipality (SPM) has confirmed that the company, Boffin & Fundi, has been appointed to conduct meter audits and data cleansing services. This follows a flurry of concerns when workers from the company recently approached city…read more…
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Thoko Riet & Sello Matsie from the Sol Plaatje Municipality Communications Department.