• Board yet to award a single tender
• Most CPB workers failed vetting process
• Procurement board bosses fight each other
While the Central Procurement Board(CPB) has been working overtime to claw the embattled public procurement system out of the ground, insiders have lifted the lid on the unfavourable working environment that exists within the institution.
Issues including maladministration, victimisation and favouratism have been cited as issues that have paralysed the board, which to date has not awarded any tender apart from extending those it inherited from the now defunct Tender Board of Namibia.
Internal rifts between CPB chairman Patrick Swartz and his deputy Lischen Ramakutla is said to have also paralysed the institution which has not awarded any tender since it started operating in April 2017.
It is understood that almost 95% of the contract workers have failed the vetting, a procedure of which the Board had no prior knowledge. Staff are recruited either by head hunting, secondment from the Ministry of Finance or by normal recruitment processes.
Vetting at the CPB is conducted by Namibia Central Intelligence Agency (NCIS). The employees have questioned the vetting process, saying it has been used selectively to silence some employees. Also, no information is provided as to why a specific member of staff failed in the vetting.
“We find it strange that people are only vetted after they have signed their employment contracts, one would think the vetting should be done before you get the job. People live in fear because here they cannot speak their minds. Some were head hunted but have since left and are now unemployed because they apparently talk too much,” said a company insider.
The CPB employs less than 30 officials who were vetted in the exercise that ran since 2017. Only 5 members of staff have been vetted successfully and they include the cleaner, lawyer, governance practitioner, deputy chair and chairperson.
Information has also surfaced that Swartz and Ramakutla have used their discretionary power to exempt themselves from being taxed as employees because they are allegedly “provisional taxpayers”.
Provisional taxpayers are people who earn income in addition to their salary/wage for example such as rental income from a property or other income from a trade.
A CPB insider said the duo were initially paid by the Ministry of finance as creditors because the board had no organisational structure.
“The situation has been resolved after the board got its own structure, I can confirm that they now do get taxed on their salaries,” a highly placed CPB source said.
The two have since, according to insiders, clashed after Finance minister Calle Schlettwein instituted a probe to determine why Ramakutla is classified as a provisional taxpayer.
“Following that directive from the minister, the chair and his deputy have not been on good terms because Ramakutla feels if there is a probe, both of them ought to be probed because the circumstances are the same,” said a CPB insider.
Ramakutla is also being probed for a tender she allegedly awarded to her brother for IT related work.
Schlettwein also reneged on a previous arrangement that both Swartz and Ramakutla report to him.
Another issue that hampers the efficient running of the institution is the absence of both job descriptions and contracts for senior staff.
Swartz as Executive Chairperson heads both the institution as Chief Executive while holding the Chairperson position at the same time. He is reported to have total power at the CPB and reports only to Schlettwein.
“Swartz actually reports to himself because he spearheads the operations and simultaneously he is also the one providing oversight even over the Board.
How the institution which is expected to rank top in transparency and governance operates efficiently, is beyond me,” said a concerned source.
A number of current and former staff who spoke to The Patriot insisted on anonymity, mostly for fear of reprisals.
Because they have dependents to support they were not willing to gamble with their livelihoods, one said.
Even as frustrations within the CPB boils over, staff have a range of grievances, but all cite as their primary concern Swartz’s usurping of operational control, sometimes publicly and from behind the scenes at times.
The CPB is said to be teetering on the edge of a full-blown rebellion with informants alerting this newspaper that the prevailing, corrosive atmosphere within the CPB structures has impacted negatively on the workers.
Some CPB managers who were contacted however denied there was any trouble. Those who know the intricate operations of the board said it is critically understaffed when compared to the workload which involves adjudicating tenders from government offices such as ministries agencies.
CPB cumbersome and bureaucratic
The bureaucratic nature of awarding tenders has been castigated by many public entities and ministers.
A classic example is the public health sector which is on the brink of collapse.
Health minister Dr. Bernard Haufiku also recently complained about the bureaucratic nature under which the CPB operates.
With more than 80% of Namibians having no medical aid care, they are forced to depend on the public health system which continues to experience a lack of doctors; nurses; dentists; physiotherapists; dieticians; psychologists; and occupation therapists.
Essential medicine and theatre equipment are out of stock. Basic laboratory and radiological services at most public health facilities have also been discontinued because of an ailing system plagued by corruption and incompetence of those who were appointed to run it.
In April 2018, the ARV tender was cancelled apparently due to inadequate notification. That tender was recently re-advertised while a tender for the Roads Authority which would have been the first tender was challenged by a bidder and the matter is now sub judice.
When asked about his alleged strain relationship within his organisation Swartz stated that he cannot discuss the “confidential and sensitive” matter with the media as they relate to staff.
When probed specifically about his relationship with his deputy, he continued by saying “I maintain a professional relationship with all people that I work with”, concluded Swartz.