Gobabis Municipality accused of neglecting critical electrical network

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The Gobabis Municipality is facing allegations of negligence and mismanagement regarding the maintenance and rehabilitation of its ageing electrical network after a mother and daughter barely survived electrocution.

Community members and an internal source at the municipality have expressed concerns about the potential hazards posed by the deteriorating electricity network infrastructure of the town.

A recent incident of a mother and daughter getting electrocuted has heightened concerns within the community.

According to a source who preferred anonymity, a consultant was engaged to address pressing issues within the electrical network and made considerable efforts to expedite crucial processes such as tariff applications and procurement of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

However, the consultant’s efforts were hampered due to the lack of funding approval from the Accounting Officer.

“The consultant pursued the rehabilitation of the electrical network by writing numerous emails, WhatsApps, and making unanswered phone calls to the Accounting Officer, all in vain,” said the source.

The source claimed that a strategic failure within the municipality resulted in the suspension of the consultant’s engagement during a meeting held on 31 August 2023.

It is also alleged that councillors and some staff members are divided and they can’t reach an agreement regarding the rehabilitation of vital infrastructure. Some opposed the appointment of a qualified consultant which resulted in failure to uphold electricity standards set by the Electrical Control Board (ECB).

“Some of the Gobabis Municipality councillors and the CEO don’t support the rehabilitation of the 30-50-year-old electricity network, which can put the whole town in jeopardy in the near future. This might as well result in losing the license with ECB,” stressed the source.

In response, the municipality’s Public Relations Officer, Frederick Ueitele, downplayed the severity of the situation, asserting that the network issues are not deemed as an emergency.

“Our electricity network is not as bad as the community members claim. Yes, it needs some work done here and there, but it is not an emergency situation. We have experienced some electricity outage problems in the past, but we have temporarily fixed them. The problems occurred because we did not have a backup when we had a power outage,” he said.

Ueitele said that temporary fixes were made in the past and that the municipality had addressed concerns raised by the ECB, avoiding license revocation.

“There was an issue with the ECB threatening to revoke the license, but we explained the issue and gave some conditions regarding the electricity network issue that needed improvement. The municipality and ECB have reached an agreement,” he added.

Regarding the division among staff members, Ueitele said he would not call it a division,

“The issue is that some staff members from the finance department at the municipality sought a consultant to work on the electricity network without informing the technical team in the municipality. As per our act, the procurement procedure was not followed,” he explained.

When the consultants received the letter from the municipality, it was during the period when the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sophia Eises, was on leave between July and August, and they received the letter from the then-acting CEO.

“The technical team stated that there was no need to acquire a consultant, as the network issues could be addressed internally. They claimed that if they identified an issue that required outsourcing, that only then would a consultant be necessary,” he said.

He stated that the mayor and chairperson of the management committee were briefed on what transpired, and that is when they halted the process.

About the electrocution incident, Ueitele said the municipality has heard about it but no official complaint was lodged with the office.

“After hearing about the incident, our team examined the location and found that the cables were vandalized, which could have been a cause of the electrocution. Some community members are stealing copper cables to resell them at scrap yards,” Ueitele said.

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