27 April 2012

Namibia: Maltahöhe Residents March Again

Maltahöhe — Maltahöhe residents yesterday staged a third peaceful demonstration in less than two months against alleged corruption, poor service delivery and incompetence in their village council.

Recently the disgruntled residents adopted a "no confidence vote" against the entire council, accusing them of not knowing what their responsibilities as elected office bearers are.

Because of their alleged ignorance, the councillors are being manipulated by council's top administrative staff, the residents claimed.

Handing over a petition to the council following a protest march spearheaded by the Community Advocacy Committee (CAC), the pressure group's chairperson Paul Simon said: "We've already fired the council, the focus of this protest is on the administrative staff".

The council's chief executive officer, Eliphas Shipanga, received the petition and promised to forward it to the council.

He refused to comment, saying a similar petition was being discussed by the Hardap regional political leadership.

the residents alleged nepotism and favouritism in the appointment of the council's chief executive, accountant and artisan forewoman.

The residents also handed over what they called a "dossier" of corruption and mismanagement claims against the council.

"The CAC is urging and calling upon the Anti-Corruption Commission to urgently deliver on its mandate, and to speedily intervene and resolve the chaos at Maltahöhe Village Council," the dossier reads.

The residents threatened to seek legal redress against the graft watchdog if it failed to investigate the corruption allegations as a matter of urgency.

The residents claimed the council had inflated the SME Park construction and swimming pool renovation tenders.

The previous council allegedly budgeted N$500 000 for the SME Park project. However, a N$1,2 million tender was awarded to Namibia Cleaning Chemicals Solutions CC to construct the park.

While N$100 000 was allocated for the renovation work at the swimming pool, Omusati Construction CC allegedly owned by a director in the Local Government Ministry, Olavi Iita, was awarded a N$700 000 tender to do the renovations.

The residents claimed that Iita was a "silent owner" of Namibia Chemical Cleaning Services, which is registered in his wife's name.

The residents also accused the Local Tender Board of ignoring tender regulations and demanded that locals be given preference when tenders are awarded.

However, the residents failed to spell out which tender regulations were allegedly violated.

Residents expressed frustration over high municipal tariffs, claiming the council had increased tariffs by 50 per cent without ministerial approval.

The resident also expressed frustration over rubbish piling up in the streets.

Responding to the allegations, the council's chairperson, Simon Haikwiyu, said the protest campaign is driven by former councillors Hans Josef, Alwina //Gowases and Paul Simon, who want to make a return to council.

"They are just hallucinating. They were ousted through a democratic process and not through bloodshed," said Haikwiyu.

Rejecting claims of nepotism in council appointments, Haikwiyu said the accountant and the artisan forewoman were seconded to the council by the Local Government Ministry while Shipanga was appointed at the recommendation of an independent interview panel.

Haikwiyu said it is likely that the former councillors might face the wrath of the law on the basis of the preliminary findings of an audit recently concluded.

"Audits were not done for 10 years until the incumbent council had taken over. Irregularities bordering on corruption were found during the recently concluded audit. The final findings of the audit report will definitely be presented to the ACC to launch a criminal investigation," said Haikwiyu.

Haikwiyu also poured cold water on alleged tender irregularities, claiming tender were allocated to successful bidders in a transparent way.

"The locals cannot expect to be granted a tender if they don't have the required expertise," he added.

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