(Check the end of this article for the solution of how to get your new Centlec Account Number)
A very small percentage of us are actually content with service delivery from our local municipalities, so far there seem to be 3 levels of services rendered to the public...kind of, sort of and not at all. It has become common knowledge that many municipalities are bankrupt, you turn on your TV at any given time to find some new protest going on about failure to deliver basic services to the public.
Recently we were met with the news that Centlec is taking over all its billing and finances from The Mangaung Metropolitan in Bloemfontein because (as the pattern goes) the municipality is not performing as desired. Confused about what exactly is going on? You aren't the only one.
If you ever had to go to the Water & Lights (electricity) department of Mangaung Municipality you already have a good idea about how things work. Firstly you couldn't get through on the phone because nobody seems to know that the ringing noise coming from the technological marvel known as the telephone means you have to pick up the receiver and say hello.
So you go to Mangaung Municipality, you enter and among the first things you spot are 50 people in the line, a water cooler that hasn't been cleaned or filled since 2002 and a news slider that still advertises the World Cup 2010 with the words 'this is a demo' flashing in between.
After finally finding out just what you're supposed to do at the information desk, you stand in line for the next hour to reach the front of the line where you are informed that you in fact need another type of form than the one you have in your hand and that you were supposed to bring along some other paper with details that you had no idea you had to bring with.
So you go home, get the other paper ... get the new form from the pile, fill it in and then discover that the line is now 75 people long and that there's just one person left at the counters assisting the customers (the rest have gone on lunch).
The one person left to help people typically looks quite confused by the customer their talking to and in some cases (like when I went there) either forgot their windows logon password or encountered some other form of cataclysmic disaster that forces you to come back the next day. (true story)
Eventually you learn that they can't do anything for you concerning your new account number...figures.
This seems to be how everything works at Mangaung. Combine this with the fun fact that they never actually go out to read your electricity usage meter and instead estimate how much you've used...yeah you can pretty much see why Mangaung can't obtain a clean audit and seem to be confused all the time.
But wait! Then July 2011 rolled around, now we have to pay them 26.53% more for their excellent service. In actual fact, the increases (among others) were not implemented to reward Mangaung for their fine service delivery but instead to pay some new councillors, the number of councillors increased from 86 to 99 and the remuneration for councillors jumped from R18.17 million to R42.5 million (News 24). Yup, we're paying their salaries, that's all the increase is about. They had 86 councillors but decided to make it 99 because they need even more people who can't do their jobs.
They'll sugar coat it by saying they'll make changes and look at certain departments and areas that aren't running at desired levels of efficiency but at the end of the day you never really see any of that do you? You just see people driving around in their expensive cars with their expensive suits and wonder what their getting paid for...
Okay so what is Centlec? Centlec is a municipal subsidiary that acquires electricity from Eskom and then resells it to the public, they've been around since 2004 and so far it's worked...sort of. Some people will argue that Centlec is about as bad as Eskom itself with delivery of service. I've not personally experienced this so I can't really give an opinion but I have seen Eskom at its best and worst and their still hanging in there and trying to manage under the given circumstances.
Centlec and Eskom are sort of the same thing, they give you electricity. Centlec provides services for Naledi, Mohokare, Mantsopa and 24 towns in all within The Freestate, not just Bloemfontein. Now here's another interesting fact, Mangaung owns Centlec. Mangaung handled Centlec's finances and billing, to put it plainly...Mangaung was messing up everything as usual and it didn't work out due to some 'discrepancies'. Centlec split from Mangaung and is now standing entirely on its own. This means Mangaung and Centlec are both being audited separately and are now two different things. You won't pay your electricity bill to Mangaung anymore. Now you have to pay Centlec!
All fine and dandy but you're sitting with a bill from Mangaung and you heard account numbers are going to change. How do you get a new account number? What's going on? Nobody really seems to know, you get some direction when you go to the rather huge and confusing Centlec building but quickly discover the queue you find there isn't going anywhere. So what options are there? What are you supposed to do? Keep reading!
FAQ + Real Help
Bills From Mangaung
Do you still have to pay them? Yes you do. You can pay them as usual until you no longer receive a bill from Mangaung. Failure to pay these bills can result in your electricity being put off within 30 days. Don't panic! Just pay the bill as you always did!
New Account Numbers
All the old account numbers start with a zero (0) or a one (1). New accounts however start with a six (6) or five (5). Apparently Centlec is holding Road Shows in all the areas they supply service to and will provide the public with more information on this but I myself haven't seen one of these Road Shows or heard of one in my area. It's also been said that you can go to any Municipal Pay Point for more information and enquiries...this I've done, they tell you to contact Centlec's Financial Department.
Going To Centlec
Going to Centlec is more complicated than going to Mangaung believe it or not! Aside from the directions being a nightmare you can be prepared to face a hellish line at any given time with only one person who can assist you in the whole building. It's best to take the whole day off work for this, you will not be done quickly and you will have to be there the second the doors open.
Take along everything you might need, your ID, a copy of your ID, your old electricity bill and if it makes you feel better, an extra pen. Centlec is located in Bloemfontein, 30 Rhodes Avenue (-29.127316,26.224279) in the Oranjesig area.
You're supposed to enter at a specific point though, see below!
That's the entrance you're supposed to go to. You sign in at the gate and then they tell you to go find The Financial Department because those are the guys who handle electricity accounts. Great! Where's that? It's down the road, okay bye. Charming.
From the gate where you enter just go straight until you reach the point indicated below.
It's a security gate, Near it should be a friendly security fellow you can wave hello to and if need be ask directions from.
Where you want to be is indicated below.
Head to this area and you'll see parking and the Financial Department clearly marked with a sign and probably a long line coming out the door.
There's a difference between Manguang and Centlec, this being that they actually answer their phones and check their emails. There's another option to follow if you aren't in the mood for going all the way to Centlec.
Do you know where the meter at your house is that counts how many electricity units you've used? If so you can use your cellphone to take a picture of the current reading on the meter. You can then send this picture via fax, email or sms to Centlec to get a new account number! Here's everything you have to include in the fax, email or sms:
- Meter Number
- Meter Reading
- Account Name (Name of the person the account belongs to)
- ID Number
- Physical Address
- Picture of meter + meter reading
- Telephone + Cell Number
In your fax or email you typically should say that you require your new account number from Centlec and that you include within your letter a picture of your meter and the latest reading of the meter. This saves them the effort of having to come to your place to read the meter and saves you having to go to their offices. Needless to say this little option saves everyone a ton of effort.
- You can fax to 051 409 2454
- You can sms to 072 847 4214
Once you receive your new account number and bill you can make payment at any Post Office, any Easy Pay station, Absa or Municipal Pay Point displaying a Centlec sign.
Centlecs banking details are:
Account Holder: Centlec (Pty) Ltd
Account Number: 40 5883 3582
Branch Code: 632005
Reference: (Your new account number or quotation number)
Here are some other useful details regarding Centlec:
Telephone Number: 051 409 2218
Fax Number: 051 409 2366
Time will tell whether Centlec will be more efficient than Mangaung at managing our services but judging by the sheer difficulty of finding information on the process to follow for a new account number, things aren't going to change.
This could have been a very easy cross over process with the proper information issued to the public long in advance. Instead you just got a quick letter giving you no real information or explanation of what to do which left you more confused than informed.
In apparent response to my blog which was also included in the latest WOMF Newsletter, Centlec has sent out the following email in both English & Afrikaans:
Good Morning All
Please be patient if you are not attended to immediately regarding your enquiries. All of us @ Centlec are trying our best to assist clients as quick & effective as possible but unfortunately computer systems are from time to time off line.
Our Finance Department is currently extremely busy assisting clients & updating accounts. We are bombarded with telephone enquiries, walk in clients as well as e-mails.
A meter audit will be done & also ensure that your meter will be read in the future.
And now I bring you the final solution for your Centlec troubles. Here's how you get your new account number once and for all!
You go to Mangaung, that's right. Mangaung! They stepped up to assist the public! Gather your strength and your latest bill from Mangaung and go to the Water & Electricity department inside Mangaung where you can stand in line to get to the Inquiries/Navrae counters. Upon reaching those counters you present your bill and tell the person assisting you that you want to find out what your new Centlec account number is and what the outstanding amount is on your account.
Unless their systems are offline...you will then receive your new account number as well as the amount you need to pay on your new account. You can pay this right there at Mangaung at one of the tellers marked 'Centlec' or you can do an EFT to Centlecs ABSA account. From then onward you can return to Mangaung to find out what you owe on your account monthly until you begin receiving your Centlec bill in the mail or you can take your new account number to a Centlec Paypoint and inquire your balance there.
And that's it. The end of the nightmare...