Utility Watchdog in San Diego

Audit: San Diego pays for 3,712 phantom street lights

Audit: San Diego pays for 3,712 phantom street lights

Recent news accounts report that a City audit, released in early April, details problems in the City’s policies for verifying incoming bills from utilities. The audit was, in part, triggered by the accidental 2013 discovery that the City was paying for 3,712 “phantom” streetlights. Four years later the City is still working with SDG&E to validate the proper amounts to be paid and to secure refunds for any overpayment.
The auditor’s report recommends, and the City has agreed, to centralize and streamline how its own utility payments are managed. To which UCAN responds with a hearty “hear, hear.”
To see San Diego Union Tribunes Article Click Here
To see San Diego Readers Article Click Here
To see San Diego City's Audit Click Here
UCAN has its own experience working with the City, not with how they pay their own utility bills, but with how they bill others for city services.  For example, UCAN’s Fraud Squad has received customer complaints from City water and sewer customers, detailing recurring problems with billing policies, both followed and ignored, as well as undocumented “practices” that can land customers in hot water. These problems arise at both the Public Utilities Department and City Treasurer’s office, as well as at the intersection between the two (past due accounts), causing unnecessary confusion, and in some cases, consumer hardships.
UCAN has been in ongoing discussions for over a year to identify the billing policy errors that result in such hardships and that have required protracted efforts to resolve.  With individual water and sewer billing issues, our Fraud Squad generally receives cooperation from the Public Utility Department, and we are encouraged that they have met with UCAN personnel, listened to our concerns and have agreed to incorporate several UCAN suggested revisions into their policy manual.
While UCAN agrees wholeheartedly that an audit is necessary to address how the City pays its utility bills, we are also working hard to press for improvements in how the City issues and handles utility bills.