Mumbai: The Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is introducing changes to its water billing software to make it more user-friendly.
Currently, citizens can pay their bills online, but the reading of water meters often runs into dispute. But, the new software will allow users to verify the reading. The upgraded version will also allow civic officials to take on-spot meter reading and use handheld devices to make spot payment.
The contract to update the Aqua billing software has been awarded to M/s ABM Knowledgeware for ₹10.95 crore. The contractor is supposed to develop the software and maintain it for five years.
While the civic body tracks the supply of water using meters, the system has been riddled with problems for years, with people complaining of inflated and incorrect bills, late dispatch, and the hassle of payment at civic kiosks.
A large part of the problem is the software, which has been running on an outdated computer platform. The service contract expired last month and the civic body took the decision to upgrade it in the new term.
As part of the overhaul, the BMC wants to allow citizens to verify the water meter reading before the bill is generated. As per the existing system, citizens can challenge a bill’s amount only after a bill is generated and the dispute goes to the civic body’s grievance redress cell.
“We want the software developer to explore all possibilities in billing. At present, people can pay bills online, but the system that generates bills is outdated. People, even slum dwellers, with a valid water meter will benefit. Our staffer will take the reading on site and generate a bill. They can use any method of payment,” Ramesh Bambale, deputy municipal commissioner (special engineering), said.
According to Mr. Bambale, bills would often never reach slum dwellers due to complex addresses. The new software will also address the problem and save time lost in postal delays.
The contractor’s scope of work includes system integration with payment gateways, SMS gateways, and handheld units, including smartphones.
“We are also looking at a system similar to Mahanagar Gas Ltd/, which allows consumers to take pictures of their meter reading. The contractor has been given the freedom to explore all possibilities in payment,” another civic official, who did not wish to be named, said.
The proposal was tabled before the civic standing committee on March 28 and passed.