Govt Launches Property Census

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In an effort to root out corruption and abuse of government resources and properties countrywide, the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication took another bold step when it officially launched a nationwide programme that would jack up its asset register system. This was achieved when the Minister of Works Joel Kaapanda officially inaugurated the ‘Government Immovable Property Census 2006’ in Windhoek yesterday. The nationwide census, that will be carried out by over 100 trained unemployed youth from all over the country, will assist the ministry in effectively registering and accounting for the numerous dilapidated government properties throughout the country. Currently, the Government’s assets value stands at about N$18-billion and for a long time the ministry was unable to collect the much-needed revenue from these properties due to the absence of a reliable and credible asset register. It turns out that such a situation can ultimately lead to neglect of government buildings that are left vacant by tenants only to be vanadalised by illegal occupants at the end of the day. “The lack of proper records has led to the illegal occupation of government houses which are now dilapidated,” said the Minister of Works Joel Kaapanda when he officially inaugurated the census programme yesterday. New Era learnt that last year alone the ministry spent close to N$32 million in maintenance and upgrading dilapidated government buildings countrywide, while an estimated N$33-million was forecast for this financial year. In an interview with New Era earlier this year, the minister expressed concern about the decaying state of public property, citing an inadequate policy in managing government infrastructure as a critical area. Other problems are insufficient personnel and negligence. “This is sheer negligence from the side of the ministry in not carrying out the responsibilities fully in maintaining the buildings,” said Kaapanda. In view of this, the minister stressed that such state of affairs shows the inefficiency, mismanagement and failure of the ministry to collect revenue from state properties. “If these assets are not properly registered and accounted for, the Government will lose revenue and will also not be able to maintain and keep up with Namibia’s infrastructure development and standards of living,” explained Minister Kaapanda, stressing the importance of physically identifying such properties through the newly launched census. “We have not been able to collect much rent as we would have liked because people ended up not paying and sometimes such data was not on our records. But with proper data we’ll be able to collect the revenue,” added the works minister. The collection of such valuable data is therefore seen as part of the ministry’s reforming process to become efficient and effective in service delivery. After undergoing week-long training in the capital, the youth would be conducting physical identification of all government properties countrywide, including houses flats, plots, schools, hostels, health facilities, government offices, farms as well as developed and underdeveloped land. Addressing the newly trained youth, the minister further warned them to “guard against misconduct and illegal dealings which may jeopardize the success of the census.” Public members have also been encouraged to assist the youth in carrying out the tasks successfully. The team of young people were drawn from the National Youth Service and the census exercise is being conducted with assistance from experts in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, the City of Windhoek, Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance. The census is expected to last no longer than three to four months. The inauguration of the ‘Government Immovable Property Census 2006’ comes shortly on the heels of another programme called ‘Operation Clean Up’ that was launched by the Ministry last year.