Erongo RED executive’s N$650 000 electricity debt questioned

Substantial amount owed
The Usakos community are asking how an Erongo RED executive can get away with N$650 000 electricity debt, while a normal citizen's electricity is cut for a small outstanding amount.
Adam Hartman
Usakos residents are questioning how an Erongo RED board member is allegedly getting away with having outstanding electricity debt of about N$650 000, while their electricity is cut if they owe much less.

This came to light after an Erongo RED statement from 23 April, of a service station allegedly owned by board member Irene Simeon-Kurz (who is also a councilor of Usakos) was leaked to the community, indicating that the business owed the regional electricity distributor N$649 728.45.

Community activist, and member of the Affirmative Repositioning, Joseph Kandowa, issued a letter to Erongo RED board chairperson Zoe Nambahu in May, demanding corrective measures. He called the debt “a clear contravention of Erongo RED’s code of conduct, conflict of interest policy and applicable laws and regulations governing the operations of Erongo RED”. “As a general rule all board members have a statutory and common law duty to avoid any potential conflict of interest, and to act in the best interest of Erongo RED at all times,” he said.

He said the community is demanding urgent disciplinary action against Simeon-Kurtz by the Erongo RED Board, including her removal and termination as a board member. They are also demanding that the service station get disconnected. “A debt repayment plan [should be] worked out in a similar fashion as is applied to normal resident when they owe Erongo RED less than N$1 000,” he said, adding that failure to meet the demands will result in the aggrieved community protesting and demanding justice.

When contacted for clarity and comment, Erongo RED Acting Chief Executive Officer, Nico Niemand, said the company is aware of the letter from Kandowa, but that incompliance with the company’s policies, Erongo RED is not in a position to disclose account related or any other information about its customers or stakeholders to a third party without the consent from the customers or stakeholders.”

In a response to Kandowa directly, though, Namnahu confirmed that the service station was a customer of Erongo RED, but that the company could not disclose further information. She did say that as for perceived conflict of interest, all board of directors are clients of Erongo RED, be it residential, business or employer accounts. “We confirm and assure that conflict of interest is managed as per governance of the company,” Nambahu assured. She also stated that the power to appoint or remove a director from the board solely vests in the shareholder.

When contacted for comment, Simeon-Kurz said that she did not dispute the fact that there was the amount outstanding, but added that she could not speak on the company’s behalf as it was against policy. “Ask them why they have not cut the power yet? I have requested them for answers too on the account but they have not responded. This is some sort of a cover up, and they are using the AR to instigate these issues,” she said. “Someone has to give answers?”

The matter comes at a time during which Simeon-Kurz claimed that the recruitment process of Erongo RED’s new CEO, Immanuel !Hanabeb, was irregular, and should be reversed. In the meantime, the former CEO, Fessor Mbango, whose contract was not renewed, has lodged a dispute with the office of the Labour Commissioner and the High Court respectively.