The multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art Namibia Financial Assistance Fund headquarters in Eros, an affluent Windhoek suburb, has no owner.
Constructed without a green light from treasury, the building cost taxpayers an estimated N$300 million.
It was also built without passing stringent vetting requirements of the City of Windhoek, which apply to even the smallest of shacks in Windhoek’s informal settlements.
Today, the student fund sits with a structure that cannot be granted a fitness certificate or used as surety to secure funding.
In essence, the building is illegal.
“There is no title deed for that building. It was never registered with the deeds office,” was the response this journalist got from an official at the deeds’ registry upon enquiry yesterday.
The city’s regulations dictate that a building plan must be compliant with its regulations for construction to commence.
The city can only approve existing structures on the condition that such establishments predate the proclamation of a given township.
The troubled student financier failed to meet both.
How NSFAF managed to erect the multi-million-dollar establishment at the municipality’s doorsteps without its knowledge and approval remains a mystery.
Last week, the city’s spokesperson Harold Akwenye confirmed the controversy around the NSFAF head office.
“The structures on the property were not applied for and never received a building permit from the City of Windhoek prior to construction as per the provisions of the Windhoek municipal council building regulations,” Akwenye said.
The NSFAF management has since approached the city to endorse the illegality.
“The institution has been alerted as to the status of the structure and a permit application has since been made to legalise the structures. There is, however, a minor conflict between the existing buildings and the zoning of the property, which is required to be resolved before the permit application can be considered,” Akwenye added.
The municipality is also at loss on the question of ownership.
“As a parastatal, it could be that the property is technically owned by the ministry of works. Our system only says government [sic], but I cannot definitely confirm this,” he said.
Akwenye, however, hastened to say NSFAF is not the only culprit when it comes to the blatant disregard of municipal requirements.
“Something also worth mentioning is that in a lot of cases, the government does not submit building permit applications to [the] City of Windhoek, although this is required by law; so this case is not unique in that sense,” he said.
Shockingly, the building is now worth N$130 million less than what was spent to build it.
According to insiders, recent valuations on the building suggest that its actual value stands at around N$170 million, despite N$300 million having been pumped in during the construction phase.
Talk inside NSFAF is further that the tender procedures were blatantly circumvented while those responsible for the actual job were allegedly handpicked.
“I don’t have time to talk, sir. I am in a meeting,” former NSFAF boss Hilya Nghiwete, under whose reign the construction took place, said before ending the call.
Nghiwete purportedly picked Claud Bosch Agapitus Architects at whim to execute the project as the principal agent, architect and designer.
The project manager, Cornel Swart, shrugged off the favouritism tag, maintaining everything was above-board.
“I know there was a tender. We submitted our documents, and the tender was awarded to our company. We went through all the standard procedures. Everything was out in the open. There was nothing funny,” Swart said yesterday.
Asked about the status of the land on which the building is found, Swart said it was not in their purview.
“It is a government building. So, they do things differently than normal. The shortcuts that they take have got nothing to do with us,” she said.
More so, Swart said exception was granted to go ahead without the approval of the municipality.
“That was from the government,” she said.
The controversy surrounding the NSFAF building is not new. Already in 2020, the auditor general found that the construction was done without treasury’s approval and was never listed as part of government’s capital projects.
The ministry of works is the main custodian of government assets – both movable and immovable – including land.
Impeccable sources say erf 746 in Eros street, where the property is located, belongs to the ministry of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare.
Before NSFAF showed up, the land was earmarked for the construction of rehabilitation and vocational education centre for destitute orphans.
New Era could not independently verify this before going to print yesterday.
If it is though, it means the NSFAF building belongs to that ministry.
“In law, if you own the land, you own whatever is constructed on the land,” an insider added.
“Should NSFAF be subjected to the same laws like ordinary Namibians and the building fails to meet the city’s requirements, its demolition could cost taxpayers millions,” lawyer Natjirikasorua Tjirera opined.
“If the building is a safety threat, the municipality will have to destroy the building. The most disheartening of this whole scenario is that a building was constructed on municipal land without municipal approval. How it even happened will always be beyond any sane man’s comprehension. The municipality had by-laws, and they should be followed.”
He further said, all in all, everyone intending to build in a municipal area needs municipal approval before they build.
This is to ensure that municipal safety standards and planning are adhered to.
Building without municipal approval is a risky business – and if you do that, you should be ready for the consequences.
Another transgression is that NSFAF is using institutional land for commercial purposes, which also flies in the face of municipal laws.
The building comprises a lower ground parking area, offices on the ground and first floors, a gymnasium area on the second floor as well as the student care centre, with a separate auditorium and cafeteria.
“The building portrays a playful juxtaposition of contrasting building shapes, materials and colours, symbolising the different aspects and components of the NSFAF compilation and creating spaces that appeal to its variety of building users,” reads a description of the building on Claud Bosch’s website.
Former public enterprises minister Leon Jooste and higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi are said to disapprove of how the situation was handled.
“All procedural issues should have been followed before NSFAF invested public resources into the project. City said you cannot come to us after constructing the building. That is not how it works. Now, the municipality is refusing to grant a fitness certificate, as it cannot give it to a building that was constructed illegally,” said a person briefed on the issue.
NSFAF did not respond to questions sent to them, despite promising to do so.