The office of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s department of forestry at Thipanana village in Mukwe, in the Kavango East region, is still not occupied.
The office was constructed five years ago to respond to issues relating to illegal timber harvesting.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform constructed the building, which includes eight staff accommodation units, before the forestry department was transferred to the environment ministry. The building is now dilapidated.
The department of forestry is currently accommodated at the agriculture ministry at Divundu, with no vehicle for the staff to carry out their duties. Some of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, last week said they were stationed at Thipanana to deal with the issuing of permits, law enforcement and illegal timber harvesting and patrolling the borders of Namibia.
“We have been complaining to our supervisors to get another contractor, and they are saying it is difficult. But, according to the rules of the government contracts, the contractor was supposed to have been stopped a long time ago.
“The job should have been given to someone capable, because now we are suffering, driving every day for about 40 to 50 kilometres to just go and water the plants in the nursery and come back, which is unnecessary,” the official said.
He said staff members have asked to be allocated a vehicle, but their superiors told them the vehicle was being repaired. The official said he suspects the office was never allocated any vehicle to respond to emergencies in the area. One of the department’s officials said the buildings have been vandalised, and electrical wires and other items have been stolen.
Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda says the ministry is aware of the situation, and the agriculture ministry office was constructed at Mukwe before the forestry department was moved.
“The plan was that the agriculture ministry, under which the forestry department used to resort, bring services closer to the people. “We assume the office was not occupied for a number of reasons, which include a lack of water and electricity,” Muyunda says.
He says a borehole was installed at the offices last year and the ministry plans to renovate the offices, which would cost over N$2 million.
“Our forestry department is currently operating from the ministry of agriculture at Divundu, and we are in the process of hiring and procuring the services of a contractor to renovate the offices in this financial year.
“We are also in the process of recruiting additional staff members to complement the current staff to ensure that after renovating the office, it will be occupied immediately,” Muyunda says.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko says: “We will work together with our sister, the ministry of environment, to establish what transpired.”