Development centres take priority over basic sanitation

09 Mar 2016 10:00am
RUNDU, 09 MAR (NAMPA) - The Kavango East Regional Council (KERC) was not able to provide basic sanitation services to rural areas for the 2015/16 financial year as the funds were used for the construction of rural development centres.
This announcement did not sit well with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs that paid a visit to the council here on Monday.
The committee is conducting oversight visits in the Kavango East and West regions, focusing on the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development's development projects contained in the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for 2015/16 to 2017/18.
The visits started on Monday and end on 15 March 2016.
The committee is determining and physically inspecting whether the regional councils, local authorities and settlements identified in the programme have commenced with the implementation of projects identified in NDP4 and MTEF 2015/16 to 2017/18.
If implementation has commenced, the regional council and local authorities should inform the committee on the stages of implementation of the various projects. If not, a comprehensive and reasonable explanation should be provided to the standing committee.
The Director of Planning and Development Services in the KERC, Ambrossius Makongwa told the committee he was informed by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development that funds totalling N.dollars 5 million would not be transferred to the regional council as the ministry decided to consolidate funds for basic sanitation to advance the construction of rural development centres in the Zambezi, Kavango West, Ohangwena and Kunene regions.
To this the chairperson of the standing committee Sebastian Karupu said his concern is how funds can go to regions with higher regional development budgets when Kavango East received the least funds of between N.dollars 300 million and N.dollars 400 million.
“If we are to transfer funds to regions that already have high budgets, I do not know whether we would really get somewhere with projects in the regions,” he said.
Echoing similar sentiments, DTA of Namibia Member of Parliament (MP) Vipuakuje Muharukua said when the ministry transfers funds meant for one purpose to another, it makes their jobs as parliamentarians extremely difficult as they are under the impression that they approved funds for another purpose – in this case the construction of toilets in Kavango East.
“Then we are on the ground and we are told the money is not there, it is in Opuwo constructing a centre and that is not fair,” he said.
Muharukua said the ministry should not have used the funds for a different purpose without informing parliamentarians first.
“Parliament is the body that gives money to the regions based on the needs that have been submitted. It is not the ministry that gives the money,” he stressed.
Officials of the regional council explained that they were not thoroughly consulted when it was decided to 'virement' the basic sanitation funds, referring to the administrative transfer of funds from one part of a budget to another.
They had, in fact, already put the toilets’ construction out on tender and local contractors had already bought tender documents when they were suddenly informed that the project must be put on hold as money was needed for the rural development centres, which provide skills training to rural people in efforts to help them improve their living standards.
Makongwa, however, said the ministry has promised to return the money.
Eighty per cent of people in the Kavango regions live in rural areas, where basic sanitation is sorely lacking.