Audit report raises more questions

Millions unaccounted for

01 September 2021 | Infrastructure

Anita Kaihiva; Spokesperson; “The report does not refer to individuals who may have benefited…”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]


An abridged report related to the Mass Urban Land Servicing Project (MULSP) investigation released by the Walvis Bay municipality, raised more questions than answers.

The audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers was carried out after discrepancies were noticed with project funding.

The municipality spent N$671 853 (including VAT) for the firm to “audit” the project.

An extraordinary council meeting was held on 25 July 2021 to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report done by the firm commissioned to investigate alleged irregularities regarding the sale of properties as part of the MULSP.

The auditors recommended that the municipality considers extending the scope of the verification to include various procedures. Recommendations were also made to the municipality to perform a number of additional procedures.

From the recommendations it can be deduced that inconsistencies were found.

Recommendations

• The construction of 26 houses could not be verified, as a result it was recommended that the municipality establish whether these houses had been certified by them, and that subsequent payments made to contractors were in line with the associated actual cost.
• Twenty-nine properties’ sales agreements could not be verified. It was thus recommended that additional procedures be performed to confirm whether these were sold and, if so, establish whether such transactions were in line with the agreed selling prices.
It was also recommended that the municipality consider executing a physical or satellite verification of properties which had not been transferred from an ownership perspective (190 in total), to establish whether these properties are or were occupied and, if so, whether any moneys were collected by the municipality in this regard.
• The ownership of 68 properties needs to be established. The recommendation is that with the assistance of the Deeds Office, confirmation be obtained pertaining to the current ownership status of these properties on which individual agreements of sale were concluded but not transferred.
This may result in potential instances where properties were transferred without payment having been made to the municipality, or alternatively, in a timely manner.
• A similar verification process should be performed on the current ownership of 122 properties that are currently being held for future sale, to confirm whether these are still owned by the municipality. This would also ensure that any of these properties were not potentially transferred without a supporting agreement of sale.
• The receipt of funds from property sales could not be confirmed in municipal bank accounts; thus it was recommended that additional procedures be performed to establish whether all moneys were received for the total properties transferred.
• Due to issues identified with payments made to contractors for 140 properties, which relates to a net overpayment of building construction costs, it is suggested that a thorough understanding is obtained on the processes followed for the identification, selection and appointment of these contractors; and the basis on which properties were allocated for the construction of buildings between the various contractors and subsequent payments made.
• Another recommendation is based on the roles and responsibilities of staff, as detailed in job descriptions for those positions. The municipality needs to identify whether there are any instances of unauthorised exercises of authority and/or potential misconduct by such staff, pertaining to their involvement in the MULSP.
• The auditor recommended that procurement procedures, roles and responsibilities, accounting and record-keeping and transfer of property need to be resolved.
• It was also resolved, inter alia, that an external HR specialist, assisted by a legal entity if necessary, be appointed to further investigate specific matters as addressed in the recommendations.

Municipal reaction

In follow up questions to the municipality about the statement, communications officer Anita Kaihiva stated that in terms of the so-called “missing millions”, PWC recommended that the municipality carry out a verification process.

“The report does not refer to individuals who may have benefited, but refers to further investigations into processes followed on some properties. For example, confirmation of sales, confirming ownership status of properties, and whether payments made to contractors were in line with associated actual costs.”

Kahiva said that the statement issued by the municipality summarises the contents of the report.

“Not until the recommendations have been implemented, will this matter be deemed as concluded.”

Suspensions

Officials from the Walvis Bay municipality suspended as part of the investigation into the MULSP, are set to return to work on 1 September.

Chief executive officer Muronga Haingura, general manager of community and economic development Augistino Victor, manager for property and housing Jack Manale, and property clerk Constance Summers all received letters to report for duty.

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) through their acting national spokesperson Eneas Emvula, pronounced itself on the lifting of suspensions, saying “neither our Walvis Bay Leadership nor the LPM Operative Secretary at the head office received any communication concerning how and what procedure was followed, nor if any investigations were conducted and finalised leading to the reinstatement of the four previously suspended officials, as this decision was taken while our seat was still vacant”.

The LPM said that it finds the reinstatement in the absence of an investigation report to all affected parties unfortunate saying it undermines the spirit and letter of the majority of Walvis Bay residents.

“However, we assure residents of our commitment to getting to the bottom of what transpired and what legal procedures justified such a reinstatement.”

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