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Audit will investigate DeKalb’s high water bills

An outside auditing firm will try to get to the bottom of DeKalb County’s widespread problems with high water bills.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve spending $275,000 Tuesday for the audit of the county’s water billing inaccuracies. 

The audit will be conducted by KPMG, a global financial services firm selected from four companies that submitted bids.

Thousands of residents have protested high water bills, which in many cases have skyrocketed without explanation

A recent analysis of water billing data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 1 in 8 DeKalb water customers had seen their bills triple or more at least once since April 2015.

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The audit will identify factors causing incorrect and inconsistent water bills. The audit will “determine the systemic and root causes of such inaccuracy then to recommend remedial or corrective action,” according to its description.

It’s the first audit ordered by Chief Audit Executive John Greene since he was hired in August as the county’s financial watchdog.

“I felt all along this was a very important issue,” Greene said during a budget committee meeting last week. “They’re going to put the resources to get it done”

The audit is scheduled to be completed by May 15.

DeKalb officials have previously provided many explanations for irregular water bills.

Water meters have malfunctioned or gone unread. In some cases, government employees have entered water and sewer usage data incorrectly, or erroneous information has been transmitted to the county’s billing system.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond has pledged to fix water billing mistakes, and he plans to propose some of his solutions at the end of this month. He has said water billing problems are decades old, and he intends to find a long-term fix.

The recommendations of the audit will be reported publicly and sent to county government leaders to implement.

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