By Staff Reporter
The Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Hage Geingob says he accumulated his municipal debt of over N$300 000 during his two-year stay in Washington, United States, but had not been aware of the bill.
Geingob was approached for comment on the issue after New Era recently established that he had gone to brief President Hifikepunye Pohamba on the issue of his municipal debts, given the public controversy around the issue.
Geingob said when he quit Government in 2002, he was informed by the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) that he would have to start paying his municipal bills himself, but would have a gardener, cook and security guards provided by the State.
Geingob in response questioned the OPM’s office why they decided to cut some of his benefits.
The OPM’s office did not give him an answer and he had awaited a reply from them when he left for Washington.
Geingob said during his stay in Washington, he never received any municipal bills because the municipality used to forward the bills to the office of the Prime Minister.
“Even when they received the bills and were not paying the bills, they never forwarded bills to me and I was not aware that I owed the municipality so much money.”
He noted that during his two-year stay the bill skyrocketed to over N$300 000 and the monthly bill was an average N$13 000, although only one person lived in his house.
He questioned the municipality’s billing system and said now that he is at home and more electricity and water is being used, his highest monthly bill has only been N$7 000.
Geingob said after he returned from the US, he was informed by the municipality that he owed them in excess of N$300 000 but informed the municipality that he was under the impression that Government was paying for his bills as part of his benefits.
After consulting a lawyer, Geingob agreed to start paying the current bill as well as the outstanding bill.
Documents in possession of New Era indicate that at the beginning of November 2007, Geingob paid a lump sum of N$60 000. Since then, he has been paying N$10 000 monthly to settle the outstanding bill. He has so far paid N$130 000 in total.
The payment plan was part of an agreement that was entered between Geingob, the CEO of the Windhoek Municipality Nillo Taapopi and other senior managers in the finance department.