NHE Begs for N$70 Million to Pay Housing Bills

THE National Housing Enterprise continues to beg the government for money to pay for houses under the mass housing project that are not supposed to be funded by the State, with the latest being a N$70 million request.

There are fears within government circles though that the N$625 million planned for the first phase (2014 and 2015 financial years) for the project might be depleted by next month and that the project might grind to a halt if NHE fails to secure about N$2 billion funding from private institutions.

The government has, since the beginning of this year, insisted that it will only pay for low cost houses and not those out of the range called subsidy houses, although NHE has asked the ministry to inject N$411 million to cover all the bills from August to December while the parastatal secures private funding.

Permanent secretary in the ministry of local government Daniel Nghidinua confirmed last week that NHE last month asked for a N$70 million bailout to pay bills incurred on the non-social houses.

“Yes, we confirm receipt of the request from NHE for the ministry to assist to pay the bill for non-social houses. The request is under consideration as there are procedural requirements the ministry need to follow before a final decision is taken,” Nghidinua said.

Nghidinua said there is no delay on the part of government to provide NHE with a guarantee for it to get private financial injections.

“Indeed the government is waiting for NHE to submit the business plan detailing the nature and extent of the external borrowing that it is seeking,” he said.

The PS said the government has so far paid N$100 million towards the construction of social houses under the mass housing programme.

The lack of consensus between NHE, the line ministry, the finance ministry and the National Planning Commission has also affected the process of finalising the subsidy formula, a document that would determine the final prices of mass houses.

A draft report on the issue of the subsidy outlines the proposed income range of mass housing beneficiaries and the requirements for one to receive a house. The delay in determining the subsidy formula comes a year after the project was launched.

The lack of a subsidy agreement means that media reports a few weeks ago about houses being cheap and available to as low as N$600 per month are premature since the government has not yet agreed on how much will be beefed up with state funds to make them affordable.

“Yes, the subsidy scheme is still being finalised,” Nghidinua said.

The lack of clear information and widespread loopholes in the proposed subsidy has led to prolonged talks which have in a way affected preparation of who the beneficiaries of the mass houses will be.

Plans by the NHE to hand over the first 1 000 houses built under the mass housing programme by end of last month were dashed mainly due to the lack of progress on site and the absence of the subsidy formula and beneficiaries list.

The delay in handing over the houses is also a blow to the ruling party Swapo, who wanted to woo voters in the upcoming national elections by giving out the 1 000 houses.

The houses were planned to be handed over by President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

There are top government officials who are not satisfied with the answers they have been receiving from NHE with regards to the implementation of the mass housing programme, a situation which has led to a high profile permanent secretary resigning from the implementation of the programme.

NHE allegedly also failed to provide updated information to the government on the progress and timeline of work has made it difficult which line ministry to assess the progress of the project.

News about the plea for a bailout comes at a time when top officials on the committee continue blaming the housing parastatal for sidelining them and branding them “people who want to take over the project from NHE to give the tenders to their friends”.

Sources said the parastatal has been grilled over the last months by the finance ministry negotiating team who asked questions about how the subsidy will be implemented in order to avoid loopholes. NHE could not answer these questions.

Despite the controversies, the housing PS said the handover of the first completed houses is planned for before the end of the year.

“It will take place in stages depending on the number of completed houses per site. As of end of October approximately 800 houses have been completed. The number of completed houses differs per site. Walvis Bay has the biggest number of completed houses thus far,” Nghidinua said.

Asked about how the beneficiaries will be determined, the PS said there are people who applied who applied for houses with NHE.

“Similarly, there are those who applied with the local authorities. The two lists will be integrated into one list catering for people of all walks of life based on income,” Nghidinua said.

Local government minister Charles Namoloh confirmed last week that the issue of subsidies is still being looked at.

Namoloh ordered the NHE to renegotiate all the N$2,9 billion mass housing contracts in June this year but NHE bosses have refused to act on that instruction. Namoloh declined to comment on why his orders have constantly been defied by NHE and what action he will take.

Source : The Namibian