Pay up first, council tells ministry
‘Government has a responsibility to pay’
25 February 2021 | Health
Swakopmund • [email protected]az.com.na
Given the second wave of the coronavirus that hit Namibia, the Ministry of Health asked for additional accommodation in Swakopmund for quarantine purposes.
“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 town council said.
For this reason she requested the use of 25 additional municipal bungalows.
This topic sparked a debate at yesterday’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 beforehand.
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. In addition, council made 78 extra rooms available to the ministry for quarantine purposes free of charge.
The ministry used the 112 bungalows for a good 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?” councillor Erikki Shitana (SWAPO) 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?”
Shitana urged council members to sign an agreement with the ministry. Council member Heinrich Hafeni (SWAPO) agreed, saying: “The demand to have to pay first, is too tough.”
Chairman of the executive branch Wilfried Groenewald (SRA), 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.