Missing millions derail Omatjete community lodge

WINDHOEK - What was intended to be a community lodge to alleviate poverty and create jobs in the sleepy village of Omatjete in the Daures Constituency has become a curse after the millions budgeted for the project vanished into thin air.

Omatjete in the Erongo Region faces a high unemployment rate, hence government in 2011 through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism decided to avail money to build a community lodge in Ohungu Conservancy to create jobs.

However, the project has turned into a white elephant, as the structure has been abandoned with no one taking responsibility approximately N$4.1 million spent.

Ohungu Conservancy chairperson Benestus Haakuria told New Era in an interview that construction commenced in 2011, following the allocation of N$1.1 million given by government through the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg).

He said the contractor is Daniel Khaiseb.

At the time, Haakuria said the environment ministry saw the allocated N$1.1million was inadequate, and approached the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to provide the shortfall of an additional N$3 million.

Further, he maintained they were informed the allocated N$4.1 million was not enough because a single bungalow would each cost N$500 000- and the lodge needed five bungalows in total plus other infrastructure.

The issue went out of our hands because the architecture-Axel Diamond took over the building plan. From there, we don't get information wherever we ask about progress of the lodge. When we ask the contractor, Daniel Khaiseb, he told us that this building would need N$7 million saying the N$4 million is not enough. There is no report ever given to us, Haakuria revealed.

He explained the community leaders got frustrated and contacted the environment ministry who in turn contracted Tulipamwe Consultancy last year to inspect the building. The consultancy apparently found out that foundation was not up to standard and the sewerage system was faulty.

We are still fighting for the lodge to be completed so we generate income for the community. The unemployment rate is extremely high. We have limited wildlife to generate income through trophy hunting, he expressed.

On Sunday, Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta expressed his disappointment when he visited the incomplete project in Omatjete Village.

I am shocked to see that it took so many years to build this infrastructure. The contractor has done sub-standard work and they had to demolish some of the parts. I require that a report is provided to me to see what action is to be taken. I suspect that someone invented this kind of project to make money for themselves. Millions were lost here. I don't think if it was honestly done, we couldn't be standing with an infrastructure like this and people have abandoned everything, Shifeta reacted.

He said people come up with such projects to serve their personal interests.

Shifeta argued the project was very important to benefit the community but some dishonest individuals configured the system and started pretending to build lodges. It's not our mandate to build lodges, let people who have the knowledge operate and build lodges, he remarked.

Shifeta is angry as some of the material were destroyed by the sun.

He lashed out the inspectors and consultants did not do their work.

They are probably colluding. I thought consultancies are there to protect the interest of the client, but here, even a layman like me, I am not a contractor and I don't build but I can see sub-standard has been done here. These are type of work we get from some contractors and when we select who should do the work, then they want to complain. We are going to investigate after receiving the report, he said.

He said with this kind of work, they would not allow the ministry to build lodges anymore, adding it is better to get an investor to build and operate these lodges.

He noted the Omatjete incident is not the only one, saying there are many that were started but infrastructure has been built incorrectly.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia