No Word On Housing Funds – Hailulu Warns of Labour Unrest in an Election Year

THE National Housing Enterprise (NHE) is in the dark over the funding for the ambitious mass housing programme after it emerged that top officials at the parastatal are not happy with the lack of communication from their line ministry.

The Namibian was informed that NHE, the custodian of the project that was launched by President Hifikepunye Pohamba last year, is aggrieved that it has not been informed on issues of funding. All they allegedly know about is the N$8,3 billion allocated to housing in the national budget.

Last week a local weekly published a story based on a letter by chief executive officer Vinson Hailulu, complaining to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Charles Namoloh, and urging him to release the funds or face protests by unpaid contraction workers in an election year.

This is the second letter Hailulu has written to Namoloh, following the first one in January this year about the lack of funds for the ambitious housing project.

Independent sources have confirmed the existence of the letter, in which according to the Confidente, Hailulu pleaded for immediate financial support from government.

A source close to the NHE board told The Namibian that the parastatal had not been informed of the disbursement of funding, resulting in Hailulu writing to the ministry to expedite the release of funds.

Sources bemoaned the lack of communication from the line ministry with regards to the housing programme.

“Government has not told us when the money will be released. Ask the ministries, are they going to fund us or not? Why are they not being open with us?” said a source when asked for more details.

Frans Kapofi, the secretary to cabinet which endorsed the mass housing blueprint and Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana declined to comment, referring The Namibian to Namoloh, whom they said was the right person to comment on the matter.

Namoloh, who was at Nkurenkuru in Kavango West attending the inauguration of the new governor, Sirkka Ausiku, yesterday said he had not received Hailulu’s letter and will only comment after reading it.

NHE spokesperson Eric Libongani declined to comment.

In the letter, Hailulu allegedly aised government to change its stance and bankroll the project or construction workers will not be paid, and this may lead to labour unrest.

“That situation will not only undermine the integrity of the mass housing programme but will have severe consequences for the government and credibility of its agency, particularly (considering) the fact that this is an election year,” Hailulu allegedly said.

NHE awarded two-year tenders for the construction of 10 137 houses countrywide to 25 companies for N$2,9 billion despite an outcry from stakeholders that middlemen companies had inflated prices which would lead to having expensive houses.

The same report stated that the ministry is pulling plugs on the mass housing project after the exposure of several irregularities emerged such as inflated prices by constructors and questionable companies that received the tenders.

Ironically, President Pohamba warned stakeholders at the launch of the project last year that they should not delay the initiative aimed at reducing the 100 000 housing backlog in the county.

“I call upon all the persons and institutions that will participate in the implementation of this programme to do their best to ensure the success of this initiative,” the President said.

The weekly newspaper Confidante reported that Hailulu’s NHE, which has a N$70 million overdraft, is at risk of losing prime assets including its headquarters because of debt and will also fail to honour its April financial commitments to contractors.

Namoloh’s former permanent secretary Ausiku has, in the past, denied reports that government had dumped the mass housing programme.

She told The Namibian last month that NHE will have to enter public-private partnerships to raise funding as government will only subsidise low-cost social houses for low-income earners.

Houses for middle to upper income earners will be funded through other financial sources under the same programme. The NHE disagreed with that view of government only paying for social houses and saying the project blueprint does not have words such as social houses.

The Namibian understands the NHE paid about N$10 million at the end of March this year for the first month of implementation of the project and are set to pay up again end of this month.

Ausiku said her ministry did not receive invoices of work done in order for them to pay.

Source : The Namibian