Monday, December 6, 2021

Northwest District Council owed millions in SHHA arrears

The North West District Council (NWDC) might find itself in a very complicated situation, possibly leading to the local authority failing to meet the demands of well over 500 people who had applied for the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) turnkey programme. 

This is because the council has failed on numerous occasions to recover the millions owed to it in arrears by SHHA beneficiaries. In the past, the building of houses was administered by councils countrywide, but the BHC took over following a Presidential directive CAB 20B of July 2010 which tasked the BHC to build at least seventeen houses in all constituencies. 

The shift to BHC was applauded by many, taking into account delays by councils which were also seen to be failing to meet intended targets.

Speaking at a handing over ceremony of a house built under the programme by BHC in Maun, Chairperson of NWDC SHHA committee Duncan Enga said out of the more than P10 million owed to council, not even a million has been recovered. He said the biggest challenge now is that council has over the years had a difficult time trying to locate some of the defaulters, most of who have since relocated or sold the houses built for them. 

“The council is running at a loss as we speak. Our inability to trace these people has hit hard on us as we are  unable to assist those who have been patiently waiting for some years now. We have a very long list of people willing to benefit. We had suggested that because they are unable to pay back, beneficiaries should rent their houses so that we recover money owed to us, but they have not been cooperative”, he said.

Enga could not be drawn into saying if they have any plan in place as council to address the defaulters issue in the future, save to say the council is currently looking at other avenues in an effort  to bring the defaulters forward  so they could make their intensions  clear. 

However he hinted out that they will through the powers bestowed to the council attorney suggest that a clause be included in the application forms, which will force beneficiaries to pay or face the wrath of the law. In the meantime he said the clause is yet to be discussed and finalized by the council advisory board and management. 

Meanwhile BHC Chief Executive Officer Reginald Motswaiso said he was disappointed by some local contractors who despite being paid well and on agreed times  still do not pay their employees. 

He noted that construction to some houses was delayed due to unresolved issues between contractors who could not pay and or meet the demands of their workers. The nonpayment issue, he said, has been a major setback which has led to BHC having to pay the people owed directly.

“This caught us at a very challenging time. We could not do fresh recruitments because we had  already seen potential on those who had already started work. That is why we ended paying them directly. This goes to show just how negligent some of our contractors can be. It is so discouraging, considering that they now expect people to work without pay and still deliver. We are going to be very cautious when awarding these tenders in the future”, said Motswaiso.

To date, Motswaiso noted that the BHC has already built and handed over 21 of the 33 houses earmarked for the two constituencies of Maun East and Maun West. 

Six of the houses will be handed over this week, while the remaining six will be handed at the end of September.

 Soon after handing over, the BHC boss said beneficiaries are usually given a period not exceeding six months to determine if there are any defects in their houses so that they may be attended to during the six months defects liability period.

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