14 July 2017

Namibia: Suspected Fraudulent Tender for School Renovations Under Scrutiny

Windhoek — The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture says no tender was awarded related to the alleged purchase order issued on March 9 to Shilakomupaya Investments CC by Omusati regional directorate of education, arts and culture for the renovation of a classroom and repair of chairs and desks, valued at N$751,059.

The company in question - Shilakomupaya Investment CC - is owned by Ongwediva Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) district secretary Hofni Iipinge. The investigations come after a document that went viral on social media purportedly showed that the Omusati education directorate unprocedurally awarded a tender, worth N$751,059, to an unregistered company.

A purchase order and claim form with an official stamp of Omusati regional directorate of education, dated March 9, is allegedly claiming a payment of N$751,059 for work said to be done by Shilakomupaya Investment CC before it was registered on 23 March.

According to the document, the claim is for renovations done at a classroom with repairs of 70 chairs and 70 desks.

The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, through the Omusati Regional Directorate of Education, Arts and Culture General Services sub-division has since launched an internal investigation to seek clarification on the authenticity of the alleged purchase order last month.

Education Ministry spokesperson Johanna Absalom yesterday said no such tender was awarded, as per the investigation findings. Further, she said, on March 9, the director of education in Omusati Region was not out of office, hence no staff member was delegated to act on their behalf. Also, the regional council did not have a staff member with a signature on the order. "This indicates forgery and fraud," she concluded. She said after carefully studying the purchase order, discrepancies were also raised regarding the preparation of the purchase order.

She said the process was found not to be in line with procurement procedures, as various services were bundled together, such as the renovation of classrooms and the repair of chairs and desks. In fact, she said, the renovations to schools should indicate the name of the school and not a division.

She noted that it appears the only thing genuine on the purchase order in question was the stamp and company name. She said the company in question was found to have been registered on March 24 this year through the Trade and Industry Ministry's Ongwediva branch under Ipinge's name, with registration number CC/2/17/03326.

Prior to the probe, Absalom said the ministry identified key issues, such as whether the Omusati regional directorate of education, arts and culture was in possession of a purchase order book with the number A453205, as indicated on the purchase order in question.

The investigation also aimed to determine whether there was a tender advertised in 2017, numbered OMRC/38/2017, as well as whether there was any staff member with a signature identical to the one that signed off the forged purchase order.

The ministry also wanted to establish whether the director was absent from office on the day the purchase order was signed off and who was assigned in the office. They also considered the company's capacity to renovate a classroom and repair chairs and desks.

"Following a thorough investigation, the regional directorate did not find any purchase order book with number A453205 in their inventory. The directorate also contacted Ondangwa government store, where the Omusati regional directorate of education, arts and culture normally orders purchase books from. And again, the purchase book with that number could not be traced," she maintained.

She said this indicates the non-existence of the said book from which the purchase order was derived and explained that the investigation also found that Omusati Regional Council and the regional directorate of education had not advertised any such tender (number OMRC/38/2017).

She assured stakeholders that the tender process and procurement would continue to be implemented in accordance with the principles of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and its quest for accountability, transparency and fairness in all its operations at all levels.


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