By Kelvin Chiringa
Roads Authority (RA) Chief Executive Officer Conrade Lutombi this week got rapped over the knuckles by members of the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts for adopting the ruling party’s manifesto as part of the company’s strategic vision. During a meeting with the committee this week, president of the official opposition, McHenry Venaani reminded Lutombi that the manifesto of the ruling party informs government policy which informs parastatals. As such, Venaani added that government’s parastatals cannot start writing manifestos of political parties in their documents.
“This body (RA) was created by an Act of parliament, it is a parastatal of government, it is apolitical. It is a body that serves in the interest of the country. To my surprise and this is what we need to fix in this country, in your document you put the ruling party’s manifesto as a guiding tool of your institution?
That is the culture that we are bringing in this country that we are bringing politics in institutions that are supposed to be above that. This is a body created by parliament and I think next time you will quote government policies. You report to government and government reports to Swapo. You do not report to Swapo,” said Venaani.
Lutombi and team this week presented RA’s past and latest achievements and challenges where they told the committee that they were on a race to accomplish Harambee projects, but were being impeded by limited funds.
Former chairperson of the committee, Mike Kavekotora also admonished RA’s adoption of the party document as simply wrong.
“I must concur with Honorable Venaani. I don’t think there is any excuse for you to work in accordance with the Swapo manifesto. Even the government itself is trying to incorporate the Swapo manifesto in government policies but they cannot just go and take it like that,” he said.
In defence to the criticism, Lutombi said at the end of the day the roads RA was fixing do not belong to any political party. “If a political party has put and prioritized (a) road and we put it that it has been prioritized by this political party, what we are interested in is that the users will be everybody. But we have taken note of that,” he said.
Jobs for comrades
Kavekotora also told Lutombi that he has been informed by an insider that RA was being compelled to dish out tenders to companies run by individuals connected to Swapo.
He questioned how the entity has been making sure that resources given to it where being effectively utilized.
“I remember we had a similar exercise here where you gave a contract to somebody to complete a road of 21 Km (and) that person ended up failing to deliver after 2 Km yet you paid more than 60% of the amount to that person and you had to get a second contractor.
When we interrogated that thing further we were informed by your officials that they are being informed to give tenders to their people, that is the reason why some of the tenders end up being in the hands of people who cannot perform the work. Because there is this definition of “our people”, and I think that is why you even have the Swapo manifesto in your documentation,
I tried to interrogate who are these “our people” because at the end of the day these are Namibian resources that need to be applied prudently but if you bring in that political connotation of “our people” you will end up giving tenders to people who might not be the right people to perform the job,” he said.
Lutombi flatly denied this.
“I want to assure this committee that there is no such practice in the RA. There is no such policy. Government has never issued a policy for us to say give tenders to “our people”. We are not aware and whoever mentioned to you was wrong,” he said.
RA’s Social economic consideration “misplaced”
Venaani took issue with RA’s assertion that they were building roads in various places by taking economic activities going on there into consideration.
“If it is about economic activities the Hochfeld-Okahandja road would have been built because we have two mines and that road is in a very bad condition. Epupa-Opuwo, just not even the bitumen, just the bridges for starters.
As you go Gochas up to Koes, farmers are struggling without roads. Keetmanshoop up to Aruab. So these are areas that bring value, in terms of GDP, but they are left stranded and there are no roads there. So I want to know from you is this thing a ruse or is it reality,” he questioned.