All is back to normal at the National Youth Council with Director back in office after being fingered to have contravened serious protocols at the institution.
Last year, Calista Schwartz-Gowases had been found to have flouted standard NYC procurement procedures when she signed off two payments to a company contracted to provide construction and renovation services at the council without the approval of the board and the institution’s financial manager.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who conducted the audit at the instructions of the institution’s executive chairperson Mandela Kapere pointed out that Schwartz-Gowases 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.
The incessant issue has been a thorn in the flesh for many Board members who watch from the sidelines as the seemingly untouchable Schwartz-Gowases continues her work undisturbed. Several Board meetings that were initially set to discuss Schwartz-Gowases discrepancy continue to zigzag on the matter.
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 finance manager Hamukoto, the recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.
Word on the ground is that Kapere, who some board members have also fingered to be implicated, is protecting the director as her fall might further fragment the standing leadership.
The youth council is said to have met several times and while the executive director confirmed the meeting but maintained that the matter was still under discussion.
When contacted this week for comment on the status of the case, Kapere said he was not at liberty of commenting since the board was dealing with the matter.
His words were “unfortunately I’m not going to comment because the board is going to deal with this issue. We have met and we have taken the decision that we have taken, so I’m not going to comment on this issue” before hanging up.
A Board member who preferred anonymity revealed to The Patriot that Kapere is deliberately procrastinating on the matter with all the diplomatic tricks at his disposal. “You can see that the whole issue will implicate a lot of people in the end if it is finalised and that is why Calista is being protected. But be that as it may, we will endure as we don’t have intensions to watch from the sides.
Also, how is it that someone who the board is discussing and evidence has been put to Mandela still gets to come to work?” queried the source. (sic)
It all started on 18 May 2018, in a letter written to Kapere, were 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 claimed that the certificate of completion was issued on his behalf after he refused to approve payments.
The director 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.
According to information gathered through interviews by PwC during the investigation, Schwartz-Gowases is said to have taken 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 scarce resources.
PwC are said to have conducted the investigation at a cost of N$250 000.
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.
This issue continues to rub off unpleasantly on Board members who question why Schwartz-Gowases is enjoying immunity even when the findings from investigations place her in the wrong.