By: Justicia Shipena
The Chief Executive Officer of NamWater, Abraham Nehemiah, says writing off water debt does not make sense.
This comes as LPM member of parliament in the National Assembly on Wednesday called for the write-off of water debts to local authorities and regional councils.
According to Nehemiah, local authorities owe NamWater close to N$600 million.
He said total debt currently stands at around N$1.6 billion for all customers.
“For the local authorities, it is close to N$600 million local authorities alone. The only problem with the writing is that it does not make business sense,” he said.
Nehemiah said NamWater had provided a service which cost them to spend money.
“NamWater has treated water and used electricity which we paid NamPower for and paid for all the maintenance work to make that water available to the customers,” he said.
In October 2020, NamWater said local authorities owed it a whopping N$470 million across the country, including a debt of N$92.9 million incurred during the Covid-19 state of the emergency period from April to August 2020.
He stressed that they cannot allow other people to have free water while others still have no water.
“Now to think just writing off that amount, the trouble is there are people who are not provided for in this country because we don’t have money,” he adds.
Nehemiah further said if people come to learn that someone will write it off, they will be facing the same problems in years comes.
“Again, two years later, you have a problem with a debt close to a million dollars again.”
“They might be debating it in parliament, but From NamWater’s perspective, it does not make sense writing off water debt just like that unless someone else takes up the responsibility and pay that debt.”
According to him, the debt owed to the national water utility accumulated over ten years, adding that NamWater had a moratorium on interest for the last two years.
“It comes from a number of years, and imagine the interest accumulating as well. If people stop paying their debt, the debt also accumulates interest. So there was no interest put on anyone’s debt for two years, and that was to sanitise the customers to pay their debt, but it is not coming through,” said Nehemia.
The CEO stated that NamWater has been engaging its board of directors annually to look at the local authority and maybe take off 10 per cent.
“All the years NamWater has been writing off debt, trying to meet the people halfway; one could think we make realise that we have to help each other and allow the debt not to grow.”
Speaking to The Villager, Nehemia also said their auditors are not pleased about the debt.
“This has to remain on people’s books. We are owed this money even our auditors happy to see things like and the guys cannot collect.”
In the National Assembly, Seibeb presented that the Keetmanshoop municipality owes NamWater N$23.8 million and that the City of Windhoek’s current debt is N$37.4 million plus 30 days of N$18.7 million, which equals the total bill of N$56.1 million.
“In 2021, it was reported in a local daily newspaper that Khorixas town council owedNamWater about N$38 million. The same local
daily reported that Khorixas chief executive officer said that arrangements were made for consumers, including ministries, offices and agencies, to settle their water bills,” said Seibeb.
He said the debt levels of regional councils and local authorities are growing.
“As Namibians, we are also in the know that we live in dire straits due to high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality,” he said.
He also stated that the biggest culprits that owe high water debt to local authorities are the government ministries, offices or agencies.
Seibeb argued that water is life.
“Hence, we call for the write-off of water debts to local authorities and regional councils. Let us also start with
the overall reforms of the local authorities and see where we can close the gap.”
Seibeb said the water utility writing off N$21 million in the past and waiving interest for two years on outstanding debt from 2020 to 2022 is inadequate.
“Let’s write off the entire water debt for all local authorities. We
informed the same to President Hage Geingob early this year. He promised to come back to us,” he moved.
He concluded that alternatives could be found to start on a clean slate.