Local authorities told to dump external debt collectors

Urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni

Urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni has urged local authority councillors not to resort to handing their clients over to third party debt collectors.

In recent weeks, the residents of Walvis Bay have objected to the services of RedForce Debt Collectors due to alleged high charges and inhuman conduct.

This led to the Walvis Bay Town Council taking a unanimous decision to terminate the company’s services.

However, a High Court order obtained by RedForce last week has overturned the council’s decision to terminate the contract.

Uutoni says council leadership and all local authorities countrywide should continually engage their residents on matters related to settling municipal debts. He was speaking at Oranjemund on Monday last week during the launch of the Oranjemund Town Council’s 2024 to 2029 strategic plan. “I strongly appeal to you not to resort to handing over your residents in the hands of third parties such as debt collectors but rather use your internal mechanisms to manage and recover municipal debts,” said Uutoni.

Residents have claimed that the appointment of RedForce was not done lawfully and the necessary procedures were not followed. Residents also demanded that the company should leave Walvis Bay. RedForce, in its urgent application, is seeking relief from the court by requesting that it overlooks any procedural non-compliance, and hear their case urgently. They seek to prevent the termination of their services, pending the resolution of the legal actions challenging the termination decision, and to restrain the respondents from taking any further action until the legal proceedings are concluded.

Last October, regional and local authorities reportedly owed about N$1 billion to NamWater and over N$807 million to NamPower. NamPower announced that they would introduce power cuts across 19 regional and local authorities unless their bills are paid, whereupon multiple municipalities roped RedForce in to recoup what was owed to them by the residents.

Uutoni said the government provides financial resources to local authorities and other public entities on an annual basis to render services to the public, including the provision of serviced land and housing. Thus, local authorities are called upon to deliver affordable and quality services and create an enabling environment for investors in order to create job opportunities, particularly for the youth, said Uutoni.

“This strategic plan, therefore, will be your guiding tool and it is your responsibility as local elected leaders to ensure that its content is implemented fully for the next five years, in line with government policies and legislation.

“I am grateful that you comply with the call from the ministry by launching your strategic plan aligned to the set national objectives, which includes our ministry scorecard. We are hopeful that you will steer the journey you have started with dedication, commitment and honesty for the benefit of the community of Oranjemund and Namibia at large,” he said. Mayor Elias Kasemba said the strategic plan is built on several pillars anticipated to shape the growth and development of Oranjemund.

They are: organisational performance and financial management; environmental sustainability, social and infrastructure development; strengthening marketing, communication, and brand management; and lastly promoting tourism.

“This strategic plan is the culmination of extensive collaboration and consultation with a diverse range of stakeholders, from local businesses to civic leaders and community members. It encapsulates our collective aspirations for a thriving Oranjemund,” said Kasemba.

He noted that to ensure the strategic plan is implemented, the council endorsed a performance management system to hold themselves accountable and measure progress against their set goals and objectives.

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