Vehicle damages cost NSA N$1.9m

October 15, 2014, 9:03am

Vehicle damages cost NSA N$1,9m


THE Namibia Statistics Agency has paid Omega Car Hire more than N$1,9 million for damages caused to 76 cars, insurance shortfalls, towing as well as recovering broken down vehicles during the agricultural survey the agency carried out early this year.

In its 2014 annual report, the NSA said it paid N$6 878 738 for car rentals. 
NSA deputy director of finance Lischen Ramakhutla yesterday said the agency deployed 180 vehicles to all the regions and that 97 of this number were hired. Omega Car Hire had 76 vehicles, while Windhoek Mechanicals hired out 21. The rest were from the agency's fleet.
Omega Car Hire charged N$980 per day per vehicle, while Windhoek Mechanicals charged N$1 600 per vehicle per day. 
Invoices, of which The Namibian has seen copies, show that 76 vehicles hired from Omega broke down and had to be towed or recovered. 
The invoices also show that the NSA had to pay for damages caused to the 76 cars.
For towing and recovery of the 76 vehicles alone, the NSA paid N$169 280, and for damages caused to 76 vehicles a further N$509 938 was paid.
The agency had to pay 50% insurance shortfalls for damages caused to two other vehicles. For one vehicle, it paid N$184 500 and for the other one, the the NSA paid N$129 500.
Shockingly, an invoice dated 30 June 2014 shows that the NSA had to pay N$888 300 for three vehicles involved in accidents as a result of negligence. 
For a 2.5L Toyota bakkie 2014 model, the NSA was invoiced N$271 000, while N$352 000 was invoiced for another 2.5L Toyota bakkie 2014 model, and a third 2.5l Toyota bakkie 2011 model has an invoice of N$223 000.
In another invoice dated 22 July 2014, Omega invoiced N$87 465 for three cars which were described as accident: non-negligent. The handling costs were N$62 165. Statistician General John Steytler yesterday admitted that the agency always has maintenance issues when it comes to vehicles deployed in the field for surveys, and that the damage incurred on all 76 vehicles would be no surprise. Steytler also admitted that the agency's biggest cost has always been fuel and transport. He also said the agency's car maintenance costs continue to increase every year.
“We cannot maintain all the costs, and while the NSA has its own fleet, sometimes we have to hire extra vehicles for surveys,” he explained. 
He said the agency usually deploys personnel to the regions to conduct proper surveys at household levels, most of them in remote parts of the country. 
“Many of them drive through rough terrain, rocky, mountainous and sandy areas, and sometimes during the rainy season,” he said, adding that even 4x4 vehicles sometimes struggle to go through such harsh conditions. 
Steytler said the agency experiences many accidents during household surveys in the regions to such an extent that sometimes its officials call in the Namibian Defence Force to assist in pulling out vehicles that got stuck.
“We always investigate the nature of the accident through a fleet monitoring system. If it was due to negligence, we take further action, but we expect all companies awarded with vehicle tenders to have insurance to address such eventualities,” he said. 
He added that most of the people the NSA hired to conduct the surveys were young and unemployed, many of them matriculants and a few graduates. 
“We normally require them to have enough driving experience,” he said. 
Ramakhutla denied though that the agency paid more than N$1,9 million to Omega Car Hire in damages. 
“We did not pay that much for damages because not all the vehicles were damaged. If that was the case, we would have detected that something is wrong somewhere and taken it up” she said, referring The Namibian to the company's financial officers to verify the information. 
Some of the invoices shown to The Namibian by the NSA finance department are originals of the copies the paper obtained. 
On Monday, Omega Car Hire's Elizabeth Shigwedha denied that her company had submitted invoices valued at more than N$1,9 million to NSA for damages.
Shigwedha claimed that she had only charged the agency N$888 000 in total, since the rest was taken care of by the insurance cover.
“There were six vehicles that were completely written off but all the others were just minor dents and scratches. It must also be understood that these vehicles were being driven in very harsh conditions during the rainy season. Most of them got stuck in the sand and tow-in services had to be called in,” she said. 
Shigwedha said this was the largest number of vehicles her company had rented out to a client so far.

By Theresia Tjihenuna: The Namibian