Govt's N$75b asset base; a Works headache


The Ministry of Works and Transport (MWT), which is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of public assets worth over N$75b is struggling to execute its core functions because of tight budget allocations from treasury and has since handed over some maintenance functions in the regions to the regional councils.
Some of the infrastructure that fall under the auspices of the MWT includes Government garages, public buildings and airports including aircrafts, amongst many others.
The MWT has also been relying heavily on consultancy agencies for the delivery of essential services; resulting in  the Ministry spending  millions of dollars in consultation fees while constant delays in the completion of projects is experienced regularly..
In an indepth interview with The Villager’s sister publication, monthly magazine, Prime Focus, Works Minister Erkki Nghimtina, admitted that the Ministry has been handicapped by a stringent budget, which curtails them from sourcing the required N$500m for asset maintenance in every five years.
“We have a massive asset base of about N$75b worth of Government buildings. International standards require that the maintenance of such assets be 2% of the total value. This amounts to N$500m that should be budgeted for after every five years for maintenance. However, because of other pressing needs in the country, we do not get that kind of money for maintenance purposes. We have, therefore, learnt to do more with the little that we have,” said Nghimtina.
The Ministry of Works and Transport, with seven parastatals under its wings, Air Namibia, TransNamib, Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA), Road Fund Administration, Roads Authority and Roads Construction Company, has facilitated the creation of individual maintenance units in offices, ministries, Government agencies, to take responsibility for preventative and routine maintenance activities to facilities occupied by them, Nghimtina said.
“This enables the Ministry as a custodian of all Government buildings and infrastructure to properly budget and attend to real maintenance issues. The decentralisation of functions will improve maintenance work flow in all the 13 regions. Furthermore, the Ministry developed a Maintenance Management Framework document that has been distributed to all offices, ministries, Government agencies and regional councils to serve as a guideline on the maintenance of Government facilities and related infrastructure,” explained Nghimtina.
Nghimtina added that the Ministry is also facing a huge shortage of vital professional skills to effectively live up to its mandate.
“Government salary packages are much below the market-related remunerations. As a result, professionals are not attracted to Government remuneration offers. The Ministry is widely consulting with several stakeholders at the moment to develop a better structured remuneration framework,” said Nghimtina.
He added that his ministry has since come up with a strategy that could offer competitive packages to professionals in the fields in which skills shortages exist, in a bid to retain staff in the face of competition from the private sector. Although MWT managed to successfully implement most of the earmarked projects on an annual basis so far, Nghimtina asserted that there is still a need to up the implementation rate from the current 75%.
“In terms of processes, we have now developed timeframes for implementation of capital projects. The capital project cycle document is widely being distributed and consulted upon by offices, ministries and Government agencies. Despite all the problems, the Ministry managed to realise a 75% implementation rate on construction projects on the Development Budget during the period under review. That means we have improved and would like to reach a 95%+ implementation of capital projects in the next few years,” he concluded.