Retrieve of Mghebrishvili – “Have You Already Paid Communal Bills?!”
Nona Kvlividze, Kviris Palitra
Tbilisi residents will have a new problem in the near future. If they are late to pay at least one communal bill, the electricity supply will be cut off. For example, if you accumulate arrears on a water bill, “Telasi” (Tbilisi Electricity Distribution Company) will express solidarity with the Tbilisi Water Company and leave you in darkness.
The same rule works for cleaning bills. The parliament of Georgia passed resolution on October 1 and ordered the Georgian Energy Regulation National Commission (GERNC) to create a corresponding institution which will administer communal bills. The general administration does not cover the bill of natural gas yet.
Several days ago, GERNC selected the administrator. The commission ordered the “Telasi” and “Energo-Pro” (the latter supplies the recently adjoined territories to Tbilisi with electricity) to impose fines on subscribers. These companies have the largest base of subscribers. The energy distribution companies will receive reimbursement for this service.
However, it is not clear yet as to how much will be paid to the “Telasi” and “Energo-Pro.” The energy distribution companies do not speak about it and state that their lawyers negotiate the technical issues with the common administrator.
Further, there is no clarification as to why the parliament decided to increase the severity of the law. The legislative body blames the GERNC. However, without a doubt, the regulation commission is not the initiator of this amendment. They, like the parliament, were ordered to introduce amendments to the law on electricity and gas supply by the government. There are several Georgian Members of Parliament who are against increasing the severity of the law but it could not delay the process.
Representatives of Tbilisi Water and Power state that the administration according to the new rules was not introduced based on their decision, but was a decision made by GERNC. However, it is also clear that Tbilisi Water Company has great difficulty collecting old debts from the population. Since their subscribers do not have water-meters, the company cannot cut off their water supply. In fact, part of the population has not paid their bills for months or years.
However, several months ago, the company offered their subscribers the opportunity to divide their bill arrears and the opportunity to cover them through preferential duties. Despite that, they could not mobilize the sum completely. Consequently, the government decided to assist the company through legislative amendments. A short time ago, and in order to reimburse the damage, Tbilisi Water Company asked to the GERNC to increase the tariff on water, but the Commission did not satisfy their request. As a result of the repeated calculation, the Commission concluded that the real tariff on water supply shall be less than it is now (currently 2, 40 GEL per person).
In order to compel subscribers to pay their bills, the Water Company started to warn them by placing phone calls to the subscribers. The Financial-Credit Bureau Ltd. calls them and requests them to visit the offices of Tbilisi Water Company. In the past, the Bureau worked for the withdrawal of bank and private debts. During Shevardnadze’s government, police officers would call residents of the Gldani settlement and demand them to cover the water bills in a strict voice. Currently an employee of the Bureau, Temur Mghebrishvili handles this task.
Temur Mghebrishvili (employee of the Financial-Credit Bureau): We call and warn people where and how much they have to pay the bill arrears. The company creates a timetable for subscribers; some of whom will have to pay 5 GEL, others will have to pay 10 GEL. If they cover the arrears completely, the company will discharge 60 % of their debt.
-Do you compel subscribers to pay only water bills?
-Yes, so far we request them to pay only water bills. But if we are ordered to request payment for other arrears, we will do it.
Representatives of the “Tbilisi Water Company” state that the population will not have their electricity supply cut off immediately and they will have some time to cover old debts. “It does not mean that everybody who has some debts will have electricity supply or some other communal service stopped. The arrears will be divided over 36 months and it will allow the subscriber to cover their debts in stages. In addition to that, the Company hopes to offer better conditions to subscribers for covering their debts,” clarified the representatives of the Water Distribution Company.
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