NHE sells house to deputy minister

01 August 2013 Author   Keith Vries

front nhe Uutoni 02 augTHE National Housing Enterprise (NHE) may have circumvented its own rules when it sold a house at Ongwediva to the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, Erastus Uutoni, in May this year. The NHE’s own guidelines do not allow it to sell houses to people who earn more than N$20,000 a month. The corporation will also not consider applicants who already own houses as well as corporate institutions (e.g. companies, close corporations, trusts, etc.) for an NHE housing loan.

With his rapid climb up the political ladder, Uutoni seemed to have been at the right place at the right time, securing a NHE house because of the salary he received at the time.

Uutoni held the office of Mayor of Ongwediva before his election to the National Assembly and subsequent appointment as a deputy minister.

He apparently did not see anything wrong with buying a house from the state-owned housing corporation, which has a mandate to cater for the housing needs of low and middle-income groups.

The deputy minister bought the house at a price tag of a meagre N$87,240 in Ongwediva’s Extension 14 on a plot with a size of 571 square metres.

When contacted for comment, NHE CEO, Vincent Hailulu told the Observer via email that the NHE placed Uutoni on the waiting list after it had determined that Uutoni earned N$9,000 at the time of the application.

The Windhoek Observer was sent from pillar to post when it tried to establish the criteria for qualification for NHE housing.

“We encourage people to apply for NHE housing, regardless of the waiting list being long, as many of the applicant’s first need to be cleared by the ICT, financial institutions and the NHE before they can be considered suitable candidates for receiving house,” Senior Corporate Communications Officer at NHE Gladwin Groenewaldt said at a pervious media event, meant to educate the public about NHE operations.

The sale of the house has raised eyebrows at Ongwediva and among many people desperate for housing around the country.

The NHE has come in for criticisms recently for not providing affordable housing and instead competing with financial institutions in the higher segment housing market.

It remains unclear how many how many high-income earners, such as Uutoni, the NHE has sold houses to, which are in fact intended for people in the lower income bracket.

Hailulu told the Windhoek Observer, “Erastus Uutoni applied for an NHE house on 22 July 2009 and was therefore put on our waiting list administered by our Northern regional office”.

“By the time he applied for a house he earned less then N$9000 per month. He thus became a potential client of NHE pending the availability of a house and depending on where he was in such a waiting list,” Hailulu explained.

Although the Observer could not obtain evidence to prove the claims made about Uutoni’s pay package, NHE did provide the waiting list on which it registered Uutoni to await a NHE house.

After Uutoni’s application for a NHE house, while he earned N$ 9000, President Hifikepunye Pohamba appointed him the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security in March 2010.

He has now become the recipient of one of the 215 houses that the NHE built in Ongwediva.

Uutoni justified the acquisition of the house by saying that he had duly followed the application process.

The NHE called him to inform him that it had approved his application and that he could buy the house it if still interested.

“I have long been a resident of Ongwediva and as you might know I also served [as mayor] here, so I applied for a house using the correct channels, and have so qualified to receive the house,” he said.

When the president appointed Uutoni as a deputy minister, the Regional Manager of the NHE Northern office contacted Uutoni to find out whether he owned a house at the time of his appointment.

The Observer could also not determine the place of residence of the Deputy Minister while serving as Mayor of Ongwediva.

When the Northern Branch managers asked him about his fixed assets, Uutoni told the branch managers that he did not own a house yet.

Hailulu said that the acquisition of the house by Uutoni was justified as “the application and qualification of Uutoni took place way before his current portfolio as Deputy Minister and thus NHE could not have a justification to discriminate against him”.

“Just like in the case of people who qualified for NHE houses and were allocated such houses before they assumed high government positions. Will it be correct to go back and withdraw such houses from them because they are now earning more,” the NHE CEO questioned.

NHE held press conference for journalist earlier this year where it tried to win back public confidence, and dispel the perception created in recent years that it had failed to fulfil its mandate.

The NHE CEO, Vincent Hailulu, said that the institution previously faced various challenges that had prevented it from operating at maximum capacity.

At the press conference in June, Hailulu said that the shortage of serviced land and lack of funding were some of the challenges that the NHE faced in its effort to deliver more housing to low-income communities and citizens in Namibia.

However, the sale of a house to a person such as a deputy minister raises the question if NHE is actually serious in implementing its mandate of providing affordable housing to lower paid people.

The NHE boldly states on its website, “NHE provides and finances affordable, quality and adequate housing thereby contributing to Namibia’s socio-economic development and creating a stable, progressive human habitat”.

Uutoni denied that he is competing for housing with lower income groups and said, “It is not true that I am a high earning official [laugh], who told you that?”

The registration for the house is documented as 23 May 2013.
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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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