15 August 2018

Namibia: Transnamib Director Peeved By Lawyer's Role in Graft Case

TRANSNAMIB board member Michael Ochurub has questioned the appointment of a lawyer who wants to charge a parastatal executive for corruption in tenders worth N$24 million.

Ochurub raised this issue in an email to works minister John Mutorwa and other board members on Monday. He specifically said lawyer Phillip Ellis is in a conflict of interest situation, and should not be involved in this corruption case.

Ellis was tasked by the board to charge former acting chief executive Hippy Tjivikua of corruption, but that action has irritated some board members.

Ellis suspects that Tjivikua was part of a scheme that paid N$24 million for three tenders which were supposed to cost N$3 million. Indications are that Ochurub made up his mind based on chain WhatsApp messages that were circulated last week about Ellis.

The Namibian reported last week that TransNamib paid N$24 million for three tenders which were worth N$3 million to two companies, HRD Trading Enterprise CC and RMH Logistics CC, both owned by businessman Rodney Hanganda. Ochurub said in his email to other board members that he does not agree with Ellis' involvement in this case because of his past work with HRD. Ellis was a shareholder in Gecko Blasting and Drilling, which was subcontracted by HRD to clean up oil in the Namib Desert for TransNamib.

"Mr Ellis admitted that he was involved with HRD [Trading Enterprise CC] and Gecko matters, and I think Tjivikua is entitled to fair charges and a fair hearing," Ochurub stated.

He added: "I distance myself from any decision to allow Ellis to be involved in this matter, and whoever continues with him should mention their names, and not use the term "board", please".

Ochurub was also unhappy that Ellis investigated more information than the board asked him to on this matter.

"It was not necessary for Mr Ellis to go for another investigation at Walvis Bay, and interview people there and invoice TN [TransNamib] to pay the cost for it. The investigation was done already by Judge Parker, and the report is available," he added.

Ochurub asked "who instructed Mr Ellis to do that - where are the terms of an agreement containing it? I have never seen it, and where was it discussed in the first place? I am very concerned that things have to go this way".

Ellis told The Namibian yesterday that he provides legal services to Gecko in a matter against HRD where they failed to pay Gecko for subcontracting work done for TransNamib.

"If anyone is saying there is a conflict of interest, it is because they either don't understand, or someone is trying to eliminate me so that the process does not continue," Ellis said, adding that the disciplinary action will have to continue, even if he is not the one carrying it out.

Ellis wrote to Mutorwa last month that there was evidence to charge Tjivikua, and warned that letting him off the hook could allow "corruption, fraud and collusion" to continue at TransNamib.

He explained to Mutorwa that "it is very possible" that Tjivikua teamed up with other TransNamib executives to award tenders to two companies in what investigators described as a deliberate "scheme".

The decision by the board to go after executives accused of corruption appears to affect their chances of retaining their positions on the board.

Mutorwa reminded the board this week that since their term is "fast sprinting towards its end", they should prepare the financial statements and annual report by the end of September this year.

TransNamib board chair Smit could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone went unanswered. Ochurub was also unreachable for comment.


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