Pay up first, council tells ministry

01 March 2021 | Health

Erwin Leuschner



SWAKOPMUND

The health ministry wants to use additional municipal bungalows in Swakopmund for quarantine purposes. While the town council has approved this, the condition is that the ministry first settles an outstanding bill.

Given the second wave of Covid-19 that hit Namibia, the ministry asked for the additional accommodation.

“In the region, especially in the Swakopmund district, there was an exponential increase in new infections during the holiday season,” a January-dated letter from the Erongo Region health director, Anna Jonas, to the town council said.

For this reason, she requested the use of 25 additional municipal bungalows.

This topic sparked debate at last week’s council meeting after the executive decided at the beginning of the month that the bungalows could be used by the ministry at a lower rate – but only if the ministry pays an outstanding bill first.

N$1.5m outstanding

According to a draft resolution, the ministry was allowed to use 112 municipal bungalows at a lower rate during the first wave of the virus in June 2020. Additionally, council made 78 extra rooms available for quarantine purposes free of charge.

The ministry used the 112 bungalows for two and a half months, which cost more than N$3.6 million - despite the significantly reduced tariff.

Of this amount, N$1.5 million is still outstanding.

“Are we not focusing too much on resources than on the health of our residents when we make this requirement?” Swapo councillor Erikki Shitana wanted to know yesterday.

“What should we do when a person must be quarantined, but the ministry has not yet paid? Where must the person be housed?”

‘Too tough’

Shitana urged council members to sign an agreement with the ministry. Fellow Swapo council member Heinrich Hafeni agreed, saying: “The demand to have to pay first is too tough”.

To this, chairman of the executive branch Wilfried Groenewald replied that the number of new infections in Swakopmund has fallen significantly and is currently very low.

“The ministry also has enough time to pay,” he said.

Given the pandemic, many companies find themselves in financial difficulties, while several others have already closed their doors.

“The debt keeps piling on. This should serve as a reminder to government that it also has a responsibility to pay,” Groenewald said. “It is the ministry of health’s turn now.”

Most council members agreed with Groenewald.

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