City stuck in N$2.8m sewage suit

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City stuck in N$2.8m sewage suit

Maria Amakali

A local company is suing the City of Windhoek for N$2.8 million after it failed to pay for the handling and treatment of the town’s sewage sludge.

Cape Advanced Engineering Namibia wants the High Court to compel the City of Windhoek to pay it N$1.8 million for the invoices it failed to pay for services rendered to it. Furthermore, the company wants an additional N$1 million for the loss it made because of the city’s non-payment.

The company is claiming that it entered into a 10-year contract with the City on 24 January 2012. At the time, the City was in need of a solution to handle and treat the sewage sludge. It also needed the sewage to be utilised for the generation of electricity at the Gammams Waste Water Treatment Plant, using the existing anaerobic reactors and infrastructure.

According to court documents, the aim of the project was to automate the primary settling tanks, refurbish and automate the anaerobic bio-digesters, capture the produced biogas and utilise it for electricity and heat-generation to minimise the electricity bill at Gammams. As per the contract, Cape Advanced Engineering Namibia would
thus refurbish and automate the processing plant. It would also be responsible for the design, construction, fitting out and installation of other plant fixtures.

It was furthermore agreed that the company would provide expertise on the generation of electricity from the conversion of methane gas emanating from the sewage sludge, amongst other things.

The company claims that it sought financial injection from banks to enable it to acquire and install the equipment needed for the upgrade. The company would pay back the banks with the money it would generate from invoicing the city on a monthly basis.

“This enabled the first plaintiff (the company) to operate and maintain the Gammams plant for years, in which time all the debts will be repaid to enable the transfer of ownership of the entire plant to the city at the end of the contract term,” said the company in court documents.

However, the city did not pay its monthly invoices from 30 June 2020 to 10 January 2022. These invoices are valued at N$1 801 878.41.

The City, which has noted its intent to oppose the suit, claims because of the voluminous documents and computation of the invoices that were allegedly not paid for several years, they are not in a position to construct a proper plea and counterclaim to the claims. 

However, it claims the company has failed to stabilise the waste, and in turn, the waste cannot be used to make fertiliser. “I submit that on the primary fee, the plaintiffs (company) pay electricity and water, and they have thereafter reimbursed this sum. However, once they started charging a secondary fee, they still effectively charged for the water and electricity, resulting in their invoices being disputed because they were claiming monies that were paid,” said the city’s Jennifer Comalie in court documents.

The City says it has a good prospect of winning the suit, and it intends on instituting a counterclaim in relation to the water and electricity amounts that were double- claimed. 

The matter is before Judge Thomas Masuku.