Khorixas-Khorixas Town Council’s strategic executive officer for human resources and economic affairs, Eben Xoagub, says the N$26 million owed by residents and government institutions for water and other services is hampering development at the town, where unemployment is very high.
“Due to non-payment of services we are in a financial crisis,” Xoagub says, adding that government institutions that are in arrears have put the municipality in a huge dilemma.
New Era was told Khorixas Town Council pays heavily for underground water leakages and that municipal officers took up the issue with Rural and Urban Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa during her visit to the town in December 2015.
Shaningwa assured them at the time that she would try to source funds to address the problem of subterranean leakage that is reportedly draining the council’s finances, but it appears to date the funds are not yet forthcoming.
At present the Ministry of Health and Social Services reportedly owes over N$1 million to Khorixas Town Council for rates and services, while the directorate of forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MWAF) owes N$17,559 to the municipality and N$5,160 to NamWater. The rural water supply division of MWAF owes the town council N$791,284 and NamWater N$138,113.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism owes N$12,229, while the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ directorate of youth owes N$245,193 to the town council. Herbert Conradie Stadium, which falls under the youth ministry, owes N$303,680.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare owes the council N$45,888, while the Ministry of Labour and Employment Creation owes N$25,560. The Ministry of Justice owes N$190,405 and the Safety and Security Ministry owes N$9,553 to the council and some more to Namwater.
Xoagub said a meeting was held recently with various ministry representatives where an intervention agreement was discussed. He said non-payment of services by government offices delays development at the town and that President Hage Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan cannot be achieved with huge unpaid arrears.
”We know unemployment is a challenge and that drought has affected us, but we are giving services and we need cost-recovery for our services,” Xoagub said.
He said the delay in payments by ministries at the town was due to late payments from the head office. Xoagub wondered why the Ministry of Health and Social Services was reluctant to pay on time and praised the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, as their best clients who settle their municipal bills on time.
To address the issue of unpaid arrears and other concerns, the town was divided into seven wards to create awareness of the problem, Xoagub said, adding that the committees appointed would have a policing role to look after infrastructure, detect water theft, and identify other issues of concern.
Khorixas State Hospital’s water supply was suspended last week due to unpaid bills, but was restored later the same week.
New Era was informed by Khorixas police station commander Hiskia Nuuyoma that the water there was also cut off last week and that 27 inmates had to be transferred to Kamanjab police station as the 360 litres of water supplied to the police station ran out last Friday.
Nuuyoma said the Kunene regional police were aware of the closure of the water, but payments are made from the head offices and it might take time to process. As a result, police officers that reside at the police barracks here had to beg their neighbours for water.
In email correspondence with Namwater employees, dated July 20 and seen by New Era, Ministry of Justice officials claimed the ministry owed Khorixas Town Council only N$24,235 and not N$190,405, as per the billing statement issued by the council. The issue is as yet unresolved.