Local leaders urged to take charge of development

Leaders bemoan lack of development
Some Erongo regional leaders have criticised development funding allocations, arguing that only Walvis Bay and Swakopmund appear to be prioritised by government.
Leandrea Mouers
Erongo regional councillors say that the government is overlooking development in the smaller towns of the region.

As part of their mid-term budget review consultations, finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi and director general of the Namibia Planning Commission (NPC), Obeth Kandjoze, last week hosted consultations with regional leaders and local business representatives.

The ministry provided an overview of government-funded projects in the region, which are concentrated primarily in Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.

A presentation by the finance ministry showed that the current development budget stands at N$4.9 billion overall, with 400 projects.

Currently, 399 are ongoing.

Thus far, from the N$4.9 billion budget, expenditure stands at about N$750.2 million, while government commitment (line ministry) stands at around N$246.5 million, equalling an execution rate of 15.3%, for the first quarter of the new financial year, ending June 2022.

Commitment is the money that has been committed by the implementer of the projects; generally, the line ministries commit to reserve the money, before the invoices are submitted to the ministry of finance.

Projects

The Erongo Region has been allocated nearly N$697.2 million for the next three financial years (from inside and outside state revenue funds).

There are 69 ongoing projects in the region, which are being implemented at a slow pace due to limited funding.

The projects that have been allocated the largest budgets include:

Karibib Airport Air Force Base: N$7 million was allocated, of which N$2.1 million has been spent. Commitment: N$500 212.79. The execution rate stands at 31.08%.

Construction of a primary school in Swakopmund: N$14 million, of which N$59 000 has been spent. Execution rate: 0.42%.

Upgrading and renovation of the Swakopmund district hospital: N$7 million has been allocated. Commitment: N$1.7 million; execution rate stands at 24.81%.

Construction of houses in Namibia (Mass Housing Development Programme, Build Together Programme and Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia): regional allocation: N$15 million (total allocation across the country is N$40 million), overall expenditure is N$3.4 million. Commitment: N$3.427 million; execution rate is 8.45%.

Construction of Swakopmund – Henties Bay – Kamanjab link (412 kilometres): N$120 million allocated in total, N$60 million allocated to the Erongo Region. Commitment: N$36.3 million. Overall expenditure stands at N$36.3 million with an execution rate of 30.29%

Upgrading of the MR 44: Swakopmund – Walvis Bay road (44 kilometres): N$237 million allocated. Commitment: N$63.6 million expenditure; N$63.6 million with an execution rate of 26.81%.

Walvis Bay Kranzberg railway: N$812.7 million. Money spent: N$79.8 million; execution rate: 9.82%.

Land purchase sub-programme: allocated N$61.3 million in total, of which N$7.1 million has been allocated to Erongo; no commitment or expenditure to date.

Implementation of community-based management of water infrastructure (drilling and installation of boreholes, rehabilitation of waterpoints): N$160.8 million was allocated, of which N$10.1 million was allocated to the Erongo Region, with an overall expenditure of N$3.4 million; execution rate 2.17%.

Construction of water supply security infrastructure: the overall allocation is N$147.7 million, of which N$24.6 million is allocated to Erongo. No money has been spent to date on the overall project.

Construction of a police station in Kuisebmund: N$40.2 million was allocated to the project; N$16 million has been spent at an execution rate of 39.84%.

Construction of Walvis Bay Correctional Facility high-security fence: N$11.4 million, of which N$2.8 million has been spent thus far, at an execution rate of 25.02%.

Unhappy

Some regional leaders criticised the funding allocations, arguing that only Walvis Bay and Swakopmund appear to be prioritised by government.

"It seems the government has forgotten about the towns such as Henties Bay, Arandis, Karibib, Omaruru, Otjimbingwe etc. There are no developments in these towns. In Henties Bay, we want to move away from the notion that it’s a retirement town. We want to be included. We have the land and the capacity", an official commented.

Omaruru constituency councillor Manfred Wetha said land was donated to the government for the construction of a clinic.

"Up to now, nothing has happened. We donated the land, at no cost to the government, to assist us in building a clinic. But nothing. It seems we have been forgotten."

Representation

Kandjoze said when village and constituency development committees meet, all their aspirations will be taken into consideration.

"National government is not involved in this process at all. We don’t make decisions about what your wishes are unless the top-down approach happens in project planning, but in this case, the bottom-up approach in project planning is executed."

He said the key to planning and execution is the presence of representatives at the regional councils, where decisions are made.

"Those local authority councillors in the regional council who sit at your level, when the development committees meet and consider all the regional projects, where was the national minister? We don’t come to sit at the regional council. This issue isn’t ours. It is regional. When no development happens, it is not the national government, it is the local and regional government’s decisions. If the regional council does not deliver your aspirations on behalf of the community, then they are responsible."

Planning is crucial

Kandjoze underlined that "planning ahead is key, and the regional council can already get the ball rolling instead of waiting for the national development budget to make its way to the regions. This way we can ensure that money does not lie idle, and not allow money back to fiscus."

He warned, however, that within the current dispensation, infighting has been observed among councillors, which hampers planning.

"In this process, millions are lying idle, waiting to be spent on development projects. It’s a new phenomenon; councillors must also pull their weight to make sure that those who report to you actually do their work. Make sure that what you get, even though it gets to regions late, you make the effort, spend time and management skills to make sure the residents of the region benefit."