QCOSTARICA – Perhaps you weren’t one of the thousands affected by the mistakes in billing by the water utility, the Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA), months back and still far from being resolved.
If you will recall, many got water bills many, many times their normal. Yours truly was one of them. In my case, the bills, 3 times my normal consumption was never settled, still outstanding with an end date of December 31, 2020, despite my filing of two complaints.
Perhaps you know someone, a friend, relative, a neighbor, given that the AyA has had to readjust receipts for 240,513 customers with amounts ranging from less than a thousand colones to up to ¢5 million.
There is a subgroup whose adequate amounts were the highest (between one million and five million colones), amounts not even fathomable.
Consumers were to blame for the high amounts, that in some cases continue to appear, on water bills during the pandemic. They consumed more. The hydrometer measured what was really consumed; others had not noticed the new taxes on water consumption.
Those are the arguments being made by the utility today. A sharp contrast to their accpeting months ago that due to not checking meters during the first two months of the pandemic, there was an overbilling.
But there was, is not a single person responsible for the disorder and anxiety caused, many already suffering the economic ravages of the pandemic.
This is established by an AyA Internal Audit report. In this same report, an official corroborates that the institution has not complied with the regulations for calculating consumption by averages.
This non-compliance with the regulations and others that have been pointed out by the Regulatory Authority of Public Services (Aresep), which in fact is preparing sanction against AyA for its illegal practices, to the detriment of consumers.
Of coruse, some members of the AyA Board of Directors are not satisfied with the result of the Audit. And they made it known to the president of the institution, Yamileth Astorga.
However, Astorga stands firm that there were no errors in billing.
“No, what mistakes?” replied Astorga when asked about the situation, despite being reminded publicly by board member Roxana Salazar.
Salazar’s directive reminded Astorga that Aresep pointed out a series of errors and mistakes, such as calculating the consumption of the same customer in consecutive months, instead of going to the houses to check the meters. Or, make consumption calculations based on six months and not 12, as established by the regulations.
Astorga evaded the Aresep data and said “we are talking about the Internal Audit report, where are the errors?”
Non-compliance with AyA when it comes to averaging consumption is evident in the report. But the text also indicates that there are irregular situations for which the cause is not clear.
Utilities will use averaging when meters can’t be read, for example, they do not have access or as was in the first months of the pandemic. Other utilities, such as ICE and the CNFL did the same.
In my case, my electrical bill from the CNFL was double the normal for two consecutive months (April and May). Given the pandemic rule of not cutting service, knowing well how the system works, I did not pay the two months. My June bill was only ¢4,000 colones, the July about half of my normal consumption, to normal in August. That is when I paid the four oustanding months, working itself out.
But that has not been the case with the AyA, whose, Manuel Salas, acknowledges that still – seven months after the pandemic began – there were “strange cases” and clients who had not entered the collection system because their problem had not been solved.
As I mentioned earlier, the AyA resolution to my complaint is to put it off. Maybe, they think, I will not notice and pay it come January. They are wrong.