N$420 000 for a tent, N$150 000 for flowers
The Patriot has learned of a well-crafted conspiracy, which allegedly includes senior government officials and private service providers, aimed at looting state funds earmarked for memorial and funeral services of Namibians accorded state or heroes funerals.
An official from the Ministry of Works and Transport said there is evidence of massive inflation of prices, misappropriation of funds, poor planning by government, and disregard for supply chain regulations during the memorial and funeral services of national heroes and those accorded state, hero or official funeral status.
The official, who refused to be named, said the levels of plunder which went around the level one State funeral were deeply disheartening.
State funerals are organised by a National Preparatory Committee on Events and the chairman is Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa. A number of sub committees are tasked with specific responsibilities such as Protocol and Security, Finance, Catering, Logistics and Transport, Information and Publicity and Health. The Namibia Government grants state, heroes or official funerals in recognition to individuals who have made contributions towards the enhancement of the Namibian nation.
While the criteria for who gets a state, heroes and official funeral remains muddy, allegations that the Catering subcommittee under the leadership of a certain Foibe Fillipus leave much to be desired in terms of governance.
It is alleged that a group of individuals operating in a cartel like operation, obtain quotations from a list of preferred suppliers who then subcontract services from other suppliers. In recurring fashion, the same companies are requested for the provision of chairs, tents and catering companies. In a recent case during the Windhoek memorial of the late Rosalia Nghindiwa, a certain Ndapewa Shilongo was contracted to provide chairs for the memorial in Parliament Gardens. According to our source, she passed on those chairs which she obtained at N$ 5 for at least 100 % more.
In June 2017, during the memorial service of liberation icon Herman ya Toivo, tents were sourced for the service at Independence stadium. It has been revealed that a prominent business figure, known to this publication, charged N$420 000 for 4 hours to supply a tent for the memorial service. A whistleblower reported the quote as “astronomically high” and after high level intervention, the memorial service tent was obtained from another company identified as PJ Services. When contacted for comment PJ Services, this week confirmed that they provided tent services for the memorial at N$ 90 000.
In an incident related to the Ya Toivo memorial in the north, Youth and Sport staffer Selma Hipondoka was entrusted with cash to buy food for the memorial service. When interviewed telephonically this week, Hipondoka in a hysterical tone of voice refused to answer questions put to her and kept referring us to George Simataa. She stated she would only speak in the presence of the whole committee as “people shouldn’t ask me about dead people, they should rather ask me about my dead child”.
According to eye witness reports, Hipondoka oversees the preparation of food as well as the buying thereof with the family. When probed as to what happens with the left over food, she was unable to provide a concrete response and replied vaguely that the food is donated to old age homes. “Yes we all in the committee and assist each other, but the chairperson is Foibe. We always take people from the database to cater for the events. We return the raw food to the state; we always give the food to the old age home, “ she maintained. When asked to which old age home the raw food is delivered to, Hipondoka became infuriated and referred the questions to Foibe Fillipus who she identified as her chairperson.
“The only person who can assist you is the chairperson of the National Preparatory Committee, George Simaata. I do not have the mandate to talk about the matter,” Foibe Fillipus angrily responded in turn when approached.
Gabriel Nakale is another member of the subcommittee and admitted that he is responsible for sourcing quotations for national events. When queried about his alleged involvement in inflating quotations, Nakale denied that he is a culprit in amending quotations to snip money.
“That information is not correct, simply because once a quotation is submitted, there is no way that something printed on hardcopy can be adjusted,” he explained.
Nakale said: “I am a member of the national preparatory committee, the committee organises national events and in that committee I am representing the Permanent Secretary of Works ministry. The PS is the chair to the subcommittee of logistics, transport and accommodation. I am a convener of that committee on technical items. I have been appointed by the PS to represent him on the committee.”
During this investigation by The Patriot newspaper, a letter surfaced which requested the removal of Nakale from this subcommittee and proposed three names to replace him. Goeieman however rejected the request and insisted that Nakale maintains his position despite calls for his removal.
The responsibility of the works ministry is to dig the grave, sourcing the casket and tombstone in consultation with the family, the provision of transport and accommodation during state funerals. After confirming the existence of the letter at first, Goeieman when approached a second time telephonically sought to deny the existence of the letter.
“Yes he is very hardworking and I trust him. That is why I did not agree to that, because I trust him and I want him on the committee,” Goeieman said this week contradicting himself after acknowledging the letter at first and then denying it.
Nakale has been serving in the committee since 2012 and has challenged the public that his accounting officer should be approached, if there are any issues. He maintains that he has been doing an excellent job all this time.
Another person fingered for inflating the prices of items sourced for national events is Ndapewa Shilongo, owner of Epupa Investment. Shilongo has been named amongst those who allegedly benefit handsomely during official events.
Shilongo admitted that she was responsible for the funeral arrangements of the late Rosalia Ngidinwa. Upon our query in regards to the rental of chairs at an inflated tariff, she denied that by maintaining that she did not charge in excess of 100 % more per chair. She further claimed that her file can be viewed through the Office of the Prime minister.
“We did not charge N$15 per chair, please confirm with the Office of the Prime Minister. In a swift turnaround after identifying herself earlier as the owner of Epupa Investment Company, she stated in a follow up interview that “I am not the owner of Epupa Investment and I do not work for that company. I work for another catering service provider. I am just an assistant, I work for Mr. John,” she retorted.
The allegations come at a time when government is cash-strapped with the recently announced austerity measures.