NHE Blows N$400 000 On Sports Trip

THE cash-strapped National Housing Enterprise blew about N$400 000 at a sports tournament in Lesotho over the weekend.

The event was a get-together for housing parastatals from several countries and provided an opportunity for them to participate in games.

Forty-eight NHE officials, including chief executive officer Vinson Hailulu, general manager of finance John Mugaviri, and Eric Libongani, the manager for corporate communications and marketing, went on the excursion.

The NHE group was accommodated at Maseru Sun, which is one of the most luxurious hotels in that country, after they were flown from Windhoek. The group arrived back in the country on Monday night.

Sources at the parastatal, who revealed to The Namibian that NHE had also roped in a publicity consultancy firm to clean up its ‘tainted’ image, described the trip as ‘lavish’.

Libongani confirmed the trip on Tuesday, while Hailulu put down the phone the moment this journalist introduced himself.

NHE sources have questioned the wisdom to participate in the games, saying they would have preferred a less costly team-building event.

“It’s a waste of funds. That money is worth (the cost of building) at least two medium houses,” said a source, who declined to be named.

What further irked those who spoke to The Namibian, was that the Lesotho trip was not the only ill-timed one NHE is sponsoring, because Hailulu and the manager of technical services and property management, Uazuva Kaumbi, are expected to travel business class to Seychelles tomorrow.

“We don’t know what they are going to do there for two to three days,” said a source.

NHE has been under pressure to convince government to give them funds to implement the ambitious mass housing project that has been dogged by problems. As a result, President Hifikepunye Pohamba was expected to meet Hailulu and the Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development, Charles Namoloh, yesterday for an explanation.

The allegations of lavish spending come about a month after the weekly newspaper Confidentegrave reported that NHE, which had a N$70 million overdraft, risked losing prime assets including its headquarters because of the debt after government refused to release mass housing funds, a scenario which forced the housing parastatal to foot the bill of over N$25 million.

The Namibian understands that NHE, which has been awarded the custodianship of the country’s N$148 billion housing project, has been on a drive to spruce up its reputation, especially given the negative publicity they received after the award of the mass housing project.

The tender to provide publicity support to NHE, which was aertised earlier this year, was awarded to Young Designers Aertising.

Sources say NHE paid N$300 000 to NBC to broadcast several positive aertisements about the mass housing project and also agreed to pay N$400 000 to New Era newspaper for a similar service. The agreement comes three weeks after Hailulu and his management team went to the state-owned newspaper, complaining about “negative reporting” the parastatal had received from New Era over the mass housing project.

Libongani last week Thursday said he would not go into detail on internal operations matters desribing the trips as not joy ride expeditions but part of their strategic plan. “I regard those inquiries as NHE internal operations and as such, I will not go into the details of those matters,” he told The Namibian.

This will not be the first allegation of lavish spending NHE has faced this year. Last month, the parastatal confirmed that its senior manager, who stayed at a four-star hotel in Windhoek for 30 months since 2011, incurring for the parastatal a bill of more than N$600 000, had finally checked out.

Meanwhile, sources also questioned why NHE has not made its annual financial audited reports public for the past six years.

“How can an institution tasked with managing a huge investment such as the mass housing project have a history of not providing financial statements?” asked a source. Libongani maintains that their books are up to date.

Source : The Namibian