By Eliaser Ndeyanale
The Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) has blown N$2.3 million on five law firms and two auditing firms within the period of a mere four months.
The amount in question was paid from June to September last year on the litigation and disciplinary hearings of six executives who are still on suspension.
Documents in possession of The Patriot show Muluti & Partner as the biggest beneficiary as it was remunerated N$1,2 million between 09 July and 04 September last year.
The second biggest recipient was auditing firm PwC which was paid N$706,192 when it conducted a forensic audit on the suspended executives including former chief executive officer Augustinus Katiti who has now been expelled on allegations of corruption and maladministration.
Kobus Miller Law office is one of the law firms that was paid a hefty amount. This law firm was paid N$123 000 between the 3rd and the 9th of August.
Another legal chamber, Sibeya & Partner was remunerated N$111,780 on 21 August while Sisa Namandje & Co was paid for services rendered at N$97,560 on 04 September and Tunga Holdings was paid N$16,923.97.
De Beer Law Chambers got N$36,129.17.
This is not the first time NIP has gone a spending spree in obtaining legal opinion. In May 2017, NIP paid lawyer Lucius Murorua more than N$500 000 for advising the state-owned company on the Procurement Act. His report came to 25 pages in total.
The Patriot understands that Murorua, who instructed South African lawyer Advocate Vincent Maleka and Advocate Thabang Phatela had been appointed without NIP board approval.
Further the sources stated that the NIP board resolved to obtain the services of a legal advisor by getting quotations, but Katiti allegedly “hijacked” the process and gave it to Murorua without seeking quotations. The invoice was allegedly paid immediately.
A month after NIP paid Murorua, it then commissioned lawyer Kadhila Amoomo to advise on the matter between itself and ST Freight Services CC. Amoomo was paid N$25 000 for his 32 page legal opinion.
According to documents seen by The Patriot, on 27 May 2017, NIP paid N$528 340 to lawyer Lucius Murorua who later instructed Johannesburg based advocate, Vincent Maleka; this despite him saying he is the most experienced lawyer in the country.
Speaking to The Patriot this week, Murorua confirmed that he was instructed by former NIP chief executive officer Augustinus Katiti to help the pathological service provider with legal opinion.
Murorua confirmed that Katiti is his friend but denied that he was approached because they are friends. He also defended the amount saying that Namibia is a billion dollar economy where majority of the people are excluded.
“Now you’re losing sleep over the amount that was paid three years ago and the client is not complaining, nobody is complaining but to you it’s news worthy story. Why is that?
Did you even ask yourself, what it is that you are doing? I have 26 years of professional standing; the client was happy with the outcome, I briefed them and they said thank you.
Are you trying to cause harm, damage and breakdown? I am within the society, I am the senior. You must listen to me. What you are literally doing is pain, damage, break-down and criminalises legitimate earning of black people that are legitimately working in Namibia. I don’t know what is your problem? (sic)” a seemingly agitated Murorua said.
“I was appointed on (the) merit. I am the most senior council in the country if that is your concern. I was approached by NIP CEO at the time. I know the CEO as a fellow Namibian.
Of course I am his friend, but the basis of the instruction is not friendship. I am very well qualified, I am an expert in law, and I hold a master’s degree. Doesn’t that satisfy you?” he further asked.
Murorua also said that those that are complaining about N$528 340 are talking nonsense and he does not care whether it was approved by the board as he is a service provider who has charged according to his own tariffs. He says it is totally legitimate.
“I am entitled to claim N$500 000 or an amount beyond that because N$500 000 is a lot in your own imagination. Don’t criminalise people’s endeavours of their professionals (sic).
There is absolutely nothing wrong about that. I charge based on my tariff. I don’t even know the genesis of your complain. You are self-subordinating,” he said.
Contacted for comment on Wednesday this week, Katiti said that the board of directors of NIP wanted to be involved with all procurement matters, to the extent that they appointed a board procurement sub-committee of which Advocate Frans Kwala was the chairperson.
According to him, the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, 2015 would make the sub-committee redundant and the board members were not pleased to the extent that they wanted to challenge the government, more specifically the ministry of finance in a court of law.
“Their opinion was that the Public Procurement Act, 2015 was undermining their fiduciary duties as directors. It is to this effect that they then requested for a legal opinion, which they hoped would be in their favour, so that they could then institute legal action against the government and the ministry of finance.
Kwala wanted this legal opinion to be done by Advocate (Slysken) Makando, and hence requested Ms Olivia Van Der Colff, a candidate legal practitioner working for Kwala & Company Inc., to draft a brief to counsel (Adv Makando), which the company secretary of NIP, Mr Gibson Imbili, was to put on the company letterhead of NIP and forward same to Adv Makando.
Mr Kwala was well aware of this dishonest and unethical arrangement as he was copied in the electronic mail.”
Katiti added that Imbili undeniably wanted to send the letter to Makando and requested him (Katiti) for permission. Imbili had also already asked a colleague, Frieda Nangolo, who was the Executive Secretary in the ICT Department to type out the letter for him on the NIP letterhead as instructed by Van Der Colff.
“With the above background, I appointed a totally different law firm, Murorua, Kurtz, Kasper Incorporated, to provide us with an independent legal opinion.
“In terms of the Procurement Policies and Procedures (page 28) of NIP, a Head of Department (HOD) and Manager: Finance and Procurement can approve expenditure on non-consumables such as services rendered by an approved supplier, of less than N$1 million.
In fact, an HOD and CEO can approve expenditure on non-consumables such as services rendered by an approved supplier, of more than N$1 million,” he said.
He added that the approval of the board was not necessary.
“Why did the board never question my authority when I submitted the legal opinion for consideration at one of the board meetings?
I can recall that the services of one senior counsel, one junior counsel and a senior attorney were used to obtain a comprehensive legal opinion. An amount of N$500,000 spent among three senior legal experts is very fair and reasonable, which works out at approximately N$167,000 per legal expert.
The board of NIP might be best advised to curb the uncontrolled legal costs on wasteful litigation and disciplinary hearings that is costing the State-owned enterprise millions of Namibia Dollars. The disciplinary hearings of five senior officials are still ongoing and it might be in the public interest for the board of directors of NIP to disclose, also as a matter of transparency, how much they have to-date spent on wasted legal costs?,” he added.
NIP board spokesperson Frans Kwala confirmed that the board’s approval was not sought.
“He (Katiti) is talking nonsense. He lied to the board (that) he had quotations in his office which he never produced.
He was required to get 3 quotations. I made a recommendation that the company can consider him (Makando). He could have produced a better opinion for less than N$150 000. Makando would have done it without any assistance,” Kwala said.
Asked how much NIP spent on disciplinary hearings of the suspended executives, he said he was not aware of the amount.
Post having had the right to reply, Mr Mororua penned a 3 page ‘demand for right to privacy or accurate reporting’ letter to this publication.
Mr Murorua lamented the slant of questions put to him by this journalist accusing this publication of the “deliberate twisting of facts and baseless sullying, tainting and insinuation of corruption onto otherwise regulate and lawful commercial transaction.”
The lawyer continues to repeat many of the comments already given to the reporter penning how questions ‘degenerated’ from one to the next. “There is no complaint against me from NIP, there is no theft or corruption, but still black journalist would spare me no flag (sic).”
“When I metaphorically suggested why he is not paid 5 cents as salary to demonstrate the farcical nature of his enquiry the issue digressed to my friendship with Mr Katiti as having been the basis for instructing of my practice,” the letter reads in part.