4 February 2013

Namibia: Defence Denies Reports of Tender Nepotism

THE Ministry of Defence has denied allegations of nepotism in a N$1,5 billion food tender after revelations that senior military officers in the ministry allegedly dished out the tenders to relatives and acquaintances.

The weekly Confidente newspaper carried two damming reports in the past three weeks on how high-ranking officials in the ministry allegedly tampered with the tender system to favour their relatives and friends.

The defence ministry's public relations office issued a statement condemning the two reports headlined 'Tender Board recalls NDF N$300 million dubious food tender' and 'NDF N$1,5 billion stinking tender unearthed'.

"The stories as well as the editor's view attempted to cast aspersions on the tender procedures and as such, the ministry would like to state categorically clear that it respects the Tender Board regulations and will in no way bypass such regulatory body or its procedures," the ministry said in a statement.

"What the ministry does is to evaluate applications under strict rules, procedures of the Tender Board after which it submits to the Tender Board for awarding the tender. The two articles are being condemned as being devoid of any truth.

"The Ministry of Defence is assuring the nation that it will continue to conduct business in a transparent manner in accordance [with] democratic principles."

The tender submission was examined by the Tender Board on December 14, but it was referred back for "some clarification as per tender procedures".

The ministry did not explain what the clarifications were, amid concern over possible irregularities and corruption during the procurement process.

Meanwhile, the Congress of Democrats (CoD) on Friday called on Defence Minister Nahas Angula, Prime Minister Hage Geingob and the Anti-Corruption Commission to act.

The Namibian reported last week that a N$2 million tender for the supply of champagne glasses and garden tools for the Ministry of Defence raised suspicion of favouritism after it was classified 'urgent' and perhaps a 'security' concern, requiring it to be exempted from the government's open bidding process.

The CoD's secretary general, Tsudao Gurirab, said "the reasons why exemptions were granted are highly suspect and as clear as mud. It would appear as if the Ministry of Finance officials, who approved these exemptions, either do not apply their mind, or worse still, may be complicit in the scheme."

Gurirab said the budget of the defence ministry had ballooned over the years, and without proper oversight and control those in charge may be manipulating and abusing the system for personal gain.

Despite responding to the report in Confidente, the ministry remained quiet about The Namibian's report.

"We need to stop this rot before it consumes us. For all we know, decay may already be deeply rooted in the establishment," Gurirab said.

He called on the ACC to open a file on the allegations and move to reassure the public that Ministry of Defence officers do not engage in self-enrichment by means of graft and misappropriation.

"We implore the prime minister to ensure the speedy passing of the new Procurement Act to curb these and similar abuses of the system," Gurirab said.

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