The government sold 34 houses for less than N$3 million across the country last year, an audit report shows.
On average, it means each house went for a little over N$100 000. Compiled by auditor general Junias Kandjeke, the report into the books of the works department within the works and transport ministry covers the 2020/2021 financial year.
The report shows that 34 houses were sold under the scheme for N$3.8 million. The amount comprises a N$2.3 million selling price, N$160 877.11 for rates and taxes, arrears on rental amounting to N$93 137.11 and interest of N$215 301.32.
According to the FNB Namibia residential property report for the first quarter of the year, by the end of March 2022, the average house in Namibia cost N$1.2 million.
When approached for comment, the ministry’s spokesperson Julius Ngweda dismissed claims that officials within the ministry were deliberately selling government houses for peanuts. He could not immediately provide a breakdown of the houses nor the identities of the buyers. “They are not from our ministry at all. They are public servants.
All over the country,” he said. “Houses are evaluated by the valuer general from the agriculture ministry and land [reform]. They give us prices. Don’t corner [the ministry of works again,” he said.
According to Ngweda, the Cabinet directive states that “if you cannot afford [the market-related price], you can be given a certain percentage off so that you can be able to afford”.
More so, Ngweda was quick to note that the houses are scattered across the country.
“[The houses] are in different towns – whether it is now Rundu, Kavango, Grootfontein or wherever – we have government houses,” he said.
The AG gave the department an unqualified audit opinion, which means the auditor believes that the financial statements are fairly and appropriately presented, without any identified exceptions, and in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles.
A source familiar with the transactions told New Era yesterday that houses were sold below their current market value, as “valuation was done many years ago”.
“There was a valuation done long before. It is possible that those houses were sold on the basis of those old valuations,” the source, who preferred not to be named, said.
New Era further has it on good authority that the land reform ministry has come up with a new valuation formula, which was adopted by Cabinet in 2018. “From 2018 [onwards], the tenants who want to buy government properties must buy at the current market prices, which is also not really the top notch but it is more expensive,” the insider said. Initially, government houses would be sold at deflated prices as a token of appreciation to long-serving civil servants.
But to the economic squeeze, the government has been forced to renege on that position, as it “must make money to meet its other financial commitments”. This is bad news for government employees living in government houses and nearing retirement. “Some of those houses were valued at N$500 000 in the previous evaluation. Nevertheless, in the current one, the house is valued at N$1 million or N$1.5 million,” the source added.
“But when you are at the house, it might be in a dilapidated condition –and only the land on which it is found is expensive. So, these people must now spend a big chunk of their pension on houses they’ve lived in for many years.”
Proposals have been made for the Cabinet to rescind the decision.
It, however, appears as though there is no turning back.
Over the years, senior government officials and employees within the works ministry have been accused of selling government houses below market value to themselves.
Back in 2019, a senior government official bought a N$1.8 million house in Windhoek from the state for just N$336 000, The Namibian reported. Two years earlier, it was reported the works ministry sold two houses in Windhoek and one at Otjiwarongo for between N$120 000 and N$250 000, which was way below the market value.
One of the houses in Windhoek’s affluent Olympia suburb was sold for a paltry N$170 000.