The chairperson of the Namibian Association of Local Authority Officers (NALAO) and the chief executive of the Otjiwarongo municipality Moses Matyayi says the divestment of the electricity sector from local authorities has made the latter suffer.
He was speaking on Friday during the commissioning of Extension 13 and the handing over of 70 houses in the Orwetoveni location at Otjiwarongo.
"The time the electricity was taken away from the local authorities was when we started experiencing the challenges. The report that was submitted to Cabinet to approve the establishment of rates was one-sided because they did not look at how best they could replace the revenue gap that was going to be created in local authorities. Now you can imagine that leak, and the impact it had was so severe that we have to do with the little we have from rates and taxes and water sales, and we cannot even leverage on what we collect," he said.
Matyayi said the diversion of electricity from local authorities forced them into debts.
"Yes, we have acknowledged that we were not managing electricity very well. We believe that the capacity was a problem, but we could have motivated that by strengthening the capacity at that level where the mandate is given in terms of the law," he argued.
"But it is very sad that we don't receive enough dividends to compensate for that gap as it was very huge, and I don't believe that it is prudent for us to continue in the same direction.
We need to change the aspect of diversion in that if we are going to divert any mandate from the local authority and commercialise it, there must be a replacement for the revenue leak that it is going to create," he suggested.
Matyayi said if nothing is done, local authorities will continue to suffer and be criticised because the resources at their disposal will not allow them to meet the demands of the people.
"We are hearing through the media that the Electricity Control Board (ECB) is still pushing through to create the centralised rates. We are not against its implementation of the Cabinet resolution, but they must do that with caution to make sure that we will not bring the City of Windhoek to its knees, like any other local authority, as it has the best infrastructure as their electricity network is one of the best in the country.
"You can imagine the disaster that is going to happen when the City of Windhoek is diverted from its electricity, and they will not be able to collect and invest back into social issues and other matters. It will be detrimental and disastrous," he charged.
Another issue is the revenue created by the environment ministry from shops selling plastic bags, saying it generates millions of dollars, of which some are given to the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) to fund climate-resilient programmes.
He asked that the efforts of local authorities in dealing with these plastic bags be acknowledged.
"Managing dumpsites has become a thorny issue in the country. Some of these funds must be channelled back to local authorities so that they can assist in subsidising the management of such facilities," he added.
Matyayi gave an example of the Motor-Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) in that they receive money from the fuel levy, but do not produce a product they must trade. But government funds them so that they can cater for the social aspect, and they are supposed to do the same as they are the closest to the people.
"We are the ones feeling the pinch in terms of housing, informal settlements. But what is the funding model that we must now look at to ensure that we are going to make an impact? Such sustainable revenue streams need to be interrogated so that they can help local authorities to deliver on their mandate. Otherwise, local authorities will remain a mockery and people will see us as not doing what we are supposed to do.