Namibia: Poor Workmanship to Cost Taxpayers

THE Ministry of Works and Transport requires N$800 000 to demolish the first phase of the Mariental Youth Complex, which was built in 2008.

The first phase of the youth complex, comprising an office and conference facilities, was constructed by Chinese contractors Sinohydro Consultants at a cost of about N$7 million. The contractors were paid the full amount for the work upon completion and retention money 12 months later.

Ivan Pieters, the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service's official in charge of the Mariental centre, said the government did not get value for its money with the construction of the building.

"After the building started cracking, one month after we moved in in 2009, we questioned whether the company was paid. We questioned why but were made to understand it's not the building itself but the movement in the soil," said Pieters.

The ministry's staff used the building from 2009 until 2014, but had to move out after the ministry of works declared the building unfit. The works ministry found sub-soil movement in the ground, which shifted the building's foundation and caused cracks, leading to fear that the building might collapse.

Pieters said because of that, a decision was taken to demolish the building and start from scratch, but the demolition of only the first phase would cost some N$800 000.

"Budgetary allocation was to be made for the demolition during the 2015/16 financial year but there has been nothing so far," said Pieters. "It's a very frustrating situation as this is because of poor workmanship and now we can't provide the services fully to the youth."

The Municipality of Mariental's chief executive officer, Paul Nghiwilepo, said other engineers and contractors know that foundations in the area where the centre was built have to be excavated to a depth of about one metre, instead of 400 millimetres or the usual 700 mm, and should first be filled up with gravel stone before casting a foundation.

"But unfortunately that was not done with this building. Therefore, you get the shifts because it's clay they just built on. It's poor workmanship," said Nghiwilepo.

Allen Viviers from WML Consulting Engineers, which was contracted to monitor the foundation and make a recommendation on demolishing or renovating the structure, said the engineering firm proposed reinforcing the building and then renovating it. "We recommended to them to take out the garden and irrigation system. Thereafter, we found the movement was not so much and a renovation would be sufficient," said Viviers.

But he said after the firm's recommendations were submitted in 2015, it did not get feedback from the ministry of works or the youth ministry.

Queries to the chief control works officer at Mariental, Gottfried Mubango, went unanswered after multiple calls and text messages on the matter.

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