New Era (Windhoek)

6 June 2014

Namibia: Italians Spent N$7 Million On Lodgings At Keetmanshoop

Keetmanshoop — The Italian dam construction company that won the tender to construct the N$2.8 billion Neckartal Dam is said to have blown nearly N$7 million in hotel accommodation for 27 expatriates who arrived in the country five months ago to work on the construction of the dam. The hotel spending, which is part of the N$2.8 billion construction budget, has irked the 157 Namibian workers who currently receive a meagre pay of between N$200 and N$500 in living allowances per month, translating into about N$10 per day per individual depending on the individual's monthly wage. The spending on lavish and luxurious accommodation is said to have taken up 3.4 percent of the N$2.8 billion budget already so far.

Salini's finance and administration manager, Luigi Pomer, confirmed to New Era yesterday that the expatriates are accommodated in hotels, but says eight of the expatriates have since moved out of the hotel to live on the Neckartal Dam site in order to cut costs. However, the remaining 19 expatriates are still accommodated in the Birds Mansion Hotel and Schutzenhaus Guest House in Keetmanshoop. "Some expatriates moved out of the hotel. Of course they are not happy to sleep in the mountains, but they understand that it is work. There is no social life just one TV in the canteen, but we will also have a club in our camp. The cost? We have paid [between] N$800 and 1500 per day per expatriate, including meals for the five months. Eight are now out living in the camp on the site," said Pomer. Salini S.p.A won the hotly contested government tender, after much legal wrangling to construct the dam on the banks of the Fish River Canyon in the //Karas Region. Pomer said the expatriate workers will continue to live in the local hotel and guesthouse until appropriate accommodation is available on site. A good number of Neckartal general workers still live in tents.

Insofar as the grievances of the workers are concerned, including ill treatment Pomer admitted that Namibian workers are made to sit on rocks outside when having lunch, instead of sharing the canteen with the expatriates, but the situation is being addressed, he said. "Yes, at the beginning they used [rocks], but we are going to organise three main parts now and it will include the canteen. For now they are using the container, but soon we will have arranged all the facilities that are needed," said Pomer.

He also said the company is attending to the problems of insufficient ablution facilities on the site. "There are only two, but we have ordered more toilets, but they [suppliers] do not have available toilets. Last week three toilets were delivered and there are more to be delivered to the site," said Pomer. According to Fabrizio Lazzarini, Technical Manager at Salini, the existing toilets are just temporary structures and that permanent ones will be built along with the 450 rooms that are to be completed in August this year. Pomer defended the company's hiring of an expatriate as chief accountant, saying the position is important to the company under Italian law. "Some people are investing... in this company. We need to protect that and we are audited every three months in terms of international standards. If something is wrong then the chief accountant must answer and not the managing director, that is under the law of Italy," said Pomer. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Joseph Iita expressed general satisfaction with the progress of construction when he visited the Neckartal Dam construction site on Tuesday.

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