RE-ELECTED Mayor of Windhoek, Matthew Shikongo was compromised in directing the municipality to act on 12 politicians owing the city of Windhoek more than N$500,000 in unpaid utility bills as he personally owed N$50,000 in unpaid water and electricity arrears for his private businesses.
Investigations have revealed that Shikongo owed the municipality N$27,000 in unpaid bills for his popular local club Midnight Express and N$19,825 for Club Thriller, both located at Erf 2121 in Katutura.
Following last week’s Informanté exposé on politicians who have been receiving free water and electricity costing the ratepayers more than N$500,000, the mayor rushed to settle his huge debt at the municipality.
The mayor owed more than any other politician exposed in last week’s edition except Geingob, but said he “knew nothing” about public figures with huge municipal debts.
After the exposé, records in possession of Informanté indicate that Shikongo rushed one of his office orderlies the following day to reduce his debt with two instalments of N$12,000 and N$10,157 respectively on May 23. The Informanté edition exposing the huge municipal debts appeared on May 22.
Last week Shikongo told councillors in a monthly report that the municipality was in financial dire need to provide improved sanitation, water and electricity to more than 10,000 households in low-income suburbs on the outskirts of Windhoek.
He said the city needed to divert funds from other critical projects to cater for the 10,000 households, but did not mention that the money could be raised from outstanding debts from himself and other top politicians.
The free water and electricity scheme for politicians and other public figures has drawn the ire of the anti-corruption commission, which has now summoned the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Windhoek Niilo Taapopi to explain.
When contacted for comment on why his account had not been paid in time, Shikongo refused to cooperate and slammed the phone.
“That is a matter you must take up with the Chief Executive,” he said, adding, “I know what you people are up to. Go back to the office where you got that information,” he said before hanging up the phone.
Informanté is reliably informed that the City of Windhoek’s management had earlier raised concerns over the huge arrears incurred by politicians and public figures for the attention of President Hifikepunye Pohamba via the Office of the Mayor but it was unclear whether the mayor forwarded the concerns to the president.
Taapopi could not comment on the saga because it is currently under investigation by the Anti Corruption Commission.
He however confirmed that councillors were not entitled to free water and electricity.
“They are not entitled to free water and electricity. The city approved a Credit Control Policy about three years back to curtail the outstanding debt situation which at the time grew with an average of about N$56 million per month and stood at a level of about N$250 million,” said Taapopi.
The officials who owe the municipality include the Speaker of National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab and Swapo Vice President and Minister of Trade and Industry Hage Geingob.
“I was not aware of top officials owing money. I’m aware of people who have had their houses auctioned for owing amounts of N$10,000. Some people have their houses auctioned off, while others get away with owing tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands. It is highly unacceptable”, said Nico Smit, a Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) councillor. Since Thursday last week, at least four politicians including the Mayor have paid a sum of N$48,000 to the municipality to clear their arrears, reducing the top politicians’ municipal debt marginally to N$500,000.
The politicians who have paid since May 22 include Deputy Finance Minister Tjekere Tweya, who paid N$9,500, Tjama Tjivikua who made a payment of N$10,000 on the day of publication, and Victor Tonchi, who paid N$7,100 on the same day.
By the time of going to press, Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba had not paid his N$20,470.58 arrears emanating from unpaid water and electricity bills.