Namwater has revealed the extent to which defaulters are placing it under financial pressure, with local authorities owing the water utility N$300 million.
The debts have been escalating for years‚ affecting a number of towns whose supply line is to be disconnected. This will put Namwater in a precarious position when it comes to water provision.
The current dam levels in the country remain a concern as there is more evaporation than inflow.
The fact that Namibia has not received sufficient rainfall to replenish water sources to adequate levels means that the country is not yet out of the drought situation.
The debts also limit Namwater from embarking on projects aimed at ensuring water security such as the construction of dams and boreholes.
If no action is taken, Namwater could cut water supply to the municipalities, which will have to “replenish” their water reserves by paying up.
The water utilities’ spokesman Johannes Shigwedha did not divulge the details of the defaulters “due to customer information confidentiality.”
“We are not able to provide a breakdown of amounts owed by specific local authorities. We can however provide you with a cumulative amount for all requested customers. This information is as of 31 December 2017.
We have agreements in place with all customers who owe the Water Utility. In accordance with the agreement, customers who owe the Water Entity are expected to make payment on their current consumption, plus a certain percentage payment on the historic debts,” he said.
Shigwedha said clients such as Rehoboth and Rundu are on pre- paid meters, which means such customers pay an amount equals to their respective consumption plus payment of certain percentage on the money they already owed to the Corporation.
He explained: “For example Rundu is required to pay at least N$1 million on its historic debts on top of the current consumption which is slightly over a million dollar per month.”
The Patriot understands that most of the local authorities struggle when it comes to billing in an appropriate way while others are failing to come up with ways of generating revenue to move away from over-dependence on income from utility services provided.
The maintenance of infrastructure to avoid huge water losses have also been cited as a contributing factor to the high water bill across the country.
Deputy Permanent Secretary for Water Affairs and Forestry, Abraham Nehemia, said local authorities receive subsidies from the line ministry to supplement their water related operations.
“The Ministry of Urban, Rural development provides subsidies to local authorities, in whatever forms whether it is bailing them out when they owe Namwater or for their infrastructure development. They do get support from the ministry,” said the deputy PS.
Contrastingly however, deputy director in the urban and rural development ministry Olavi Iita, said the ministry is aware of some institutions that fail to pay their municipal bills but maintained that offices, ministries and agencies are solely responsible to settle their bills.
“There is no bail out from government. It is the local authorities’ mandate to pay their bills such as electricity and water. Government is not responsible for their operational expenses.
The subsidies are only availed for infrastructure, in terms of the mandate they are supposed to fullfil,” he detailed.
“We assist them in terms of capacity building, in the area where there is a need.
Namwater also provides assistance in terms of auditing and training.
We are not supposed to do it but we always provide support,” Iita said.
Iita said mechanisms are in place to assist local authorities with regards to their debts.
“There is a requirement from the local authorities to submit their audit bills.
More especially for the government institutions that fail to pay for services that have been rendered to them by municipalities.”