13 April 2017

Namibia: Windhoek Encourages Self-Reading Facility to Avoid Bill Disputes

Windhoek — The City of Windhoek (CoW), in an effort to improve service delivery and satisfy customer needs, has introduced a self-reading SMS facility whereby residents of the capital can self-register to submit their water and electricity meter readings via SMS from the comfort of their own homes.

This service, which is however not available for Time of Use (ToU) meters, as these are automated, allows clients to submit their own monthly water and or electricity meter readings via SMS. Once registered, clients are required and obliged to provide monthly readings between the 20th and 30th of each month to avoid utility consumption being estimated.

"Firstly, it is important to highlight that the City of Windhoek is not discontinuing or phasing out the metering reading services. Our meter reading section will still continue to read the meters in the city. Self-meter reading is, therefore, meant for clients whose properties are inaccessible by our meter readers, for one reason or the other.

"Self-meter readings are very convenient to both the City and its clients, in the sense that sometimes due to various factors - such as inaccessibility to the meter - the consumption of the client is estimated and this leads to disputes when it comes to payment.

"Another important factor to consider is the fact that, especially now that we are facing a water shortage, and water is mostly lost through undetected leaks, it is therefore important for clients to continue monitoring their meters," CoW spokesperson Lydia Amutenya explained.

She added that the municipality does in fact still employ meter readers, who take readings throughout the capital, but they are faced with challenges of non-accessible properties, thus the initiative of self-meter reading is encouraged. In total, the CoW has 20 meter readers and five inspectors.

According to Amutenya, estimated utility readings are always adjusted accordingly as soon as confirmed readings are available and clients are then credited accordingly.

"What happens with estimation is that the system looks at the client's past consumption rate and estimates the next consumption if the readings are not available. There is no way that the client is just estimated throughout. There will be a point where readings will be taken and adjustment is done accordingly," Amutenya explained.

She advised residents to embrace the self reading meter facility to avoid disagreements over payments. However, Amutenya cautioned CoW clients that even when they are registered as self-meter readers, that the CoW conducts a meter reading audit to ensure readings provided by clients are a true reflection of what has gone through the meter.

Furthermore, if a client disputes their bill, it is always advisable to get clarity from the city's client account enquiries department for further explanation of what they are being charged for.

"The City of Windhoek can only sustainably supply the services when these services are paid for. In other words, we can only fulfill our mandate of providing efficient and effective services to our residents, provided the residents pay for such services.

"Therefore, failure to timely pay your account has an impact on our services delivery.

Non-settled accounts are disconnected. However, the client should not wait for the service to be disconnected, but should settle it on time," Amutenya advised.

The City has meanwhile disseminated a public notice explaining exactly how the self-reading meter facility works.

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