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Sunday 20 January 2019
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On tender hooks

Mwoombola aims legal sword at Haufiku

  • Minister cancels tenders via WhatsApp
  • PS authorises N$3000 a day tent
  • Provision of health care in limbo

The health ministry is at risk of breaking down  amid a battle for the control of the ministry. There is intense jostling to dismiss embattled permanent secretary Dr. Andreas Mwoombola for good, although the PS on several occasions maintained his innocence and accused minister Bernard Haufiku of continuously subjecting him to victimization and a witch-hunt. The concern is that the fight between Mwoombola and Haufiku could cripple the operations of the ministry and subsequently jeopardize the provision of healthcare in the country. An investigation by The Patriot this week, saw several independent sources revealing that the duo do not sit around the same fire, with Haufiku accusing Mwoombola of undermining his authority while in turn Mwoombola feels Haufiku is too involved in operational matters-which by law is the duty of a permanent secretary.

 

The sources included directors in the ministry and people close to both Haufiku and Mwoombola.  Information which emanated from the investigation ranges from Haufiku apparently cancelling tenders on Whatsapp and yelling at Mwoombola in the presence of junior employees. The PS is also castigated for renting tents for N$3000 per day. These are some of the factors that forced the PS to seek legal advice in a bid to clear his name after mediation attempts by deputy health minister Juliet Kavetuna failed. Haufiku has made it clear that he lost trust in Mwoombola, but the PS maintains that the love lost between the two of them is because of the Ministers’ interference in operational matters. At the time, however, The Patriot could not establish when exactly the relationship broke into pieces-that is if peace ever existed.  A trail of confidential information between Haufiku and Mwoombola- which was seen by this newspaper-suggest that Haufiku drew all his swords to get Mwoombola suspended.  At the time of the leaked information, Haufiku explicitly stated that he had lost trust in Mwoombola.  The minister, in a letter dated 3 July 2017, also castigated the PS saying “the reports that come from the regions through the established Ministerial channels of reporting, do not match what I often find on the ground when I visit the regions.” In the same letter, the minister also reveals that Mwoombola threatened to resign in April. “Mr. Mwoombola, it is hereby recorded, as it was the case, that in a response to my two questions above you informed me in the presence of Ms. Masabane, in your office, that you will resign from your position as permanent secretary in the ministry. I then stated that if you have decided to resign from your position as permanent secretary in the Ministry, then there was no point proceeding with the meeting,” Haufiku said. According to the correspondences, Mwoombola allegedly told Haufiku and deputy health minister Juliet Kavetuna that his threats to resign was merely because he was “emotional”. In a letter dated 22 April 2017 authored by Mwoombola, he reassured Haufiku “of my unwavering commitment and dedication to the Ministry of Health and Social Services in ensuring that we continue to deliver on our mandate as a team.

Trust lost
The documents in this newspaper’s possession come on the back of revelations that Mwoombola facilitated the awarding of a tender to FITO Medical Supplies which is owned by Haufiku’s former personal assistant Fillemon Auwanga and his cousin Daniel Nelumbu. There are allegations that Auwanga used inside information to score the tender seeing that he once served as a member of the Ministerial Tender Committee. “You can already see how your way of dealings with issues, especially tenders in the ministry, either by commission or omission has featured me into conflict of interest and at best gave an impression that through proxies with my PA and blood cousin, I am basically getting tender preferences from the Ministry to supply equipment using my PA and cousin,” said Haufiku. He added: “This, Mr. Mwoombola is the most devastating of all wrongs I have seen in you since you were appointed PS. And this is the main reason that I told you I lost trust in you.”

N$3000 per day tents
The minister also accused Mwoombola of being “inept and impulsive” after it turned out that Mwoombola authorized the ministry to rent tents at a cost of N$3000 per day for six months which amounted to N$540 000[as per the 6 months rental contract] instead of buying tents at a price tag of N$40 000 per tent. The tents were required to provide temporary shelter for pregnant women at the Outapi Maternal Shelter. “This demonstrates your ineptness and impulsive way of dealing with issues in the ministry which cost taxpayers substantial amounts without due considerations, especially the financial implications,” Haufiku charged. Mwoombola also stands accused of taking decisions without informing his minister. A case in question is the refurbishment of the Windhoek Central Hospital Theatre in 2015. According to the minister, Mwoombola said the project would cost N$4 million inclusive of the lifts that transport surgical waste, however that was allegedly not done.  In the end, the cost of the project ballooned to N$9 million and the work on the theatre was allegedly poorly planned. “All 8 theatres were started at the same time, causing a lot of work inconvenience and high costs to the state as many patients, especially cardiac patients had to be transferred to private facilities which further increase the cost of the state,” bemoaned Haufiku. Haufiku said the renovation work was executed poorly because  there were no consultations done, adding that apart from high costs, it also caused diplomatic embarrassment. Mwoombola is also accused of unilaterally suspending the training of Community Health Workers without informing either the minister or the deputy minister. “This is clearly a policy issue with political implications as you have seen that this issues were mentioned by the Head of State during his State of the Nation Address to Parliament this year. Meanwhile you have unilaterally and without consultation suspended this critical program that will catalyze delivery of healthcare at community level,” said a disappointed Haufiku. Haufiku said Mwoombola’s office is compromised and indicated that Mwoombola faces cases such as financial mismanagement, irregular tender awarding and potential conflict of interest.

Mwoombola seeks legal advise
Another leaked document, dated 18 July 2017, reveals Mwoombola’s displeasure over Haufiku’s conduct towards him. “You have a tendency of yelling at me in the presence of my juniors and belittling me as you are frustrated by my presence in the Ministry.  It is evident that your culture of yelling has become established through constant repetition and this has quickly turned abusive,” said a combative Mwoombola. Mwoombola claims Haufiku made it a mission to make him[Mwoombola] irrelevant within the Ministry by giving instructions to Mwoombola’s subordinates  on operational matters. He also labelled allegations of financial mismanagement and irregular tender awarding as baseless and false. “You have made it your key mission to destroy my reputation by wittingly distorting facts and the context in which we operate. You have chosen to label me as corrupt.  It seems you have failed in your duty to verify that the information obtained is accurate, fair and truthful.  Therefore, due to the serious nature of the allegations, I am left with no choice but to refer the matter to my lawyers for legal advice who shall be in contact with you to substantiate  your allegations and provide proof,” Mwoombola said. Regarding the renovation of the theatre, Mwoombola explained that the cost ballooned because many defects were unearthed when the renovation commenced. “At this point work had already commenced and the project would not be abandoned before completion. As a result, Dr. [Sara]Shalongo approached my office to assist with the additional funds to  fix all the defects identified and to complete the project,” he explained. Mwoombola also denied claims that he cost the state money for opting to buy tents for the Outapi Maternal Shelter instead of buying them. He further indicated that the decision to seek quotations for temporary tents was left in the hands of the regional and the hospital management team to implement.

 

“The decision to rent was the short term measure necessitated by the anticipated rains. To procure new tents would have taken us longer considering the lengthy procurement process.  This would have also defeated the purpose as this was a temporary solution whilst we seek for long term solutions with the provision of funds,” he said. Mwoombola said the animosity between himself and Haufiku was caused by the minister’s constant interference in operational matters. He also warned Haufiku to refrain from interfering in the procurement process which could have dire consequences for the Ministry. Regarding the suspension of the training of community workers, Mwoomola retorts that the expenditure was not fully budgeted for during times when the Ministry is facing budgetary restraints. Currently, 680 community health workers are undergoing training and need to be appointed after completing the course. The PS indicated that there are no funds to appoint them. Mwoombola also claims that Haufiku cancels tenders via Whatsapp without valid reasons. On Tuesday, Mwoombola was suspended pending an investigation by the Anti Corruption Commission.




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