Parly Probes Abuse of Govt Houses

THE issue of abusing government houses has prompted parliament to appoint a committee that will visit six regions next week to inspect the properties, which were described in the Auditor General’s report as “seriously” misused.

Chaired by Swanu parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua, the committee has been tasked to find out whether the concerns raised in the AG’s report titled “Utilisation of Government Quarters in the Ministry of Works and Transport” that was compiled two years ago have been addressed.

The report uncovered “serious”misuse of government houses countrywide, prompting the parliamentary committee to go for a fact finding mission to “ascertain the outcomes and consequently table a comprehensive report in parliament with recommendations to address the issues”.

The secretary to the National Assembly, Jakes Jacobs, who placed an aertisement in the media last Friday informing the public that the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts will embark on site visits to government houses from 5 May to 17 May next week, confirmed this yesterday.

The regions that will be visited by the politicians are Otjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Zambezi, Kavango, Omusati and Oshana. The notice requested members of the public to submit information to the secretary of the Speaker of the National Assembly on or before 5 May 2014.

“The site visits will be undertaken based on the outcome contained in the Auditor-General’s report of 2009, 2010 and 2011 on utilisation of government houses in the regions,” the notice said.

According to the notice placed by the committee, some civil servants are abusing government houses by illegally leasing them out, using them for business purposes such as shebeens as well as using false pretences to acquire the houses for rent.

“In addition, administrative issues on the part of government such as maintenance of government houses, functions of the housing committees, rules on the occupation of the official quarters will also be looked at,” said the notice.

Among many others, the AG also found that lease agreements are not signed and distributed to the tenants when they are allocated the quarters, leading to abuse of the houses while inspections of government quarters are not being done on a regular basis.

It was also found that there are a lot of unresolved issues with regards to the ownership and management of government houses that exists across the regions and that the allocation policy is not being enforced.

Records of the government quarters are not updated on a regular basis and the fixed asset register does not include all the properties in the regions.

The Ministry of Works and Transport told auditors that most tenants were not willing to sign lease agreements as the flats were in a dilapidated and poor condition.

“There are many tenants who have signed lease agreements and with inspections to take place this month, remaining tenants in Windhoek will be served with a lease agreement that will be compulsorily filled in and signed.

The ministry agreed that there were instances of non-payment of rent.

“We have been informed that we cannot be given the legal mandate to evict illegal occupants. We have to make use of the government attorneys whose office is mandated to deal with legal issues,” the ministry said.

The ministry also told auditors that they contracted a consulting company to update and record all the property owned by government, an exercise that was expected to be completed in 2013.

The parliamentary visit is a follow-up trip that was made by the same body which published a report in 2006. Last year government sold 67 houses countrywide for N$6 million.

According to a 2001 AG report, government owned about 8 300 houses countrywide, however the state has been selling most of the houses to private individuals.

It is not clear how many houses the government owns now but the latest information indicates that government owns 270 in Windhoek, 75 at Oshakati and 39 at Walvis Bay 39.

The trip into the regions comes about a month after several members of parliament complained about the untidiness of government houses.

Education minister David Namwandi suggested that those who fail to take care of government properties should be kicked out.

“The ministry [of works] must take serious steps and put mechanisms in place to curb this type of activity. They must be kicked out of those houses, irrespective of who they are,” he said.

Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina who also announced that the government will not sell its houses anymore said some tenants of State properties suffer from the “I don’t care attitude”.

Source : The Namibian