Opuwo Council Looking Up

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By Engel Nawatiseb OUTJO SOME officials of the Opuwo Town Council stand accused of disposing of land without council approval. There also appears to be no control by council in the way it handles land issues, as there is no property register. In some instances, land is simply given away without any compensation, while a local hotel acquired a large plot at “a give away price” of N$14 000 from the previous council. The Chairperson of the Opuwo Council Management Committee Peter De Villiers revealed this. He was briefing the secretariat and management committee of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) at Outjo last Friday. “I can now report that the water crisis has been resolved, thanks to Alan’s intervention, and advise that about N$1.5 million was provided by government to fix some of our water problems including meters and computers and others. There is a possibility that we are going to build a purification plant worth more than N$12 million in the near future to finally solve our problems.” The chairperson said the incumbent council took over the reins of the town with a zero balance and heavy debt, including N$5.1 million owed to NamWater and Telecom, while electricity supply to council’s offices was disconnected. The situation was very chaotic, said De Villiers, to the extent that insurance policies of some staff members lapsed, as money was not paid over to the contracted companies. The matter has allegedly since been investigated, the affected staff members were refunded and their premiums are now up to date. He added that the problem was rectified after council paid back money owed to the insurance companies retrospectively. De Villiers accused some “selfish” individuals of enriching themselves through corrupt practices at the town council. “After being in office for one month, we realised that cheques were written in people’s names without proper documentation. We changed the signing rights at the bank, thus saving council thousands of dollars. The CEO invested half a million dollars with Channel Life. At the moment the CEO, treasurer, a records clerk and a Natis official are on suspension,” said De Villiers. Although more negative incidents were associated with the town, the council is hopeful that committed stakeholder participation could improve its status for it to remain suitable to be capital of the Kunene region. De Villiers stressed that his council had invested a further N$2,6 million in the water and sewerage reticulation at informal settlements through a capital budget allocation by the Kunene Regional Council. A multi-purpose centre and abattoir were also constructed and inaugurated this year, while close to 50 houses are nearing completion. “People should talk about our achievements: OK Foods, FNB and Bank Windhoek opened branches in Opuwo during 2005. Twelve Build Together houses are also being constructed currently; we are on the going and there is no turning back,” announced De Villiers.