Residents decry proposed levy on CoW emergency services

19 May 2015 09:00am
WINDHOEK, 19 MAY (NAMPA) – Rocky Crest residents are up in arms over a proposal that was tabled by the municipality to introduce a levy of up to N.dollars 100 for ambulance and fire brigade services.
The suggestion of between a N.dollars 50 to N.dollars 100 levy for emergency services was made by officials from the City of Windhoek (CoW) during a community consultative meeting at the Rocky Crest Multi-purpose Centre Saturday.
The emergency and fire services levy will be added to the monthly municipal bills of residents that already includes a fee for solid waste management, basic water and water consumption, and refuse removal.
“Why do municipal levies just increase every year and we just have to pay. We feel you just enrich yourselves while poor ratepayers have to dig out for your expenses,” a woman resident charged at the meeting.
CoW’s Section Head: Public Participation Community Development Division, Vincent Mwiya said providing ambulance and fire brigade services is an expensive exercise for any municipality.
He explained that the emergency service receives about 110 calls from residents over a busy weekend for either an ambulance or fire brigade.
Normal rates for ambulance services charged by the CoW ranges between N.dollars 960 to N.dollars 1 200 for transporting a patient from home to any hospital in the capital.
Additional charges are added for the use of oxygen or blood transfusion in the ambulance.
Normal charges at the fire brigade department for services rendered can range between N.dollars 1 500 and N.dollars 2 600, which is determined by the number of vehicles and fire fighter personnel that attend to an emergency, as well as the amount of water used to distinguish the fire.
In most cases and depending on the nature of the fire, CoW does not charge residents in informal settlements for fire brigade services.
Mwiya said Government in the past had subsidised ambulance and fire brigade services to residents in the capital but that has stopped.
He noted that such services should be provided to any ratepayer but due to financial constraints, it is not possible for the CoW.
There are also private companies that provide ambulance services but they are unaffordable to most Namibians, Mwiya noted.
At the same occasion, Section Head: Fire Safety and Prevention in the CoW’s Emergency Management Division, Tangeni Uusiku said the CoW has benchmarked itself with municipalities in countries such as Australia to provide emergency services at an affordable cost to residents.
Uusiku raised the concern that in most cases, residents provide false information on who is responsible for the expenses to the municipality when ambulance or fire brigade services are rendered.
Normally, the city attaches an extra bill to the monthly municipal account.
On other issues, residents also blamed the exorbitant operational expenses of the City Police (CP), which is draining the cash flow of the CoW.
They claimed that running the CP is a burden that has led to a continuous financial crisis for the CoW. The financial pressure of sustaining the CP has angered some residents, who said a lot of money is being spent on the troubled force instead of providing other essential services to ratepayers.
A report of the CoW by the Auditor-General, Junias Kandjeke, issued for the financial years of 2009 until mid 2011 and released in 2014, revealed that the CoW recorded a deficit of more than N.dollars 188 million in the 2009/2010 and more than N.dollars 235 million in 2010/2011 financial years.
This was mainly attributed to an increase in losses recorded at the CP department, which increased from more than N.dollars 142 million in 2009 to N.dollars 165 million in 2010 and about N.dollars 194 million in 2011.
CoW is currently consulting with ratepayers in the capital to strategise on best possible approaches for its intended projects and programmes.
Meetings with residents in various suburbs are scheduled to end on 07 June 2015.