OMUTHIYA – The Omuthiya Town Council says it will rectify a tariff hike slip-up in which an adjustment of nearly 80% was imposed on residents.
The town’s acting CEO Simon Nghuulondo said the issue is being addressed since it was brought to council’s attention.
The local authority is now seeking to amend tariffs and reduce it by 60%, said Nghuulondo, adding council will convene during the week.
The increase unleashed anguish and frustration among residents, who said they were slapped with adjustments of between N$500 to N$800, nearly a 100% increase on what they currently pay.
Residents further reasoned that such an adjustment does not make sense, as it cannot match with the value of services being offered.
However, Nghuulondo said this was caused by the enacting of the new property valuation that came with exorbitant rates.
He also apportioned the blame to the finance department, saying they failed to alert council upon realisation there was a huge difference when they entered property valuations in the system.
“It was a huge mistake that is now before council for a resolution to be passed and rectified. Once the resolution is undertaken, we will then write a submission to seek approval from the minister. In that, we will request authorisation to amend, as well for reduction of the rates,” he said, adding that a small amount will be added.
This move is also against government directive in which, earlier this year, it ordered local authorities not to increase their tariffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has impacted many communities economically, thereby affecting their livelihoods.
The same directive compelled all local authorities and regional councils to provide water to residents who were previously disconnected to help fight Covid-19, of which regular hand washing is encouraged.
“What improvements has town council done? There are no upgrades to the location and town itself. Therefore, there is no value for the money; instead, it’s a complete day robbery. Therefore, we want council to come out clean and explain what formula they used to get such an absurd charge,” fumed a collective group of residents.
In reaction, Nghuulondo said: “It wasn’t council’s intention to increase the rates and taxes, but this now comes with the new evaluations of property that carries a different rating; thus, council’s intervention will be implementing a reduction to ease the financial burden on our clients.”
Last year, council, in what is dubbed as a pro-poor budget, decided to maintain water tariffs at N$15 per cubic metres for low-income earners at Kaniita informal settlement and other low-income areas.
While general consumers, as well as middle and high residential occupants were slapped with an increase of 19 and 17.6%, respectively.
This decision meant an offset and to subsidise low-income earners, as well as to reduce the cost from NamWater, whose tariff was at N$17.65 per cubic.