Friday, October 23, 2020

Namibia: Disease treatment fund of N$100m looted by govt officials in fraud and kickback schemes


The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating a tender for the agriculture ministry, in which unnecessary equipment worth N$100 million was purchased but the deal allegedly involved fraud and kickbacks.

The Namibian understands that the ministry paid about N$100 million in 2013 for equipment to fight the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that hit northern Namibia that year.

Sources said the materials and equipment were delivered to regional and veterinary centres around the country.

The equipment includes poles, agricultural products and medicines that are now gathering dust at regional centres such as Mariental, Gobabis, Epukiro, Okakarara, Otjinene, Grootfontein, Outjo and Kamanjab.

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Ministerial sources said that there was no request or demand from the ministry’s regional centres for the materials and equipment, but these were procured anyway. It is alleged that part of the N$100 million ended up in the pockets of certain government officials under the smokescreen of buying equipment and veterinary medicines for desperate farmers.

The Namibian understands that some of the equipment and agricultural products disappeared and were likely sold – through unauthorised means – to farmers and individuals in those areas.

Agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb confirmed to The Namibian last week that he reported this matter to president Hage Geingob.

“I submitted a report to the head of state on what we had uncovered,” !Naruseb said.

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He also confirmed that the ministry used the findings of their internal investigation to rope in the Anti-Corruption Commission for the investigation.

!Naruseb referred The Namibian to the ministry’s executive director, Percy Misika, for further details.

ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata confirmed the probe and that investigations are ongoing.

“Kindly note that yes, the ACC has a case registered on various allegations pertaining to the purchasing of materials and equipment, including those meant for the foot-and-mouth operation at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry,” she said on Thursday.

She added: “However, this case is not registered in isolation as there are other allegations tied to it that involve other entities, hence the investigation is not completed”.

Sources familiar with the probe said the quotation to buy the materials did not match the quantity or quality of equipment delivered to the ministry.

The sources also point to a questionable tender process.

Ministerial sources claim that attempts to expose this irregular tender were initially ignored by senior officials. These officials have now been vindicated after an internal audit confirmed the allegations.

The sources claim that several senior ministerial officials were lobbied to sanction the purchase of agricultural products and equipment such as animal medicines and poles.

The Namibian has also learned that the ministerial probe has triggered officials in the implicated departments to make last-minute moves to transfer the materials to stations at Omutabomove, Otjivero and Katima Mulilo.

Allegations of wasteful spending and questionable procurement are not new to the agriculture ministry.

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The Namibian reported last year that the ACC was investigating the ministry after it spent N$730 000 for 350 gardening tools, 50 rakes, 100 spades, 50 axes, 100 Maglite LED 3D torches and 50×25-litre jerrycans.

Ministerial sources said there is another case in which the ministry spent over N$1 million on insecticides for treating animals infected by ticks. These were also bought in 2013 but have now expired.

The agriculture ministry has been a hotbed of alleged corruption over the years, including its parastatals.

The Namibian reported in June this year that the government queried over 70 contracts signed by the state-owned Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (Amta).

This includes transactions worth more than N$50 million that were not approved by the board or the agriculture ministry. No one has been held accountable at Amta.


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