'Embarrassing' council owed millions

Financial mismanagement, political interference and non-compliance with legislation and ministerial directives have resulted in an unbearable situation at the Rehoboth council, a ministerial report states.

24 December 2019 | Government

The 2017 Rehoboth Intervention Report has revealed gross irregularities that occurred under the watch of the Rehoboth town council led by Mayor Christina Blaauw.

The report was based on an investigation by a ministerial task team into poor governance and service delivery at Rehoboth.

“In recent years, issues of financial mismanagement, political interference and non-compliance with legislation and ministerial directives have resulted in the situation at [the Rehoboth council] having become unbearable and caused mixed feelings among stakeholders, especially community, political leaders and central government,” the report states.

Urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga commissioned an in-depth assessment of the Rehoboth council's financial and administrative operations in 2017.

And in March 2018, Mushelenga suspended the entire town council following reports of infighting and allegations of maladministration and appointed ministry official Nathalie Goagoses an interim representative.

Goagoses eventually took over the duties of former CEO Christoph /Uirab, who resigned in 2018.

/Uirab was the one who had informed the ministry of the irregularities. In 2017, /Uirab told Namibian Sun that Rehoboth was dying and on the brink of collapse.

Simeon Kanime, who took over as CEO this year, confirmed the state of affairs, but said he and his new team were hard at work to turn things around.

According to Kanime they are now setting up a property register and a land policy.

“We have given those people leasing the town lands a deadline to come and make arrangements on how they plan to pay up,” he said.

Bleeding books

The report stated that in 2017 the council owed NamWater N$30 million and NamPower N$25.9 million.

According to the report the council had lost more than N$16 million in outstanding lease and rental fees because there was no property register.

The report also pointed out that the council operated without an updated land policy and was leasing properties without lease agreements or ministerial approval.

It also found that land at the town was sold without valuations and that the council lost money on these transactions by estimating rates and taxes.

By April 2017, unpaid rent for town lands stood at N$12.8 million.

That was because the town council had failed to collect payment and enforce lease agreements.

The report found that the town council had lost substantial revenue because there were no valuations done of new developments at the town. It recommended that new rates and taxes be determined in line with ministerial policies.

Mushelenga has not been reachable for comment.

Meanwhile, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) believes a new local election should have been called to get rid of the current council.

According to party treasurer Nico Smit, Swapo's poor performance in the last election was a result of the political mistakes it had made.

“The full council should have been removed and a new election held. If that was done Swapo would have lost badly in the whole of Rehoboth. Swapo is therefore not interested in good governance but rather to have control,” he said.

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