Namibia: NBC Tender Heist

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation is investigating four senior managers for allegedly hijacking tenders and deals meant for the broke national broadcaster.

The managers are also accused of using NBC's equipment to produce video content for their own benefit.

Some managers allegedly advised foreign broadcasters to avoid dealing with the NBC because of its "low-quality equipment".

Documents show that four NBC managers are implicated in these allegations, including production manager Glendyrr Bailey and head of department: TV channels, Patrick Mettler.

The other two mentioned in this saga are acting broadcast operation manager Steven Kotze, and outside broadcast manager Ronney Hoëbeb. They denied any wrongdoing.

NBC spokesperson Umbi Karuaihe-Upi confirmed the investigation on Friday.

The Namibian understands that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was alerted of these allegations in September, but it refused to investigate them because they were "of an administrative nature".

ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata told The Namibian on Friday that the commission closed the case, and directed the NBC to institute investigations internally.

"We received a report from an anonymous complainant pertaining to the operations of identified employees of the NBC. However, the case is closed as the nature of the complainant and the information at hand is of an administrative nature," she stated.

Documents submitted to the ACC alleged that the managers used NBC's video production equipment such as cameras and power generators to broadcast sporting events in Namibia for foreign broadcasting companies over the last four years.

Sources told The Namibian that apart from using the NBC's equipment, these managers also diverted several opportunities meant for the national broadcaster.

This includes NBC's negotiations with Kenyan-owned Kwese TV (Sports), and a South African-based company named Host Broadcast Services and Dimension TV to share content from sporting events.

NBC managers allegedly inserted themselves into the deal while the national broadcaster was having talks with the two foreign companies - Kwese TV and Dimension TV - for a feed-sharing agreement.

The managers started allegedly producing sports content for Kwese TV and Dimension TV through a company owned by production manager Bailey.

Sporting events in question are the rugby sevens series, and a boxing event which was held at Swakopmund last year.

The Fifa World Cup qualifying match between Namibia and Eritrea played in Windhoek last month is also among the events alleged to have been privately recorded for foreign companies by the managers.

Sources estimated that the managers got about N$400 000 after broadcasting a football match between Namibia and Eritrea.

NBC's acting broadcast operations manager Kotze strongly denied that he was part of the clique accused of hijacking the corporation's opportunities.

He told The Namibian on Sunday that he was also surprised that discussions the corporation had with Kwese TV and Dimension TV had been hijacked for private gain.

"NBC had discussions with Kwese TV and Dimension TV to give them feeds, but no agreement was signed yet. That is public information, and we have nothing to hide.

"We brought the discussion on the table so that we don't allow private people to hijack NBC's opportunities. We wanted to broadcast the game (Namibia vs Eritrea), but we later found that the production was hijacked by some people. The issue of me trying to hijack the NBC is not true," Kotze stressed.

NBC's production manager Bailey, who is accused of double-dipping, confirmed last week that she has been producing content for foreign companies under her private company, but that she has done nothing wrong.

She said she had disclosed her company to the NBC, and it was a well-known fact.

"Yes, I have done production, and my company is declared with NBC. But the allegations that I use NBC equipment and employees is not true. It is very laughable. I will talk to my lawyer about it to get the way forward," she added.

NBC's Hoëbeb, who is also implicated in the ACC letter, yesterday told The Namibian that he had nothing to do with the alleged tender hijacking.

He threatened to sue The Namibian if his name appears in the newspaper.

"I am not involved, and I don't want to comment on such things. Go and ask the author of the letter to tell you where they got that information," Hoëbeb said.

Mettler was not reachable for comment yesterday.

The hijacking of tenders took place while the corporation was struggling to pay its employees' pension and medical aid contributions. The national broadcaster last month announced that it could retrench about 156 workers due to a lack of finances.

NBC board chairperson Sven Thieme said the retrenchment of workers was one of the initiatives to cut costs at the corporation to avoid possible liquidation.

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