Walvis property affairs in ‘shambles’

06 September 2021 | Government

LEANDRA LOUW

WALVIS BAY

The Walvis Bay municipality has been told to get its housing affairs in order after a forensic audit found that properties at the town were being transferred into the names of buyers without payments being made, while in some instances money paid for properties could not be traced.

This information is contained in the abridged audit report on the Mass Urban Land Servicing Project (MULSP) investigation released by the Walvis Bay municipality.

The audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers was carried out after discrepancies were noticed with project funding.

An extraordinary council meeting was held on 25 July 2021 to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report that sought to probe alleged irregularities regarding the sale of properties under the MULSP.

According to the report, the construction of 26 houses could not be verified while the property sales agreements of a further 29 houses could not be ascertained.

“Additional procedures must be performed to confirm whether these were sold and, if so, establish whether such transactions were in line with the agreed selling prices,” the report recommended.

Verification needed

The report further recommended that: “The municipality should consider conducting a physical or satellite verification of 190 properties which had not been transferred from an ownership perspective to establish whether these properties are or were occupied and, if so, whether any money was collected by the municipality in this regard.”

It also stated that the ownership of 68 properties needs to be established with the assistance of the Deeds Office to ensure that properties were not transferred without payment having been made to the municipality.

“A similar verification process should be performed on the current ownership of 122 properties that are currently being held for future sale, to confirm whether these are still owned by the municipality. This would also ensure that any of these properties were not potentially transferred without a supporting agreement of sale,” the report stated.

It was further discovered that receipt of funds from property sales could not be confirmed in municipal bank accounts.

The report also stated that due to issues identified with payments made to contractors for 140 properties, which relates to a net overpayment of building construction costs, the selection and property allocation between the contractors must be investigated further.

Staff suspensions

With several executives at the municipality having served months at home on suspension due to the housing controversy that necessitated the forensic probe, municipal spokesperson Anita Kaihiva poured cold water on allegations that they unduly benefited from the project.

The officials who were on suspension are chief executive officer Muronga Haingura, general manager of community and economic development Augustino Victor, manager for property and housing Jack Manale, and property clerk Constance Summers.

She said the report does not refer to individuals who may have benefited, but refers to further investigations into processes followed on some properties.

“For example, confirmation of sales, confirming ownership status of properties, and whether payments made to contractors were in line with associated actual costs,” she said.

She did not say if the officials will face any further disciplinary action.