The troubled Grootfontein municipality says it has started implementing recommended remedial actions following an explosive audit report, which highlighted an array of governance issues.
Municipal CEO Kisco Sinvula, who has been conferred a number of administrative powers by the town’s councillors, said council was making headway in implementing recommendations contained in an audit report, following an investigation by the urban and rural development ministry. According to Sinvula, the local authority has already started enforcing some recommendations, after having received legal advice on the implications and how to effect it.
Among the immediate action taken is the ceasing of all vehicle allowances to employees who are without proof of instalments and vehicle ownership. Those without housing mortgages with commercial banks have also been nailed, as council has stopped paying such allowances. This is after employees were being paid 40% housing allowance instead of 20%.
These recommendations were part of a report that a former councillor was hell bent on keeping under wraps. The last council meeting of last year ended in chaos when outgoing management committee chairperson Jack Tsanigab fled with the ministerial audit report.
Attempts by then mayor Abisai Shondati Haimene to pursue Tsanigab through the municipal corridors proved futile as the councillor managed to flee after boarding a taxi. “We wrote to the ministry to show our intention to embark on the implementations of the recommendations in line with the legal advice we got from our lawyers. So this process will continue step by step,” said Sinvula this week when contacted for comment, on what he thought of the legal opinion by lawyers Kangueehi and Kavendjii Incorporated.
Other measures taken is a halt on acting allowances, termination of contract employees’ contracts, including student interns. Some contracts had expired more than 10 years ago, yet the workers remained employed.
“This recommendation, however, has far reaching consequences but the situation is undesirable and action must be taken swiftly,” stressed the law firm, warning that this should be carried out with caution as it might have implications of unfair labour practices.
A number of employees, including councillors, were found to have committed gross irregularities following an investigation carried out by the urban and rural development ministry for the financial years 2015 up to 2019, with a focus on maladministration, human resources, land delivery, fleet and financial management as well as capital projects. Employees such as the former acting CEO Arnold Ameb, who is the head of property and community development, together with the previous council, are to be held accountable for rampant mismanagement pertaining to the land sale, revenue losses as well as unauthorised decisions.
Kanguuehi and Kavendjii Inc, suggested that those implicated should be held accountable and, where possible, disciplinary action should be initiated. Ameb and other staff members are accused of having sold land at a non-cost recovery basis, benefitting from housing and vehicle allowances without proof.
Hence, it was recommended that those who benefitted should be made to pay back including disciplinary action. Revenue losses from council properties leased to individuals were also uncovered.
That too was squarely blamed on Ameb for having a flawed system, hence requested council to immediately set policies to recoup the funds owed.
“Make use of an externally identified law firm to determine people with ministerial approval, illegal occupants and people who sold plots allocated to them. Also, the municipality should ensure that an audit into the sale and registration of properties is conducted,” advised lawyers. Other criminal charges are suggested for Ameb who is further accused of having stolen N$149 846 which disappeared from a cashier’s office. Approached for comment on the findings, Ameb said, “I cannot comment on such allegations as I have not received any official communication or documents for my perusal.
So, until I am officially informed, I have nothing to say.” The lawyers also advised council to reverse the suspension of former executive for finance and information technology, Ileni Hainghumbi who resigned in October last year, saying his suspension was unfair as it was done without ministerial approval and council resolution.
“A new recommendation is to be sent out to the minister for his suspension with draft disciplinary charges prepared accordingly.”
Hainghumbi resigned in October 2020. Other issues yet to be addressed include the filling of critical positions to avoid incidences of acting allowances. While those that were appointed in acting capacities during the period under review will be forced to reimburse the 10% allowances they received. Furthermore, a qualification audit for all employees is needed.
This is after it was established that an employee forged and falsified a grade 12 certificate, therefore, criminal charges are advised. Council has further been told to recover over N$14 million owed to it by various stakeholders as well as another N$245 566 by employees.
To effectively carry out this, council needs to draft credit and debt control policies to improve revenue collection. In a letter dated 21 June and signed by mayor Lovisa Iyambo and management committee chairperson Victor Shandjuka, the council empowered the CEO to make various decisions in the day-to-day running of the town. Sinvula was appointed in March 2020 but the previous council performed various administrative tasks meant to be done by the CEO.