AN amnesty initiative will see Msunduzi Municipality bagging about a quarter of a billion rands while residents and businesses alike will also cash in by receiving huge discounts to their debts as part of a drive to clean system-based municipal data while ridding itself of illegal connections and tampering, which is a huge financial burden to the city.
The initiative will run over a threemonth period between 15 October and 15 January and will also be open to council staff members and councilors but not government departments. This is targeting customers who have breached municipal bylaws and policies, customers who are enjoying municipal services but are not paying for them, those who are not in the billing system and customers who have unresolved disputes. This will apply to all debts as at 30 June 2018.
The application process is a two-stage one when the customer will initially be issued with a short form to apply by providing their contact details and the nature of the amnesty they are applying for. A system-generated reference number will be sent to the customer in order to initiate the second stage where a customer will have to provide greater detail in order for their application to be analysed in detail, packaged and sent to various business units for purposes of rectification and finalization. Once all the information has been captured, rectified and all payments made and agreements signed, only then will the amnesty be signed.
The areas that the amnesty will cover are limited to Electricity, Water & Sanitation and Finance Revenue Sub Units. While the municipality tried to also incorporate the Traffic Department for traffic fines, the process proved to be taking longer than expected as the ultimate decision needs to be made by the Director of Public Prosecution since the matters would have been handed over to the Justice Department for purposes of issuing summons and prosecution.
The good news is that it is not only the defaulters that will benefit from the initiative as customers who are in good standing will be offered financial incentives for their consistent and reliable paying practices.
The mere fact that a customer has been granted amnesty does not mean that this is the end as it comes with terms and conditions as the amnesty can still be revoked due to, amongst other reasons, non-compliance. Because each customer that is granted amnesty will have to sign a 5-year agreement in order to enforce a culture of paying for services received or utilized, this is a conditional amnesty for the duration of the contract period. This is why the amnesty will only be granted once all the information required has been furnished and signed as any half-done process will result in the non-approval of the application.
The council, together with its administration, has vowed to do its best to ensure that the process is hassle-free and nonarduous. All customers have been cautioned that following the finalization of the process, an audit will be carried out to determine which defaulters did not take advantage of the amnesty in order to ensure that the council’s credit policy is fully implemented without fear or favour and indiscriminately so.
While the success of this initiative relies on full participation by all residents and businesses that are being targeted, it also relies on the necessary resources being deployed in order to ensure that this is a resounding success. This entails that municipal stuff that deals with queries regarding the initiative, whether through the call-centre or through customer services, are fully equipped with all the information and resources to services customers.
Key to dealing with customers is the principle of Batho Pele, which seeks to put the needs of the customer first as well as problem-solving skills and requisite skills consistent with the financial nature of the process. The municipality will not be going on an extensive recruitment drive for this initiative but will make use of resources from various functional units.