Solid waste management in a mess

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Windhoek

RDP MP Mike Kavekotora in his capacity as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts has warned those summoned to appear before the committee that they should not take the parliamentary platform lightly by showing up unprepared without the requisite financial documents.

This was after officials from the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development yesterday told the committee they were not the ones to answer to tough questions on why the country’s solid waste management was in a mess.

Those summoned included the deputy permanent secretary in the ministry Simwanza Simenda, Lameck Uyepa, Karl Ndoroma, Evans Maswahu and Godwin Sikabongo, following a 2011-2013 performance audit by the auditor general Junias Kandjeke into the country’s solid waste management.

Simenda and his team refused to answer any questions posted to them, including why solid waste dump sites do not have environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The officials also passed the buck on why most dump sites are not fenced off to ensure restricted access, why there is no information on waste or records systems, why there are no by-laws within local authorities to address waste management matters, why there is no waste management system in place and whether local authorities conduct educational and awareness campaigns on waste management.

Simenda maintained this was not for them to answer and that local authorities are separate entities which should answer the questions as individual entities, despite the urban and rural development ministry having an oversight function of local authorities.

Kavekotora noted: “The process of (the audit) indicates your full involvement from the beginning to the end, which led to the submission of the document to the ministry which eventually led to the questions being posted to the ministry because of the overall responsibility that you have.”

“Management of waste is the responsibility of local authorities which is overseen by the directorate of regional and local government and traditional authorities’ coordination within the ministry,” he added.

“I want you to understand that all the deliberations that we have done so far and the responses – we did them under oath. When you are under oath there are certain consequences if you are misrepresenting the facts,” Kavekotora cautioned Simenda and his team.

He then asked why the officials had allowed the process to get to the hearing stage if they knew that they were not the right people to answer to questions from the committee.

“We also have other business to do but we are here, yet it looks like we have come to waste our time. There are other committee responsibilities we had to let go hoping that you will add value to the role of oversight. Unfortunately we did not get a satisfactory engagement,” stated Kavekotora.

“I am very disappointed. The committee is very disappointed. We are not going to leave this matter here because we take our oversight role very seriously,” he said.

Also, the committee had recently met officials from the Development Brigade Corporation, New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC), the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), some of whom did not come with the requested documentation regarding questionable transactions running into millions of taxpayers’ money. In some instances the committee was informed that those before them could not respond to why the books of the institutions they now run were in such a mess as it allegedly happened before their time at the parastatals.

“People who are summoned to the public hearings should not take this thing lightly. We have been given powers to do these hearings and subpoena people and if we are not happy, actions can actually be taken against people,” said Kavekotora.

“People must know what they are talking about, so that they do not contradict themselves and waste our time. That is not acceptable and people must make sure they do the right thing for them not to face unspecified consequences.” He stressed that the actions will be in line with how a court of law deals with people who disregard and disobey court rules.

“We have those similar powers. We can take legal action. The legal route to make sure that people are in compliance with what we are expecting from them.”

On the public hearings so far Kavekotora noted that he is “not completely satisfied”.

“But the most unfortunate thing is that the audits for most of these parastatals that we are dealing with are old. By law that is a breach of the law because there is a stipulation as to when these reports are to be submitted.” “Now we are dealing with things that are a little bit outdated because we talk about a report for 2013 but having said that, they cannot run away from the responsibility that they are now the accountable officers in those institutions,” he added.

“This is even so when some of them were not part and parcel of the process when the audits were done. I always remind that when you take over a going concern you must also account for the historical part of the organisation.”

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