Usakos denies conflict of interest in plot sale

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Eveline de Klerk

Swakopmund-Residents of Usakos have demanded answers from their town council as well as the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, following the controversial advertising of a plot the council wants to sell to acting CEO Reinhold Evenson.

In the advert – placed in national newspapers last week – Evenson appears both as the seller and buyer of the plot on behalf of council.

To complicate matters, the town council also designated him as the person who would deal with any objections the council might receive concerning the sale.

Based on public reaction, this does not appear to sit well with residents of Usakos or Namibians in general, who describe the sale as a blatant conflict of interest, and say council should cancel the sale.
The official opposition in parliament, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), also issued a statement yesterday in which it condemned the transaction.

The party said the proposed sale created a clash between the public interest and Evenson’s interests and could inevitably lead to corruption.

“Evenson is purchasing the plot, whilst being the acting CEO. At the same time, any objections to this sale should be addressed and sent to him. This makes him both judge and jury of the transaction in which he has a direct interest,” the statement reads.

The party further indicated that this type of behaviour showed the abuse of power happening in local authorities.
PDM then requested answers from Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa about whether the Local Authorities Act allows such sales.

“This opens the door to abuse of power by officials. If this is a loophole in the Act, the Minister must in accordance with President Hage Geingob’s campaign against corruption, immediately start drafting an amendment to be tabled in the National Assembly as a matter of urgency to make such blatant self-enrichment illegal,” the party appealed.

Mayor of Usakos Akser Mwafangeyo said the sale of the N$202,000 plot did not conflict with the Local Authorities Act in any way.

Mwafangeyo explained that based on a resolution passed in 2010, council decided to sell some of its property to its employees.

He added that many had already bought such properties, but Evenson only notified council in 2016 that he was interested in buying the plot in question.

Evenson has apparently been renting the council plot for the past 10 years.
“Unfortunately Evenson, as the current highest official at council has to deal with all correspondence on behalf of council, including that of the plot in question,” he said.

Mwafangeyo said Evenson was not part of the decision-making process when council passed the resolution in 2010, hence it did not create a conflict of interest.

“I as the mayor, according to the Local Authority Act, am also not allowed to head such procedures. Hence, his name appears as the buyer and seller.

“However objections are welcome as stipulated in the advert and will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
Many observers feel that council should have appointed other senior council officials to preside over the process, rather than Evenson himself.

The mayor indicated that the town would most likely appoint a new CEO on 7 February, who would then assume all responsibility for the sale of the plot.

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