By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Build Together Programme is incurring losses owing to abuse by local authorities. Given the current situation where many local authorities are in financial distress, they take money meant for the programme to pay salaries and other bills. Although local authorities that abuse the system are many, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Erastus Negonga told members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts that the Katima Mulilo town council was an example. They used N$500 000 of the money meant to build houses for people in the low-income bracket for other purposes. This is happening at a time when the country is sitting with a backlog of 300 000 houses due to limited resources that are allocated for housing delivery. To change the situation and to ensure shelter for all by the year 2030, Negonga said, the government would have to allocate more money for infrastructure development and subsidise housing for its population. At times, local authorities are unable to provide serviced erven because of financial constraints. Negonga appeared before the committee to answer concerns raised in the Performance Report of the Auditor General on the Ministry regarding the Build Together Programme. He said the programme was losing money due to diversion of money for other purposes and not due to uncompleted houses, which stood at 1 085 as of October 2005. “This has been a normal practice of many municipalities that face financial problems. They used to do it especially when in financial distress,” he said. However, due to the fact that many of these sub national governments are loss making, such practices result in losses for the programme. “If they were making profit, they would refund,” he said. Apart from this, the programme faces other challenges, as people in charge of the programme flout guidelines and allocate funds to people that do not qualify. At times, the person responsible does not convene meetings and ends up doing things arbitrarily. Negonga told the public accounts committee that through such practices, chairpersons of the programme went out of their way and extended benefits to people that did not qualify, citing some councillors that ended up being beneficiaries of the programme. A case in point is a councillor in Henties Bay who benefited from the project but has since been made to pay back the money. While the ministry cannot prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents, Negonga said the ministry has taken action against them by holding disciplinary hearings and at times reporting the cases to the police for action. “Due to the corrupt tendencies of those who are in charge, we are unable to assure the committee that the objective of the programme is for the beneficiaries to benefit according to the guidelines of the Build Together Programme and the National Housing Development Act,” he added. Since the implementation of the programme in the 1992/3 financial year, 12 300 houses have been built throughout the country at a cost of N$112 million. This is out of a budget allocation of over N$139 million. The average allocation per loan ranges from N$30 000 to N$35 000 for new houses and N$15 000 for houses that need upgrading. Of the uncompleted houses, the majority, which is 60 percent, has been standing uncompleted for nine moths, said Negonga. Two percent have been standing uncompleted for eight years, five percent for five years, 15 percent for three years and another two percent for two years. However, the ministry allows that a house should stand uncompleted for only 12 months. The threshold for the programme has been increased from N$1 500 to N$3 000 to date, because of the rising costs of building materials.
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