Katima officials suspended over alleged housing bribes

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Katima Mulilo Town Council has suspended three officials on allegations they corruptly accepted kickbacks ranging from N$10,000 to N$20,000 after promising to put those who paid them the money at the top of the housing waiting list.

It is alleged the syndicate has been operating for years and was only uncovered after some of the individuals who parted with the bribes complained to the town council management that they had paid officials handsome amounts in exchange for the preference of being placed on top of the housing list, but which did not happen.

Some local authority councillors at Katima Mulilo privy to the matter told New Era yesterday on condition of anonymity that at least three officials have since this week been suspended and that there is a possibility that more could face the same fate.

“I have been informed by the CEO [chief executive officer Rafael Liswaniso] that employees who were receiving money from community members have been suspended. They have been receiving money saying ‘give me N$10,000 or N$15,000 to arrange so that you will be priority number one or two to get a house’. But those people have been identified because some didn’t get the house, so people started complaining to the office of the CEO that ‘I gave so and so money but I didn’t get a house.’ That’s how the syndicate got busted,” revealed a source.

The councillors also claimed the suspended officials have been corruptly working with staff members of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development to put the names of those who give kickbacks on top of the housing waiting list of the mass housing scheme of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE).

The councillors alleged some officials from the NHE based in Kavango have also been suspended. New Era could not confirm this as the Minister of Urban and Rural Development Peya Mushelenga was not available for comment.
The names of the suspended officials were given to New Era but cannot be published as the officials still have to appear before a disciplinary hearing and they have not appeared before a court. They are a housing clerk, a planning officer and an assistant accountant.

Katima Mulilo Mayor Georgina Mwiya-Simataa confirmed the scam that has been in place for years and also confirmed the suspensions.

She said although they are still waiting for an official report the CEO briefed them in a management meeting that issues of irregularities are under investigation pertaining to the list for the allocation of houses.
According to the mayor the whole issue came to the fore when Mushelenga went to Katima Mulilo last month to hand over houses to beneficiaries who have been on the mass housing waiting list.

“Although it’s an NHE issue, our employees were involved because we had to produce the master list of people who applied in our town. We gave the list to NHE, which was signed by me. During the launch, we were wondering to see only three beneficiaries who were there to receive the houses. But the houses that were handed over were 54,” the mayor said.

She said that after the launch the CEO tipped off management in a meeting about people who approached the council complaining that they gave officials money to be put on the list at the expense of those replaced from the top.
“We are not working for kickbacks here. We are here to serve the whole nation, despite which language you speak. I was the one who told the CEO to investigate the issue and get these culprits so the law will take its course. We have policies covering that if an employee did something wrong, then the administration will deal with that person until proven not guilty. I can’t stand for corruption. We can’t undermine other people’s benefits. But now someone is losing a shelter because of corrupt practices,” the mayor said.
The CEO was not available for comment.

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