Outcry over abandoned youth project

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Nuusita Ashipala

Ongwediva-Amid allegations of financial mismanagement, the technical steering committee of the Onehanga Youth Project has pulled the plug on the operations of the project that was funded to the tune of over N$5 million.

The project, which was aimed at creating employment for the youth in Ohangwena, was reportedly only active for about five months before it was abandoned and has now become a grazing area for livestock from nearby villages.

New Era has established that the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service pumped N$1 million into the project, which was apparently used to de-bush about 40 hectares, plus N$2.5 million from Social Security Commission (SSC), which was used to construct two blocks with three bedrooms each, but the structures have not been completed.

Ohangwena Regional Council had also funded the installation and elevation of a borehole for N$150,000 and injected N$1.8 million for fencing off the area. Apart from the money from the donors, when the project was abandoned in 2015, farmers who wished to graze their livestock on the project were charged N$100, but this money remains unaccounted for.

In addition, there were reportedly also ‘ghost workers’ on the payroll along with the youths who were actually de-bushing the area. “There were oxen bought to slaughter for the youths who were de-bushing, but not all of them were slaughtered,” said one source.

Since work on the project commenced in 2013, the committee has not produced any financial report on how it spent the money. Sources alleged that there was nothing significant at the project apart from the fence, the borehole, four water tanks and the incomplete structures.

“There is no equipment to boast about, these are millions that have gone to waste,” lamented one of the people familiar with the project.

Asked about this, Eenhana Constituency Councillor Udeiko Haufiku acknowledged that the project has stalled, although he dismissed allegations that there was mismanagement of funds. He said the project closed down because the donor funds were not sufficient to keep the project going.

“Equipment is expensive. We bought a lot of equipment with that money. It was also used to buy the youths food while at the project and to give them allowances,” Haufiku said.

Okongo Constituency Councillor Fanuel Ndadi also expressed disappointment with how the project was handled, considering unemployment is very high in the constituency. “We are looking into how the project can be revived, because it was providing an income for the youth,” Ndadi said.

The project is run by the National Youth Service (NYS), but NYS coordinator Olivia Valungameka could not be reached for comment this week as she is said to be on study leave in South Africa.

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