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Civil servants abuse refugee housing

Bereng Mpaki

UNSCRUPULOUS civil servants have turned some of the 46 houses donated by the United Nations (UN) to the refugee coordination unit into rental units thus prejudicing refugees.

This according to the findings of acting Auditor General, Monica Besetsa, in her recently released audit report for the   2019/20 financial year.

So bad is the situation that some refugees and asylum seekers have become homeless while the houses designated for their accommodation were benefiting civil servants. Some of the civil servants are also residing in the refugees’ accommodation, Ms Besetsa said.

Located in Mohalalitoe, Borokhoaneng and Ha-Matala, in Maseru, the refugees’ houses facilities are so poorly managed that there is no documentation authorising the commercial use of the houses.

Ms Besetsa said the tenants were acting as tough the houses were their personal properties. They were even selling water to nearby villagers and pocketing the money. The water bills were being paid by the government, Ms Besetsa said.

“I have noted that the houses no longer serve the purpose, as most of them are occupied or rented to some civil servants and other members of the public while the refugees and asylum seekers have no accommodation,” Ms Besetsa said in the report.

“There was no documentation or authority availed for this arrangement.”

The audit also discovered that the Ministry of Home Affairs did not maintain proper records for the houses and there were no contracts and documentation for the leased houses.

“Tenants did not pay rent as expected, and there were no follow-ups made and arrears of rent were not reported. In cases where revenue on rent was received, it was not accounted for and not traceable.

“The Ministry did not maintain the houses to the extent that the tenants maintain the houses themselves. Some even installed electricity and, in some places, tenants sell water to the villagers for their own benefit while the Ministry pays the bills.

“There is a risk that these houses are used for personal gain thus resulting in losses to the government,” Ms Besetsa said.

She therefore, recommended that there must be proper records of the houses and these must be included in the government’s assets register.

“Where houses are rented, they should be properly maintained and there should be a clear contractual arrangement between the Ministry and tenants,” Ms Besetsa said.

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