15 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Estimate Bills to Stay, Says Zesa Chief

CONSUMERS will have to endure estimated bills until pre-paid meters are installed because Zesa Holdings has no capacity to issue actual bills.

Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri said on Tuesday that the best solution was

for consumers to read the meters on their own and bring the figures to their offices.

He said the power utility's meter readers could only visit a premise after three months.

Eng Chinembiri said with more than 600 000 registered customers countrywide, it was impossible for meter readers to read all the meters within a month.

"If you look at it, we have a customer base of over 600 000 and it is impossible to read all those meters in a month," he said.

"The billing system that we have allows us to estimate for three consecutive months."

Estimated bills irk customers who view them as exorbitant and refuse to settle them. A number of consumers owe thousands of dollars arising from estimated bills.

Eng Chinembiri said to come up with an estimate, they calculate a client's average consumption from the previous meter reading.

"If one has an estimated bill, when an actual meter reading is taken, it will adjust automatically to the correct meter reading," he said.

"Maybe we will be underpaid and we have to be paid more or we were being overpaid and we have to credit whatever that was being overcharged." Zesa should be billing at least one million properties, but it cannot account for nearly 500 000 other consumers

Some estimates, Eng Chinembiri said, were caused by customers not giving meter readers access to their premises.

"They do not give meter readers access to their homes because their gates will be locked and when estimated bills are sent, they cry foul," he said.

"If you feel that your meter has not been read consecutively, you can bring it to our offices and they can use that figure you would have brought as long as it will be tallying with the last recording.

"When meter readers come, there are forms that they can leave you for self meter reading and people should utilise them."

A poor billing system has also seen Zesa failing to gather correct records of properties developed by housing co-operatives and residents who are subdividing their residential stands.

When some of the properties are connected to the main power line, Zesa takes over a year to issue new consumers with account numbers for billing purposes.

On pre-paid meters, Eng Chinembiri said the programme had been extended to Chinhoyi and Gweru.

The meters are already being installed in Harare and Bulawayo.

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