Namibia: City Officials Face 5G Charges

23 February 2021

The City of Windhoek's internal auditors have recommended that five senior officials attend a disciplinary hearing over payments linked to a controversial deal involving Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei installing an internet network enabling 5G connections in Namibia's capital.

The officials, named in the audit report that was leaked to The Namibian yesterday, are Fillemon Neputa, the acting strategic executive officer for information and communication technology, Lizette Vries, the city's strategic executive officer for performance management, Ben Ngairorue, the head of legal affairs, Kenneth Neumbo, the manager of information and communication technology, and Samuel Mutonga, acting strategic executive officer for finance and customer care.

The recommendations to charge them are contained in an internal audit investigation report produced at the behest of the former management committee headed by Moses Shiikwa and is yet to be tabled before the new council.

Shiikwa confirmed yesterday that the then Swapo-led management committee requested the internal auditors to prepare a report on the 5G saga, but it was not made available to them before they left council in December last year, when they were replaced by an opposition-led coalition.

Acting chief executive officer of the City of Windhoek George Mayumbelo yesterday said: "Issues pertaining to staff-related matters are dealt with in a confidential manner in our environment and in accordance with the Local Authorities Act."

He said following an investigation, "the immediate supervisor is mandated to review information or evidence available and make a decision on further actions to be taken, if necessary".

According to the audit report, Ngairorue faces charges of approving law firm Uanivi Gaes Incorporated to provide a legal opinion on the joint business venture's procurement of a fibre optic network, and to act as the project's transaction adviser.

He also faces charges linked to the alleged unauthorised approval of payments worth N$71 800 to the law firm.

According to internal documents, the payments were not in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act of 2015.

The invoices paid to Uanivi Gaes Incorporated were allegedly not properly verified, which resulted in an overpayment amounting to N$15 360.

Ngairorue also faces a charge of approving invoices to the law firm that resulted in the overpayment of N$9 950 in October 2019.

He is further to be charged with the "unauthorised approval and irregular payment that resulted in the overpayment of N$24 300 to Uanivi Gaes Incorporated".

The per-day rate, which was allegedly more than N$8 000, was not approved by the procurement committee.

Vries faces charges for allegedly failing to comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act over the appointment of Uanivi Gaes Incorporated as a transaction adviser, as well as a team of consultants.

Neputa is allegedly in hot water for approving the appointment of the law firm as a transaction adviser and a team of consultants at a meeting held on 26 July 2019.

He also faces a charge in connection with preparing a progress report with recommendations on a fibre optic monetisation project on 26 January this year to the management committee.

This was allegedly in contravention of a management committee resolution of 21 July 2020, which states that the council would pronounce itself on the smart-city project only after the finalisation of an investigation.

"The acting strategic executive for information and communication technology did not apply due diligence, and acted irregularly, and as a result potentially attempted to interfere with this investigation," the report stated.

Neputa will also have to answer for "irregularly stating that the bid evaluation for the joint business venture was performed by a valuation committee, while the evaluation was done by a technical committee which did not even submit an evaluation report to the evaluation committee, and subsequently to the procurement committee".

Mutonga faces a charge over the approval of the appointment of Uanivi Gaes Incorporated and the team of consultants during the meeting on 26 July 2019.

In the report, the internal auditors asked the Department of Information and Communication Technology to submit a progress report on the fibre optic network project to Mayumbelo and the council as "a matter of urgency".

They recommended that Mayumbelo considers appointing an appropriate public-private partnership (PPP) expert to evaluate the fibre optic network project.

It's was also recommended that he considers cancelling and revoking the services of "the irregularly and unauthorised" appointment of the said law firm.

According to the report, the appointment of the firm was not in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act of 2015.

"Secondly, Uanivi Gaes Incorporated is not an expert in public-private partnership consultancy," the management committee said in the report.

Efforts to get comment from Ngairorue yesterday proved futile, as he did not answer his phone and also did not respond to a text message.

City of Windhoek spokesperson Harold Akwenye yesterday discouraged The Namibian from publishing the names of the officials involved, saying they have not received their charges yet.

However, Mutonga confirmed that he received the notice of the charges against him, but added he is yet to discuss it with his supervisor.

"This is an internal matter and I don't know how it got to the media," he said.

Neputa said: "Speak to our corporate communications manager, Mr Akwenye, to get the necessary information."

Vries yesterday told The Namibian that he has "no comment at this stage".

Neumbo confirmed that he received his charges but said he did not want to discuss the matter with the media, while Ngairorue was not reachable yesterday.

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