Walvis Bay CEO blames banking error for ‘missing millions’

Andrew Kathindi

The Walvis Bay municipality has blamed an error by banks as the reason why millions were allegedly flagged as ‘missing’ from a June 2018 financial report.

This comes as Walvis Bay Constituency Councilor Knowledge Iipinge in September threatened to take legal action if around N$24 million, which was part of the massive urban land servicing initiative, never reached the municipality account and is not accounted for.

Walvis Bay Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Muronga Haingura told the Windhoek Observer an amount of around N$18 million for 68 houses was paid to the municipality account by banks for clients who had loans accepted, without reference, which led to the money being diverted into a suspense account.

The 68 houses are part of over 800 houses in a massive urban land servicing initiative in Kuisebmund and Narraville, for which construction began in January 2017. There are currently 26 houses not yet completed from this project, which the CEO has blamed on COVID-19.

“Once a beneficiary’s house was registered through a conveyancer, the bank would then pay the amount for the house and the land into the municipality’s account, however, they needed to indicate the reason for the deposit with a reference number which was not always done,” he said.

“When they didn’t put a reference number on the deposit, we would not know what that money is for. It was diverted to a suspense account. And this is what brought about the so-called missing millions. The funds were deposited in our account and for us, it’s for us to allocate to the correct account, which is the house number. As we’re speaking now, this is what has been happening.”

Haingura said that the confusion was compounded by residents who would pay their bills directly into the Walvis Bay municipality account without a reference number which also led to those funds being diverted into a suspense account.

“It’s a temporary account until such a time as we find out who paid the money into our account and what is it for. I gave instructions to check for all the houses, and contact the banks and conveyancers and find out whether it’s true about this missing 24 million. And that’s what they did and then the bank confirmed with dates,” he said.

Quizzed on which banks had failed to add a reference to the deposit of the funds, Haingura said that most of the local banks participated in the massive urban land servicing project.

When contacted for comment, Bank Windhoek Communication Executive Officer Jacquiline Pack was mum on whether the bank had been in contact with the municipality.

“Bank Windhoek cannot divulge any information regarding clients’ accounts as stipulated in the Banking Institutions Act and cannot be held accountable for internal transfers between accounts of any institution,” she said

Communications Executive at Nedbank Gernot de Klerk said that the matter did not sound “remotely familiar” but could not provide further details by the time of publication.

Standard Bank Namibia Communications Executive Margreth Mengo did not respond to questions sent by the time of publication.

Constituency Councilor Iipinge however found the CEO’s explanation wanting. He stated that he will only be comfortable with an independent forensic audit report.

“The CEO should stop being economical with the truth. We have it on record that the millions which were in the suspense account date as far back as 2014. The missing millions came as a result of the first hand over of houses which started in September 2017 through the Mass Urban Land Servicing Project.”

He added, “We will also demand answers on why they are comfortable selling ervens to business people at N$50 per square meter but the poor are forced to pay nothing less than N$200 per square meter for ervens from the municipality.

“There are people who have been on the waiting list of the Municipality dating as far back as 2003, why are they not being prioritized for the 111 hectares of land that the municipality is selling to an unregistered company?”

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