Windhoek — Government properties particularly houses and other residential buildings are in an advanced state of physical dilapidation according to a report tabled in parliament last National Council Standing Committee on Regional Development Lebbius Tobias.
According to the report some of those properties are occupied illegally, while subletting by civil servants is also common. Many government houses, particularly in Windhoek have also been turned into private businesses, while thousand of civil servants especially those in low paying job categories are unable to afford decent accommodation.
The committee undertook an investigative visit to government properties in the Zambezi, Kavango, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene and Khomas regions in March this year. The aim was to ascertain the condition and situation of government properties that are administered and maintained by the Ministry of Works and Transport, and to come up with recommendations for action by the line ministry. Motivating the report, Tobias revealed that the committee discovered that there are many government houses that are illegally occupied and it was also discovered that some are used for private businesses contrary to the applicable rules on government housing. A certain occupant in the Windhoek North residential area is said to be renting out part of the house to Zimbabwean nationals who are conducting a big tailoring business on the premises for profit, charging N$1 500 per month. Another example is a house in Tsumeb in which the occupant is a nurse who pays rent to a former government employee who had lied to him (the nurse) that he had bought the house from the government.
The committee also discovered that many occupants do not have lease agreements with the government as required by the housing rules. It was also found that there is inadequate record keeping on government houses, as a result a number of government houses have now been turned into private property by the occupants. "Sometimes the key is just given left and right and the ministry is not doing anything," noted Tobias. He told the National Council that vandalism of government houses occurs frequently and the regions do not have enough inspectors to inspect the properties.
Regions such as Omusati and Zambezi do not even have a single inspector to ensure compliance with the rules about the occupancy of government houses. The committee also found that the rules are not known to many occupants, as well as staff of the Ministry of Works and Transport. "All these things are known to the ministry but no action is taken. It seems like there is no power, now the question comes, who has the power? When are we going to exercise the power that we have been given?" The Tsumeb constituency councillor asked. The committee has now directed the Ministry of Works and Transport to conduct regular inspections on the properties to establish who the legal occupants are and also the ownership of such houses as some occupants are said to be taking advantage of the loopholes by transferring such houses into their names at no cost. The committee wants the ministry to speed up the sale of pool houses and to take steps to recover all monies owed as a matter of urgency.
Tobias also expressed concern over the many recommendations that parliamentary standing committees make to various ministries from several investigations, but are not taken seriously and no feedback is provided to parliament. "It seems that our ministries are taking us for granted, committees are important, we engage the citizens but ministries do not take these issues seriously, we need feedback in black and white comrade Nguvauva," Tobias said while looking at deputy Minister of Works and Transport Kilus Nguvauva who is also a member of the National Council. He cautioned that if ministries do not attend to concerns raised in parliamentary committee reports they will seek audience with the Head of State to inform him that certain ministers are not doing their work.
The Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement Theo Diergardt, in his contribution said the National Council has the power to summon ministers to come and explain why certain issues are not attended to. Diergardt said it is high time that the National Council started exercising its powers. The Deputy Minister of Workd and Transport Nguvauva adjourned the debate to the next session and promised to provide a detailed response to issues raised in the report.