Pohamba’s Dream in Doubt

PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba’s ambitious mass housing dream meant to provide houses to the country’s poor, might remain just that following reports that the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has not yet raised its N$2 billion share for the programme.

Pohamba, who will step down in March, was supposed to have handed over a 1 000 houses last year but could not do so because most of the mass housing projects in the country are still incomplete.

It can be revealed that the beleaguered NHE is yet to come up with a single penny of the N$2 billion which it needs to raise as part of its contractual obligation to secure the future of Government’s mass housing project.

This lifeline, launched in partnership between government and the NHE to address the national housing crisis, appears to have ground to a halt following the parastatal’s inability to secure any funding from financial institutions so far.

The Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development permanent secretary, Nghidinwa Daniel yesterday confirmed that NHE is still struggling to raise the much needed money.

But, Daniel says, the mass housing is government’s brainchild and it will go “to every length to ensure that the programme is not jeopardised”.

The PS explained that the project is structured in such a way that government’s contribution is limited to low-cost houses, while the rest of the money is sourced from public private partnerships (PPPs). He stressed that the NHE should raise the N$2 billion from lending institutions.

“NHE must go into the market and see whether they can borrow any of that money cost-effectively,” he said.

Asked whether NHE has managed to come up with any of that money, Daniel said: “Not to my knowledge.”

Daniel was vague when asked whether the already overburdened taxpayers would have to bear the cost of a government bail out, should NHE fail to raise the funds.

“I’m not saying that. The process of seeking external funding is still underway. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We will know what to do when we get there,” he explained.

Equally, he could not say until when the NHE has leeway to obtain the funding.

“We don’t have a particular date but the funding is required as soon as possible,” he said.

Daniel attributed the delay in securing money to NHE “still scanning the market”.

According to him, NHE has engaged a number of institutions and “It’s not like they went to the market and they were declined.”

The PS was unable to say whether NHE even has sufficient collateral that would put any bank at ease when dishing out N$2 billion.

On enquiry, NHE chief executive officer Vinson Hailulu used his words sparingly, saying he only started working yesterday after the December festivities and was in no position to respond.

Besides, he said, the line ministry should speak on anything pertaining to the mass housing programme.

The Minister of Finance, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who late last year called for a probe into some of the mass housing contracts and housing cost components, refrained from commenting yesterday.

“I would really refer all the questions to the [housing] ministry or the NHE. All information should be secured from the same source. I can’t say I don’t know anything, because that would be a comment in any case,” she said.

Rowland Brown, a prominent local economist, yesterday said he doubts that a bank will be able to provide a loan that size.

There was a public outcry when it recently emerged that close to 400 workers on an NHE project at Rundu had gone hungry over Christmas and New Year’s Day after their employer – Greencycle Investments, contracted by the parastatal – had not been paid.

Following reports by The Namibian, NHE managed to scrape together N$2,5 million, which was paid out to the workers last week.

Daniel yesterday called for an amicable solution to the problems between the NHE and its contractors although it was not directly the government’s responsibility.

Source : The Namibian