17 March 2017

Namibia: No Quality Controls Done On Demolished Swakop Houses

No monitoring was done on the construction of the poor quality mass houses at Swakopmund with the end result being last week's demolition of the houses.

INDICATIONS are that quality control management was largely absent during the erecting of the housing structures which were demolished at Swakopmund last week.

The saga of the housing structures built under government's troubled and stalled mass housing scheme took a bizarre turn as both the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) and the Swakopmund municipality yesterday absolved themselves of responsibility for having failed to ensure that the structures adhered to accepted quality standards.

The NHE's corporate communications and marketing manager, Eric Libongani, yesterday said the NHE's mandate over the mass housing scheme was revoked in 2015, and they could therefore not be held accountable for the poor-quality structures.

"The NHE has never erected substandard structures. We have never compromised, and have always delivered," he told The Namibian. With regards to the demolished houses, he said the NHE had the mandate up to when the foundations were done, and had found the foundations to be up to standard.

"As for the top structure, we no longer had a mandate as it was revoked, so we could not check. It is the top structure which is being demolished. The ministry appointed its own people, and the NHE was not involved. The alternative building method used by the contractor was approved by the Swakopmund municipality before the actual construction commenced," he stated.

"They, nor anyone else, can not now blame the NHE for things gone wrong and hold the NHE accountable for failed structures because we were no longer part of the project."

He said all projects by the NHE are checked for quality.

For his part, the Swakopmund municipality's manager for engineering services, Martin Amedick, said from the onset, the municipality had said that it did not have sufficient staff to monitor the construction of a vast number of houses.

Amedick said it was agreed with the NHE that it would do the daily quality controls, and then issue a compliance certificate for every house.

He added that municipal building inspectors had done spot-checks to ensure adherence to standards and regulations, but argued that this should not be confused with quality control.

"Regular inspections will quickly show poor control, supervision, material or workmanship, but since there were multiple agencies involved, it took time to take consequential action.

"The first step is to educate and warn the contractor. Several warnings may be given, until building work is stopped if there is no improvement. Stopping a contractor without proper cause and due diligence can become very costly," Amedick explained. He said the Delta Group, which built the houses, had submitted product and material samples from their factory in South Africa and proper accreditation before commencing work. He added that the company had submitted the plans of their typical house models, and were issued with an approval certificate by his department in order to commence with the project.

"The approval was withdrawn due to the lack of proper quality control on their side. The company was also informed that no occupation certificates would be issued," he noted.

With reference to the alternative materials and methods used by the Delta Group, Amedick said: "Unfortunately, there is no institution which can offer accreditation or do spot-checks with respect to consistency in Namibia, nor am I aware of any company producing these panels in our country."

Urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa recently declared more than 40 of the housing structures unfit for habitation, and ordered that they should be demolished.

Delta Group Holdings was awarded the N$90 million tender to build 400 houses, but the number was later reduced to 100. Shaningwa told The Namibian last week that about N$30 million of the initial contract amount was still left over, and that the money would be used to build 133 houses to replace those which were demolished.

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