The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) says seven months on, some of its members are yet to be paid by government since the Minister of Finance, Iipumbu Shiimi, announced on April 1, 2020, a N$3.8 billion accelerated value-added tax (VAT) refunds and payments for goods and services supplied to Government.
The funds were part of an Economic Stimulus and Relief Package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Namibia.
Government in collaboration with Social Security Commission (SSC) and other development partners adopted a Stimulus and Relief Package amounting to N$8.1 billion in total in April.
It comprised a one-time emergency income grant (EIG). The grant is a once-off payment of N$750 per qualifying person on the basis of having lost income or experienced difficult circumstances during the lockdown. The grant was initially expected to benefit 749,000 people, and cost the government N$562 million. In the end, the number of beneficiaries increased to serve the needs of more qualifying applicants.
Shiimi’s boldly announced plan offered approximately N$2.1 billion in direct support to businesses and households, N$3.8 billion in accelerated value-added tax (VAT) refunds and payments for goods and services supplied to the Government as well as N$2.3 billion by way of loans to be guaranteed by the Government.
“We would like to be provided with feedback on how far the payments are because a promise was made by the Ministry of Finance during the stimulus package announcement. It is important to make sure that they do that, so that we are not making accusations that there are people that are still not paid,” NCCI Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Charity Mwiya told the Windhoek Observer.
According to Mwiya, the NCCI is still receiving enquiries from its members that a number of people are not yet paid what is owed to them by the government.
“This includes the deliverance of services, unpaid invoices for costs, and services that are provided to government. For particularly the SMEs whereby if they get a service, they also have to pay their supplier and they have a 90 day payment period. So, if the government does not actually pay them that cripples the businesses,” Mwiya said.
“The government needs to look at a way that will ensure that payment from owed invoices is made on time.”
Ministry of Finance Spokesperson Tonateni Shidhudhu said the ministry was continuously working on processing the payments, with N$2.5 billion paid.
“Acceleration of tax refunds is part of the stimulus package in response to COVID-19. We wanted to ensure that businesses and individual taxpayers have cash in their pockets during this difficult period and been worked around the clock to ensure that claims for tax refunds were processed on time. From 01 April 2020 to 26th June 2020, we refunded more than N$2.5 billion in both Income Tax and VAT. This was a record in the history of Namibian treasury,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance is set to revise the Local Sourcing Directives as per section 72 and 73 of the Public Procurement Act 2015 which was issued in May of 2019 through consultations with the NCCI.
“We are busy with the exercise to collect information in consultation with our membership so that we give in their input and we can send it to the Ministry of Finance and hopefully that will be implemented to make sure that government sources products locally,” said Mwiya.
This includes priority purchases by government of a range of products including vegetables, fruits, cleaning detergents, meat and meat products, furniture, metal fabrication, cosmetics cements, dairy products, seafood, and fertilizers. In addition, there are services such as security, maintenance, landscaping, research agricultural and many more. Also on the list are works like construction, earth moving and fencing plus maintenance, repairs and alterations including plumping, welding, and carpentry among others.
As part of the measures, priority shall be given to suppliers, service providers, and works providers based and operating from the 14 regions of Namibia where works, services and goods are required.