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ACC raids Karasburg Town Council

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday descended on the Karasburg Town Council in a wide-ranging investigation into the affairs of the local authority.

This comes after the council found itself at odds with minister of urban and rural development Erastus Uutoni, following a stand-off which has been ongoing for more than two months.

The Landless People’s Movement-dominated council has accused Uutoni of undue interference in the town’s affairs.

The minister, as custodian of local authorities, however, pointed fingers at the council, accusing it of disregarding the laws and rules governing local authorities.

Rivalry between the LPM and Swapo has allegedly made the running of Karasburg impossible.

The council’s head of finance and administration, as well as its human resources officer, are said to have resigned as a result.

ACC director general Paulus Noa has confirmed the raid, but could not provide specific details.

“All I can tell you is that the officials are busy investigating on the ground,” he said.

The ACC’s investigation comes five days after Uutoni wrote a letter to Karasburg mayor Maria Veldskoen in which he directed her and the council to reverse a number of decisions and actions the minister termed “unprocedural”.

“Your office and the entire council are hereby given up to 8 September to report back and demonstrate full compliance to my directives,” read the minister’s letter.

Uutoni’s letter also addressed the appointment of acting chief executive officer (CEO) Hansina Isaaks from Keetmanshoop, as well as the appointment of Kallie Goliath as personal assistant to Veldskoen.

The personal assistant position was allegedly not provided for in council structures.

Uutoni accused councillors of changing signatory powers of the council’s bank accounts, which he said is a direct violation of local authority councillors’ code of conduct.

He said the Local Authorities Act also empowers the CEO to run the affairs of the council.

Uutoni said the council gave signatory rights to its bank accounts to councillor Franciskus Skeyer and Isaaks.

“I am hereby directing you and other members of the council and administration […] to reverse the decisions and revert such powers or authority back to those who are legally vested and entrusted, namely the legitimately appointed CEO and staff members,” Uutoni wrote.

The appointment of a law firm to assist the council on legal matters, allegedly at a cost of N$64 000, and a security company at a cost of about N$16 000 a month, according to Uutoni, took place in violation of the State Finance Act, the Local Authorities Act and the Public Procurement Act.

He said such expenses were not budgeted for.

The minister also complained that the mayor’s official vehicle was being driven by people without authorisation.

Veldskoen on Tuesday did not confirm or deny the ACC raid.

“We are currently in a meeting and I can only talk to you after this meeting,” she said.

She did not respond to texts and calls at the time of going print.

The conflict between Uutoni and Karasburg town councillors started with the suspension of CEO Nico Titus in 2021.

Titus was suspended to allow the council to investigate N$10 million that was missing from council coffers.

When he attempted to return to office two months ago, Titus was barred from entering the council building.

This included changing the locks to his office, which Uutoni also complained about in his letter.