Saturday 15 May 2021
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PwC unearth dubious NYC transactions

National Youth Council(NYC) director Calista Schwartz-Gowases has been found to have flouted standard NYC procurement procedures when she signed off two payments to a company contracted to provide construction and renovations services at the council without the approval of the board and the institution’s financial manager.
The dragging issue, which has been investigated by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) pointed out in a report last month that Schwartz has indeed breached controls at the council but to date no action against her has been taken as she enjoys protection by the powers that be at the council.
In a letter dated 18 May 2018, written to NYC Executive Chairperson Mandela Kapere, NYC financial manager Elatfun Hamukoto alleged that Schwartz-Gowases approved payments to the amount of N$471 701.53 to Joevani Properties CC.  He further claims that the certificate of completion was issued on his behalf after he refused to approve payments.
Schwartz-Gowases is said to have snubbed Hamukoto and dragged Dominic Mukumba, the Human Capital and Administration officer, to sign off the fees to Joevani Properties CC without consent from the board.
Joevani Properties was contacted by the line ministry on 4 June 2012 for the alterations, upgrading and renovations of the NYC offices at Pasteur Street in Windhoek West at an amount of N$18 million.
During the time the building was under renovations, the NYC management was housed at the National Youth Service (NYS) where they were later given the boot for overstaying. Subsequently, the council had to move into an unfinished building in 2014 without the approval of the contractor and board, which translated that they would be responsible for any damages. As per the contract, a certificate of practical completion should be issued only once work is completed and all obligations in terms of the contract have been fulfilled.
The certificate was issued on 15 March 2016, further highlighting that the practical completion was on 8 April 2015.
The report highlighted that retention fees on the contract had been paid on 13 March 2018 to the amount of N$37 618. The payment submission highlighted that it was the last payment and that the building was completed with supervision done.
Despite that, stated the report, the council’s accountant Petronella Naruses pointed out that Joevani Properties has still not handed the building over to NYC to date. A meeting chaired by Kapere on 8 February 2018, the principal agents highlighted the damages caused by NYC and concluded that Joevani Properties should provide the council with quotations for the repairs.
The outcome of this meeting also resulted in a second contract between NYC and Joevani Properties on 9 February 2018 signed by Schwartz-Gowases for the provision of construction services to be completed on or before 28 February 2018.
Although there were no budget allocations for the new contract, the report says that Schwartz-Gowases considered the budget in its entirety and came to the conclusion that the entire NYC budget could afford the financial commitment.
The board did not approve the contract but only learned about the contractual commitment on 27 March 2018 when Schwartz-Gowases presented a report on the status of the NYC building to the board.
According information gathered through interviews by PwC during the investigation, Schwartz-Gowases is said to have take unilateral decisions on procurement matters without consulting the board.
NYC, like other government entities is operating on a shoestring budget of N$10 million due to budget cuts caused by the economic slump. Most activities within the council have been put to halt due to the scares resources.
PwC, who is said to have conducted the investigation at a cost of N$250 000 concluded that Schwartz-Gowases concluded the contract with Joevani Properties binding NYC to services without recommendations by the Internal Tender Committee.
Schwartz-Gowases also allegedly entered into contract with the contractor without provision made in the budget and board approval. She did not comply with the finance procedures which states that if there is insufficient budget for an emergency issue, the board approval should be obtained.
Normal procedure at the council is that the director only signs off payments submissions after the finance manager has confirmed by signing on submission that the expenditure is within budget. However, Schwartz-Gowases by-passed the controls by signing on behalf of Hamukoto in her capacity as director.
Although PwC recommended that the council must consider initiating disciplinary action against Schwartz-Gowases for failing to comply with the Procurement Act, committing NYC to a contract without provision and by-passing Hamukoto, the recommendations have fallen on deaf ears as the director remains untouched.
The issue is said to have been on the agenda during a board meeting held last month in the coast but did not see the table for discussion. This seem to have rubbed off unpleasantly on the board members who question why Schwartz-Gowases is enjoying immunity even when the findings from investigations place her in the wrong.
Findings from the investigations also brought to light that Schwartz-Gowases has been in the director seat for four years without a signed contract of employment.
“This issue is long overdue. The executive chair is not doing anything and he does not want us to sit for an extra ordinary meeting to address the report.
Maybe it is because he is also partly implicated in the report now he is setting us up for failure in doing the right thing,” said a board member who preferred anonymity.

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