Namibia: Oshakati Shrugs Shoulders On Missing N$15m

THE Oshakati Town Council is unable to account for more than N$15 million from its coffers.

Council management failed to explain to the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts during a hearing on how the money became untraceable. The committee, chaired by National Council member of parliament Peter Kazongominja, held the session at Oshakati on Friday.

The money was apparently mysteriously moved from the council's capital development fund - something the council was lost for words to explain.

The council could also not provide any paper trail or journals to explain why the money was channelled from that account.

Proof of what the money was spent on, or a bank transfer letter that authorised the council to move the money from the capital development fund's account to a different unaccounted account, could also not be provided.

Werner Iita, the council's chief executive officer, admitted that the money cannot be traced.

"It is true. There was no explanation or anything indicating why the money was moved, and therefore it was recorded that way. I did not sign any statement, perhaps because I was not there, or the acting person could not sign, that is all I could remember. I do not know why the money was channelled," he stated.

Iita added that the council did not have the capacity to verify all the council's financial statements on time, dating from as far as 2017, as the council did not have personnel with the necessary skills to carry out this function in the finance department.

Kazongominja was dissatisfied with how the Oshakati Town Council was channelling money without providing sufficient proof.

"We want to know why the money was moved without any explanation given, and what the money was used for. This is public money, and we cannot agree, because the money was moved without an explanation", he stated.

"We want the reasons why the money was moved because we want to go and give a proper report to the line ministry. We did not come all the way down here to just listen to whatever you are telling us and go back; give us a proper explanation," he charged.

The parliamentary standing committee furthermore noted that the council did not comply with parts of the Local Authorities Act which requires the submission of financial statements to the office of the auditor general, which was done only three months after the due date.

Iita reiterated in his defence that the council did not have the capacity to compile the financial statements on time as it was understaffed. However, the council wrote a letter to the Office of the Auditor General, requesting an extension date that would enable them to submit all the financial statements. However, the council was not granted permission for an extension.

"It is true that the financial statement of June 2018 was submitted very late. We were supposed to submit it on 30 September last year, but we only managed to submit it in June this year. For the current financial year, we have again requested an extension period, and we were granted until the end of October," he explained.

Iita added that the council has, therefore, hired a private consultant who compiles all the council's financial statements on behalf of the council, hence the delay in the submission. He could, however, not provide minutes of the council's meeting which approved the expenditure of hiring a private consultant, nor could any agreement with the private consultant be found.

The committee furthermore found that the council had written off unsupported VAT returns amounting to more than N$500 000, without an explanation.

Kazongominja then postponed the hearing to be held in Windhoek at a date to be announced soon.

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