'Missing millions' mystery at Okahao

19 June 2019 | Infrastructure

The upgrading and renovation work at the Okahao district hospital, which had been abandoned eight years amid allegations that the contractor had received an upfront payment of N$17 million, has resumed.

Efforts by former health minister Bernard Haufiku to recover the money paid to Messrs failed, after health officials disagreed with him about the upfront payment, claiming that the N$17 million was in fact not paid upfront to Messrs Property Decorative Developer and that the company had not run away with any government funds.

The project was abandoned by Messrs for no apparent reason in 2010 and has now been awarded to a Namibian-owned company that has subcontracted the work to a Chinese firm and a local SME.

The project includes upgrading the hospital's outpatient department, pharmacy, radiography department, dental clinic, laboratory, eye clinic and communicable disease control (CDC) department.

In 2012 the works ministry cancelled Messrs' contract.

According to Omusati health director Alfons Amoomo the project cost currently stands at N$23 million and construction resumed in December last year.

The projected is expected to be completed by the end of July next year.

Amoomo confirmed it includes the casualty section and the construction of ablution facilities.

“The (new) contractor is a Namibian-owned company which has subcontracted a Chinese-owned company and other Namibian SME. Construction work started last year December and is expected to be completed at the end of July 2020. Most importantly, the renovation is progressing well and is on track,” Amoomo said.

Haufiku, during his tenure that was abruptly ended in December last year by President Hage Geingob, started a process to recover N$16 million of the N$17 million paid to Messrs in 2010.

According to Haufiku, the money was paid to the company before work started on the project.

He said the work done before the project was abandoned had not been worth N$17 million.

Haufiku said at the time that the works ministry had monitored the project and he did not understand how the contractor could be paid before doing the work.

This came to light in 2015 when the hospital's senior medical officer, Dr Mary Nandjebo, said about N$17 million had been paid to the contractor.

However, the ministry's senior health programme officer, Martin Mukulu, asserted that the ministry had only paid for work done and approved by the consultants on the project.

“There was no advance payment on this project and therefore the contractor did not run away with any government funds. The contractor also forfeited the performance guarantee provided to government on the project as part of the contract agreement and conditions of employment,” Mukulu said.

Mukulu's version was supported by Amoomo who said no advance payment was done and therefore no money could be recovered.

“The contractor was never paid such an amount and the ministry has followed all procedures as outlined in the contract agreement. For example, most of their construction materials and equipment were retained and handed over to the new contractor,” Amoomo said.

Efforts to get comment from Haufiku, who is now a special advisor on health issues in the Office of the President, failed as he could not be reached on his cellphone.

ILENI NANDJATO