N$45b mass housing proj ect unsustainable

Regional and local authorities have only managed to utilise 39% of the N$600m of the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg) budget allocated to them.
This as Government intends to pump N$45b to regional and local authorities for the mass housing development, which aims to build 185 000 houses countrywide.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who is also the chairman of the National Committee of the Mass Housing Development Programme, is expected to launch the two-phased programme this month. The first two years - 2013/14 and 2014/15 - will constitute the pilot phase targeting urban centres in the 14 regions and later, a roll-out will be done to other localities during the second phase, which will run up to 2030.
However, according to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Rtd Major General Charles Namoloh, who is the President’s deputy in the committee, progress reports from regional and local authorities have revealed that millions of dollars have not been used but “kept aside for nothing, if not to accumulate interest for them to travel.”
Says Namoloh, “When we gave Tipeeg funds to the local and regional authorities, some created accounts to keep the money so that it does not return to treasury in case it was unused. They did not misuse the money, they just kept it. So we are now pushing for those funds to be used to service the land on which we will build the house. The new mechanism now is for them to use that money before we fund them for the mass housing exercise.”
With Tipeeg, the development budget increased from N$5b to N$8b, almost a 10% increase, a first in Namibian history and yet the development of the regions and local authorities has since remained well below par.
The line ministry has since challenged regional and local authorities to provide performance and accountability reports to it while site visits spearheaded by the Permanent Secretary, Sirkka Ausiku are now being constantly held.
Local authorities have since attributed their failure to effectively implement Tipeeg to lack of clarity on projects to be carried out.
During the 2011/12 budget, the Ministry of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development was awarded N$1 163 410 193 for its regional, local government and traditional authority co-ordination division. The division of decentralisation received N$6 910 734 while housing, habitat and technical service co-ordination was awarded N$125 163 577.
However, local authorities were only allowed to deal with the technical part while the financial aspect was channelled to the Targeted Implementation Committee (TIC) in the National Planning Commission (NPC), for a decision.
The Villager has interviewed five local authorities who have all spoken of the significant lack of understanding of the processes and procedures in relation to the implementation of Tipeeg - between the regional councils and local authorities.
Just as local authorities had problems with the ministry ‘hand-picking’ consultants to facilitate the Tipeeg process, a series of certain delays have since resulted.
Government will only provide funding for the construction of the houses but the biggest hurdle in the current framework is the servicing of land. And local authorities need funding for the designing, rezoning, surveying and planning processes before the houses are built.
Currently, it takes nine months to three years for a local authority to service and develop land, with most having un-serviced lands. Should they use their own resources to service the land, affordable housing would not make economic sense, as Government does not control land prices and local authorities need more to service land than build houses.
That Government will only fund serviced land, therefore,  puts bottle-necks on the N$45b project, as the current framework is unsustainable.
“We are looking into it. Land is more expensive in Namibia than in South Africa, yet much of this job is being done by South Africans,” argues Namoloh.

Reform paper and Namoloh’s dilemma
Although Namoloh remains optimistic ahead of this mass housing initiative, there is no clarity on what will happen once local authorities have houses.
“That answer lies in the reform paper. The Local Government Reform Position Paper is almost out and will soon go to Cabinet,” he says.
Government has remained mum on the status and progress of the Local Authority Reform Position Paper. A consultant, who became the late John Pandeni’s Local Government adviser for two years, was appointed and seconded from the Commonwealth Secretariat, to carry out a study to revamp all these perennially impeding administrative and political structures and factors at local level.
One of the issues contained in the first document (initial submission done in 2006/2007, which went to Cabinet but was sent back for lack of adequate consideration of all stakeholders) was the issue of a full-time mayor.
City of Windhoek mayor and  president of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (Alan), Agnes Kafula, who chairs the organisation’s bi-annual congress this week in Katima Mulilo says local authorities are increasingly loosing heart with the reform paper, “which has been gathering dust since 2007.”
The reform paper, if adopted, would hold the key to the development of this country without assumptions, she asserts.
“For instance, the paper tackles the element of part-time councillors. I am also a victim of this issue. I work full-time in the Ministry of Home Affairs and have a part-time job at the council. This is affecting the majority of us. Now if  you brought in the element of millions that we should be managing; how would that auger? The delay caused by bureaucracy does not do anyone any good, especially since we are entrusted with millions and billions of dollars, yet on part-time bases. Most part-time counsellors come from different areas of study and have no knowledge of their expectations. In the end, CEOs and counsellors cannot co-operate, as the debate of politicians and technical persons comes up,” Kafula adds.
The reform paper recommends that Namibia adopts the Botswana model where Government appoints local authority executives. And there is more reason to believe Namoloh might further alter some of the recommendations on the reform paper, which has already seen two ministers, John Pandeni and his predecessor, Jerry Ekandjo.
“The current set-up needs to change. There is no appropriate provisions for me, as the minister, to act on rogue regional and local authorities. I cannot take immediate remedial action. I am not empowered to act because I am not the appointing authority. People are suffering because of some of the decisions that regional and local authorities take and when you try to act, you are disregarded, even as a minister,” says Namoloh, adding, he is worried about how councils hire and fire chief executives.
“There should be procedures such as informing the line ministry or a certain organ before a CEO is fired or suspended. The abuse of these technical people is detrimental to development, yet so much money is pumped in. This mass housing is not a ministerial but a presidential initiative.”
Indirectly, there seems to be a consensus that the White Paper should have preceded major development initiatives like Tipeeg and now the mass housing. Namoloh also says the reform paper needs to tackle the mushrooming of traditional authorities.
“Everyone wants to form a traditional authority body. We cannot have the whole country in form of clans set through traditional authority. We are a unitary state, a republic for that matter, not a chiefdom. Some traditional authorities even think they are more superior than local authorities and vice-versa.”
With local authorities relentlessly advocating for inter-governmental transfers for local authorities - equitable appropriation of resources/subsidies - as is common with all other countries in the world, Government’s ignorance but preparedness to pump in billions for sake of development without managing the grassroot structure, presents a recipe for a calamity. news@thevillager.com.na

Some of the recommendations of the Local Government Reform Position Paper

Confer city status on Windhoek municipality
Remove village status classification
Remove Part 1 & Part II municipal classification
Develop objective criteria for classification of Las
Establish a Local Government Commission whose functions will relate to: Recruitment of executives, investigation, discipline, mediation, appeals, advisory services.
Increase representation on councils
Introduce the constituency system for local government.
Several years ago, Namibia attempted to introduce the constituency system as a means of electing persons to local councils, only to discover there was likelihood that some semblance of the pre-independence apartheid era in which constituencies would become enclaves of ethnic groupings, could appear.

With increasing integration over the years, it is anticipated this situation may no longer predominate and therefore it would be an opportune time to re-examine the possibility of introducing a constituency system in Namibia. This recommendation is consistent with a similar one made in the recently completed Electoral Reform Report, which seeks to:
Reduce term of council from five to three (3) or four (4) years and allowing for Mayors and Village Chairpersons to serve throughout the full-term of council, subject to recall, will be consistent with global trends.
Ensure functional competence of councillors
Introduce direct elections of mayors
Increase tenure of mayors
Provide for full-time employment of mayors
Recognise public service
Move towards a new political management system for local authorities
Generally, the basis for determination of the political structure of local authority councils is the distribution of administrative, legislative and executive functions between the mayor, council and chief executive officer (city manager), with the intention of making the decision-making process clearer to citizens.

There are three basic models that can guide this process, even though variations exist in each case:
1. Council
2. Mayor – Council
3. Council – Cabinet.