…denies conflict of interest claims
Perceived conflict of interest claims between Afrikuumba Construction, one of the biggest recipients of the embattled mass housing programme, and former NHE chief engineer Uazuva Kaumbi have surfaced after the construction took Kaumbi into its employment earlier this year.
Kaumbi served as Namibia Housing Enterprise’s (NHE) senior manager for technical services and property management before he landed a job as business developer at Afrikuumba, one of the largest recipients from the failed Mass Housing Development Programme.
He resigned from NHE in April 2017 and joined Afrikuumba the following month.
Afrikuumba, in partnership with a South African company Calgro M3 and was awarded a tender to build 1 191 houses at Otjomuise in Windhoek to the tune of about N$350 million.
Afrikuumba’s executive director, Titus Nakuumba is a cousin to former NHE executive, Vinson Hailulu’s wife.
Talks have now surfaced that during Kaumbi’s time at NHE, Afrikuumba used to get special preference from the State Owned Enterprise and it was not surprising that he now works for the same company that received over 25% of what the N$2,9 billion that government pumped into the mass housing scheme.
Kaumbi is accused of being conflicted and that his decision to join Afrikuumba, weeks after his resignation from NHE is seen by armchair critics to be a manifestation of those claims.
The ‘Hailulu’ group of loyal executives such as Kaumbi have been accused of being the reason why the government’s N$45 billion Mass Housing Development Program failed to yield the desired results.
The programme has since been stripped from NHE after an array of tender irregularities and poor project management surfaced.
Defending his new job, Kaumbi maintains that Afrikuumba did not receive any special treatment in the tender awarding process during his time at NHE.
According to Kaumbi, he was in no way involved in NHE’s tender awarding process and denies having known Afrikuumba during his time at the housing enterprise.
“Afrikuumba never received a special treatment from NHE. It is true that they received a contract for mass housing and 25 other companies. They were one of the companies that tendered. They received the tender for Otjomuise project. Of course you can say it’s one of the biggest because it involves over 1000 plots. At that time, I didn’t even know Afrikuumba,” Kaumbi said.
Kaumbi attributed his decision to ditch NHE due to the broken relationship between himself and the company after he dragged the company to court when he failed to bag NHE’s top job which was vacated by Hailulu, a close ally to Kaumbi.
“With NHE, you know I had this case when I applied for the CEO’s position. I had a court case where I also challenged the board and at the time we went to court and I lost the court case. I went through arbitration and I lost the arbitration case,” he said.
Kaumbi added: “At that time the relationship became very sour at the NHE, you can imagine. Then I started looking for alternatives to get out because I couldn’t proceed…the atmosphere (at NHE) was getting toxic.”
It was at this stage that Kaumbi started looking at options to further advance his career and coincidentally, Afrikuumba had a vacancy for the position of business developer.
“I approached them (Afrikuumba). I approached different companies that I could work for. Look, I was 54, I actually wanted to wait until I am 55 then I can just take early retirement. But an extra year was just not going to be possible,” he added. Kaumbi went on to say “I started considering my different options” and “different companies that could offer me a way out and a challenge”.
He noted that apart from the mass housing project, Afrikuumba had other major projects.
“Mass housing is just one of the projects and I am not even involved in that project at Afrikuumba.
I am involved in the business development side and I am actually bringing in projects for Afrikuumba. They[Afrikuumba] are involved in the extension plaza in Windhoek. They are involved in the waterfront project in Walvis Bay. They are involved many projects. That’s why I felt that they are a company that can offer me a challenge that I needed at the time,” Kaumbi stated emphatically.
The bloated prices which private construction firms charged for the low-cost housing programme are at the centre of a government probe as it seeks to re-implement the programme in a more coherent and cost-effective way.
During the awarding phase, NHE was confident that it has a robust system and processes in place to ensure that actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest of all its directors and employees are managed effectively. Doubts has since been cast in that regard.
By June 2015, government released shocking statistics indicating that it had spent N$2,723 918 354 to construct 1468 houses.
This translates into a construction cost of over N$1.8 million per house.