CPBN opens books for recruitment probe

Finance ministry maintains distance from debacle

22 May 2020 | Local News



The Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) has opened itself up for an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the appointment of 14 persons, nearly all from one ethnic group, at the agency tasked to vet government tenders.

This was confirmed by Ombudsman John Walters to Namibian Sun on Wednesday.

Following the contentious appointments, an online petition was lodged challenging the recruitment process while the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) officially launched an appeal with the ombudsman’s office to question the appointments.

Walters said his office has received two more complaints from the public.

“We informed the head of the Central Procurement Board, Patrick Swartz, that we needed to hear his side of the story and that they will need to hand over all the documents pertaining to the recruitment process. The [CPBN] has agreed to avail the documents and they have been collected by our office. The investigation is in the process,” Walters said.

CPBN spokesperson Johanna Kambala, whose public explanation of the matter last week offered no details on how the process was conducted, said: “The board will be issuing a detailed press statement next week to address queries received from the media and members of the public with regard to the recruitment of new staff members.”

Playing ping pong

Finance ministry executive director Erica Shafuda washed her hands of the matter when approached for comment.

Despite head of government business in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa insisting the finance ministry has a duty towards the beleaguered board, Shafuda maintains she plays no role in the autonomous body.

While Kuugongelwa refused to answer questions and pointed to the finance ministry instead, Shafuda said all queries should be directed to the head of the board, Swartz.

“That is a matter for the CPBN to answer,” she said.

‘Jobs for comrades’

Lawyer Filemon Shikomba called for an independent audit of all the applications for the positions.

“This issue is slowly becoming forgotten which shouldn’t be the case. CPBN is an important board which should be founded on transparency,” he said.

Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) leader Mike Kavekotora demanded that the appointment be reversed to include all Namibians.

He said it is “not surprising” that government continues with its “failed discriminatory practices of jobs for comrades”.

“Board members have been appointed on tribal lines without due considerations of their professional competency. Those who took this decision must realise that it does not gel well with the democracy and fairness. The best thing to do is to reverse this decision and take the demographic realities of Namibia into account,” he said.

‘Tribal war’

Meanwhile, the official political opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), said the composition of the CPBN staff complement has the potential to spark a tribal war.

“The dominance of one group, especially the majority population group, is the root of social unrest that could easily lead to civil war and genocide in our country, especially in the light of our failing economy and high unemployment rate,” PDM treasurer and member of parliament Nico Smit said.

Skewed staffing

Meanwhile, political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said the public outcry over such skewed staffing is justified, because not only does it not respect workplace diversity, but is also a slap in the face of “One Namibia, One Nation”.

“It is also insensitive to multicultural society like ours. The security firm that did a vetting process did a sloppy job to the extent that the outcome of their vetting looks like an exclusion by design.

“I support the investigation and people responsible being held accountable,” he said.

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