Rundu water woes persist

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Rundu town council and its residents are drowning in a massive water debt as the town council reportedly owes Namwater close to N$100 million in unpaid bills.

Rundu town council’s acting Chief Executive Officer Sam Nekaro attributed the rising bill to the lack of a debt collector at the council stating that as a result resident bills have been piling up over the years.

“To be quite frank, we do not have a section for debt collection… we do not have people specifically entrusted to collecting money from residents and remember Rundu has the second highest population. In the past … until now… we only had people who sent out invoices to businesses and so on, we never had a dedicated team,” he said.

Nekaro also noted that while the bill has not reached N$100 million yet, it was high time that council worked at ensuring that they at least bring it down to a manageable amount.

“It is not N$100 million yet, I can’t tell you the exact amount right now because it has not been audited but we are addressing the situation,” he added.

Waters woes at Rundu town council are not new as in 2018 Namwater discontinued the water service leaving some residents without water for nearly a week due to the town defaulting in payment towards a service debt. The council by the end of that year reportedly had an unpaid bill of N$60 million.

Nekaro noted that in efforts to address the high bill, the council is in the process of awarding a debt collector tender to a company that would assist with collecting money from its residents.

“This will enable us to repay Namwater. We also have a pre-payment system that has been put in place… where for every N$1 paid to buy water from Namwater, 30 cents go to repayment of debts. So, if we buy water worth N$ 100 000, N$30 000 goes to paying debt and Namwater only gives us water worth N$70 000. The process is slow, but it is working. And with the new debt collector we are hoping to really be able to pay the debts faster,” he explained.

Confidente previously reported that Namwater stands to lose over a billion in water debts owed to it by different government entities.

Namwater’s financial records show that the company is collectively owed over N$1.116 billion by 10 government entities, including town and village councils, the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), Roads Construction Company (RCC), Namport, the Namibia Airports Company (NAC), Roads Authority (RA), Nampower and Cenored.

And Rundu is among the many councils which have been struggling with high water bills, due to failure to conduct proper and adequate collection from residents. Namwater financial records showed that by the end of 2019, it was collectively owed over N$375 million by town and village councils alone.

Topping the list of those owing Namwater are municipalities, whose unpaid water bills amounted to about N$612,481 209 in 2018 and rose to over N$680 million by March 31 last year while ministries owed over N$68 million, almost double the previous year’s debt of N$39 million.

Namwater CEO Abraham Nehemia at the time told Confidente that he has little hope of recovering over N$1 billion owed to the state-owned entity.

“I don’t not see all this money being recovered. I am just being realistic here, most of these debts are by those small municipalities and village councils who do not have any source of funds. You cannot ask them to pay money that they do not have. People need water and we can’t just cut it off, but they are unable to pay and that is our reality. It has all accumulated to a point where there is really no way we are going to recover all of it. I don’t want to see them in the books anymore and I am going to work to ensure that they come to a manageable number.”