Otavi Toilet deal saga still stinks

This letter follows the recent media briefing and press release by the Otavi Town Council (Wednesday,16 December 2015), prompted by the article in the Namibian of 2 December 2015 and my subsequent opinion piece on the subject matter first published on 11 December 2015.

Let me point out from the outset that every Otavi resident, including myself, who has interest of Otavi at heart would really like to see that this town is developed and becomes a city. But the residents do not like to see the opportunism practised by the Otavi Town Council and middlemen under the guise of innovative ways and out of the box thinking to satisfy their own bellies. It is evident that they will not tire, nor falter to cash in on the Bubbler Sanitation System.

I must stress that I don’t personally have a problem in Otavi being turned into a City, but I have a problem with the way and manner in which The Otavi Town Council and middlemen are handling the purported piloting of Bubbler Sanitation System that is tantamount to greed and corruption. Please prove me wrong! It is my civic duty to point out such practices.

The recent co-authored Media Release by Otavi Town Council and middlemen was contradictory in every sense of the word failed to address the issues raised and was a mere public relations exercise that was not even warranted to say the least.

1. The Otavi Town Council is pleading lack of exposure and misinformation regarding the operations of purported Bubbler Sanitation System. What have the Town Council done to organise community meetings to properly explain to the residents? In the event that they have called for such meetings, have they withheld vital information regarding the costing on intended Bubbler Sanitation System? Quick research on Bubbler Sanitation System shows that there are various sizes of the system catering for different needs in capacity of litres and pricing. This is the information that should have been disclosed. The Otavi Town Council failed again, big time!

2. The argument was never one of conventional toilet system versus bubbler sanitation system. The argument has at all times been that the costs involved in the project are not justified, coupled with questions on the involvement of certain questionable partnerships and rather a suggestion to instead build low cost houses for residents.

3. A frank and open media release would have dealt with the actual breakdown of the project costs (as opposed to giving a breakdown of the conventional toilet system) as well as the actual disclosure of the individuals involved.

4. Otavi Town Council did not successfully relocate people as they claimed in the media release but they have in fact dumped the residents without proper planning. To fail to plan is planning to fail. The area that they claimed to have “successfully relocated” people to is not even a declared residential area, as was even admitted by the CEO himself.

5. Should it not immediately raise eyebrows when the person sending the media invite on behalf of the Town Council is a third party who stands to benefit from the very same project? Whose interest is the person protecting and in what capacity has the person issued the invite? The interface between the Otavi Town Council representatives and the person who invited the media is highly questionable. It is at this platform that the insider information was shared hence they approached Growthpoint. Is that not tantamount to self-enrichment? Developing the town and turning it into the City is a good thing to do. But Otavi Town Council must not be viewed as a cash cow to benefit external desires.

6. To go on about the purported sterling performance of the Otavi Town Council and the fact that it was downgraded to Village Status is irrelevant in this case, and attention should be paid to the issue at hand. We don’t believe in self-aggrandisements. Many of the developmental projects were paved long ago by predecessors and only needed to be implemented-it was teamwork. Having accepted the invitation to look at the Annual Report of Otavi Town Council, it quickly became clear that the Town Council cherry picked some perceived achievements but fell short to mention that the audit opinion was actually qualified due to some shortcomings, as well as some other less favourable points.

7. Of particular concern is that the Auditor General raised the concern in the Annual Financial Report that “the risk arises that Management and Council over ride existing controls potentially dangerous practise which the Council should vigilantly guard against.”

How do we then trust that the Otavi Town Council and Management to put the residents interest above their own?

8. The Media Release claimed that Otavi Town Council never contracted any company or individual to install pit latrines. Ironically, Otavi Town Council contracted an individual and company to install Bubbler Sanitation System under the guise of ‘’pilot project”. Is a pilot project not a test of the suitability of a system, where it would be more appropriate to “pilot” just a few to gage the effectiveness?

9. Otavi Town Council claimed to have approached GrowthPoint Capital, but did not say who the middlemen were who stand hell bent to benefit from the toilet deal. This is where I have a problem.

10. The issue still remains why not build low cost houses for the residents instead of pushing for the bubbler sanitation system at such a huge amount. The benefits of implementing a bubbler system and how good and cost effective the bubbler sanitation system is, is irrelevant at this point in time.

People are in dire need of houses, and low cost houses for that matter. Claiming that no low cost houses were built at N$23,000.00 to N$35,000.00 under the Shack Dwellers Association is arrogance and ignorance of highest order for a CEO that is ought to know that. There are areas in Otavi where existing water, roads and electricity points can be upgraded for low cost housing. It is the duty of the Otavi Council to provide proper housing for its residents. Instead of giving us the cost break down of the purported bubbler Sanitation System you went to give us the breakdown of conventional toilet-which is irrelevant. Statements such as “Bubbler sanitation system cost just over 12 million is not justifiable and unqualified. You failed in that regard and we are not informed. Inform us accordingly before you deem us misinformed and having lack of exposure. Expose us to this bubbler sanitation system. What is the cost break down of just over 12 million?

Bubbler Sanitation System will never replace shelter! #thebubblersanitationsystemustfall”


Photo: Flickr