By Shinovene Immanuel | 27 February 2017
SEVERAL current and former senior managers at the Okahandja municipality have been bust over their involvement in questionable deals in which they bought municipal land cheaply, and then resold it for huge profits.
Among those implicated are former human resources and property manager Ripanda Meroro, former finance manager Niko Titus, current property manager Phillip Hendjala, and Toini Shikongo from the mayor’s office.
Two of those busted resigned from the municipality in 2015.
A probe commissioned by former urban development minister Charles Namoloh in 2014 found that the officials had used inside information to confiscate plots from applicants who had failed to pay for them on time.
The investigation into irregularities at Okahandja was conducted by a team of urban development ministry officials, and not PricewaterhouseCoopers as cited in the last two articles.
Meroro, who at some point in 2012 had acted as chief executive at the municipality, was that year given a 30% discount on industrial erf 2367, measuring 2 850 square metres, which he then resold at a profit.
“The erf was paid off with the profit upon transferring (ownership) at the deeds office,” the report said.
The discount was allegedly an incentive meant to enable municipal staff to buy houses.
The Namibian could not establish how much Meroro, through his company, Meroro Construction Holdings CC, paid for the plot, but documents show he later sold it to Namib Housing, on 14 March 2013, for N$300 000.
The investigators said Meroro should pay back the 30% discount since it was meant for buying a residential house, and not industrial property.
“Meroro must be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission for all Okahandja erven sold without council resolutions,” the investigators suggested.
Speaking to The Namibian last week, Meroro asked what was wrong with the transaction if he had paid for the land. He said the source of the money had nothing to do with the deal, as long as he paid for it.
Meroro said he only got a discount on the plot because it had a river running through it, and not because he was a municipal worker.
Property manager Hendjala was implicated in the allocation of erf 870, which measures around 1 000 square metres.
The report said he oversaw the sale of that erf to a developer named Nikolas Ndafendiva, at a discount of 30%, even though the property developer had not applied for the plot.
It is not clear how much that plot was initially sold for to the developer, but documents obtained from the deeds office at the land reform ministry show that Ndafendiva sold the same plot on 19 May 2015 to Johannes Nicolas Marius Faber for N$200 000.
“The discount was allegedly given due to the rocky nature of the erven. Investigators found that they could not find any council resolutions allocating the erf and neither did he (Ndafendiva) turn up for the erven verification process,” the report said.
Efforts to get comment from Hendjala were not successful as he was out of office.
The report also implicates Titus, a former finance executive who acted as the chief executive of Okahandja in 2015.
Titus, according to the audit report, allegedly teamed up with Shikongo to snatch plots from a businesswoman who failed to pay for the plots on time.
The report said Titus, and Shikongo, who works in the mayor’s office, were implicated in the sale of unserviced plots initially allocated to Liza Tjejema, a businesswoman who appears to be a favourite in land deals at the town.
The audit said Tjejema received 50 plots from the Okahandja council on condition that she would develop the plots over six months. The Namibian could not verify the authenticity of Tjejema, as her name does not exist on records at the deeds office at the ministry of land reform.
Titus and Shikongo allegedly applied for the plots allocated to Tjejema.
Auditors found that some of the plots repossessed by the municipality were passed on to Titus and Shikongo without being advertised.
“This is a conflict of interest by the council employees. The two staff members (Titus and Shikongo) never developed the plots before selling them to third parties. These plots were also paid for upon registration with money from the sales to third parties,” the report stated.
The investigators recommended that the two municipal officials be investigated over the alleged deals.
“Titus and Shikongo (should) be investigated for disciplinary action, for acquiring unserviced erven and disposing of them without servicing or constructing,” the report reads.
Shikongo declined to comment on the issue. “I am not allowed to comment”, she said.
Although she was partly a victim in the deal involving the two municipal officials, auditors still suggested that the faceless property developer Tjejema also be investigated for her role in several land deals at the town.
“We notice that Liza Tjejema, a developer, bought 50 erven from the municipality, and disposed of them to third parties without servicing or constructing on the plots,” the report said, adding that this was a violation of the sales agreement between her and the municipality.
Auditors said the municipality must investigate these allegations and verify how many erven Tjejema had sold, and how many were still in her possession which have not been serviced and developed.
“If she is not able to service them and construct houses, the remaining plots must revert to council. A decision must be made about those she disposed of unserviced,” the investigators stated.