Windhoek – The National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has strongly defended its conduct in the mass housing programme and insinuated that government alone must take full blame for the current suspension of the ambitious N$45 billion initiative.
Fathered by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2013, mass housing has been a subject of emotional confrontations between representatives of government, the NHE and contractors – over its pace, approach and funding.
Delivering the latest blow was new Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa, who on May 27 ordered temporary suspension of the project – citing lack of funds. Currently, at least N$2 billion is needed to complete at least 10 000 houses and initial projections are that a total of N$2.7 billion would be required to complete the first phase of this 17-year housing project. Under mass housing, the government plans to construct 185 000 low-cost houses by 2030.
Shaningwa’s predecessor, Charles Namoloh, also raised concern over the project, particularly the manner some contracts were awarded to contractors.
Namoloh, in a letter dated May 3, 2014, said some of the agreements signed between NHE and contractors did not comply with certain qualification criteria set out in the public notice of November 2013, did not meet the requirements of NHE’s own tender procedures and that some of the agreements were against public policy and interest.
Namoloh suggested at the time his ministry was prepared to ratify the agreements only on condition that prices are re-negotiated to the satisfaction of government.
NHE CEO Vinson Hailulu was ordered to write letters to the contractors whose contracts were deemed ‘unlawful and unenforceable’.
Responding to the suspension of the mass housing scheme by Shaningwa, NHE wrote back to her on Friday last week to confirm compliance with the minister’s order – but was quick to put on record its non-acceptance of any blame for the current status of the project.
Ebson Uanguta, chairperson of the NHE board’s audit committee, confirmed that 20 notices of suspension of work were issued to contractors, as per Shaningwa’s directive.
Uanguta stated in his letter to Shaningwa that he wanted to make it clear that mass housing was not unilaterally implemented by the NHE, but that government was involved in the entire process to date.
“There were always regular consultations and joint decision making between the NHE and the ministry,” Uanguta said.
“There is documentary evidence proving that NHE was given a directive to implement the programme without delay at numerous times.”
He added that Namoloh pre-approved the list of all contractors and asked a tender panel to approve and award mass housing contracts to various companies.
Uanguta was particular on the issue of funding, citing a letter by NHE board chairperson Jason Nandago, dated December 18, 2013, in which he told Namoloh that the NHE did not receive any money from government as yet while the company was under instruction to roll out the programme.
“It has to be put on record that the lack of funding is the most critical obstacle in the implementation of the mass housing programme,” the board member said in his letter last week.
He also stated that it was government’s decision, and not NHE’s, that the servicing of land for mass housing was allocated to local authorities and not NHE, which is the executing agency of the housing scheme.
“… Funds for land servicing were also released to local authorities. This has resulted in the unavailability of serviced land, which is a major challenge for the mass housing programme.”
He said many local authorities lack capacity, some so much that they struggle to allocate completed houses to landless residents in their towns.
by Toivo Ndjebela