Dissolve Zambezi waterfront company, ombudsman tells governor

HANDOVER … Ombudsman Basilius Dyakugha hands over the findings of an investigation to Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu.Photo: Lugeretzia Kooper.

The Office of the Ombudsman recommends that the multimillion-dollar Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park (ZWTP) company should be dissolved with immediate effect and that its assets be transferred to the Zambezi Vocational Training Centre (ZVTC).

This recommendation comes from the findings of a report following an investigation by the ombudsman into the alleged mismanagement of the park. Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu in 2022 requested the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation into the alleged misuse of funds, which took place during the construction of the tourism park.

The investigation has been finalised and its findings were handed over to Sampofu by ombudsman Basilius Dyakugha, at Katima Mulilo yesterday.

The park’s construction, which started in 2002, cost N$124,1 million, and additional millions were spent on maintenance and operations.

This is, however, now being described as a waste of state resources.

According to the report, which The Namibian has seen, the ombudsman strongly recommends that the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises appoint an interim board to dissolve ZWTP (Pty) Ltd.

Additionally, ZWTP’s assets should be transferred to the ZVTC, since it already runs a successful hospitality business.
Furthermore, the centre has students, who as part of their training could be utilised to renovate and repair much of the damage at cheaper rates.

In this way the facility could serve as a Zambezi centre for hospitality training, and provide an affordable waterfront tourism facility.

However, the ombudsman has an alternative option, whereby the land should be transferred to the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation to facilitate the ZVTC to renovate and operate it as an education project.

The property could then be used as a hospitality training facility to avoid any further wasteful expenditure of public funds. The report further pointed out overwhelming evidence that public funds were used negligently, with ZWTP having proper financial records for the 2015 to 2019 period only.

The report further reveals that when the new board and management took over, they received N$15 700 000 for operational and development expenses. “The funds were mainly used for security, electrical bills, municipal bills, audit fees, the deed of transfer of erf 62, asset valuation, maintenance of the sewerage system, Telecom, salaries, board retainer fees and sitting allowances and board secretary fees. “However, despite having spent millions on security and salaries for housekeeping staff, vandalism, theft and gross neglect of infrastructure took place during this stage,” the report says.

During 2014, the report says there was a 90% increase in board fees, as well as excessive claims for earthworks, and that the earthworks were certified by and paid for to the same consultant. Additionally, the report of the last ZWTP board, dated 24 July 2019, stated that an amount of about N$10 million was requested from the state, but could not be traced to any of the ZWTP’s bank accounts. “The worrisome fact is that by 2019, ZWTP received about N$198 million, but the value of the asset is about N$45 million, according to a valuation by property valuator Willie Theron, dated 20 October 2016,” the report states. Additionally, the report deems the fact that there are no proper records as a challenge.

“It will be a costly exercise which may not gather sufficient evidence to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt and obtain a guilty verdict, because this project started about 20 years ago, and there are insufficient records, some staff members died, and the memories of those alive may not be reliable after the passing of such a significant period of time,” the report states.

Sampofu, upon receiving the report, has promised to study it and see if action can be taken based on its findings and recommendations.

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