Omaheke loses N$180 000 in ‘ghost’ container deal

06 January 2021 | Crime

MATHIAS HAUFIKU

WINDHOEK

Three senior officials from the Omaheke Regional Council could face criminal charges after authorising a N$185 000 payment to a private company for a shipping container that was never delivered.

In February 2016 the regional council contracted Khoisan Securiforce Trading to supply a shipping container that would be converted into an office at Buitepos, about 110 kilometres east of Gobabis.

Almost four years later, the regional council still has nothing to show for the money that it paid.

The three officials in the firing line are Maria Vaendwanawa (chief regional officer), Chrisy van Wyk (senior administrative officer) and Seth Imasiku (deputy director for administration).

The contract was awarded after the council was granted exemption from normal tender procedures by the regional tender board.

Although the container was never delivered, Van Wyk certified that it was received while Imasiku and Vaendwana subsequently made the payment without any verification being done.

The information is contained in a November 2020 submission made by acting chief regional officer Sophia Eises to the council’s management committee.

Th submission came hot on the heels of a special probe sanctioned by the ministry of urban and rural development into the affairs of the regional council, which found serious tender irregularities and collusion.

Namibian Sun independently sourced quotations from two companies that supply and convert containers with the above specifications.

The prices from those companies average N$29 500 for a container and N$9 500 to transport it from Windhoek to Buitepos. The N$39 000 total purchase and transportation price does not include the cost of converting the container into an office.

“This story does not add up because the amount paid is so inflated. You can get three converted containers transported to Buitepos for that price. In fact, prices have gone down so buying containers is not that expensive anymore,” a source in the shipping container industry said.

Critics have since accused the officials of recklessly spending taxpayer money without acquainting themselves with market prices.

Eises on Monday told Namibian Sun that the regional council was still looking for the contractor because “we cannot find him”.

Charge them

According to the report, the officials and the private company must be held accountable for the botched deal.

“The council should pursue legal action against Khoisan Securiforce Trading to recover its money with interest or the delivery of the goods,” reads the report.

It further recommends that Van Wyk must be charged for certifying that the container had been received while in actual fact it was never delivered.

Imasiku and Vaendwanawa, the report states, must be held accountable for authorising the payment before verifying that the container had been delivered.

Excuses galore

Company owner Johnny Sitore Huiseb told Namibian Sun that he failed to deliver the container because he had underquoted. He said he had asked for an extension to resolve his financial affairs.

He also indicated that the high cost of transporting the container 370 kilometres from Windhoek to Buitepos also affected the delivery process.

“Contrary to talks that I am on the run, that is not true. In fact, I have been in constant communication with the regional council and their lawyers. Office from the Office of the Auditor-General also called me regarding this matter,” he said.

Huiseb said the conversion of the container had been done.

“As we speak, it is just the money to get the container from Brakwater to Buitepos. How can I be on the run if I had the container manufactured?” he questioned.

“As soon as I have the financial ability to deliver the container, I will do it.

“I am from Omaheke and this situation is affecting my chances to do business in the region because most tenders are awarded by the regional council,” he said.

According to Huiseb, he tried to transport the container via rail to Buitepos “but TransNamib told me it would not be possible due to the width of the container, which makes it impossible to pass through the bridge at Avis.”

He further indicated that he had to lay off his workers due to financial strain.

“We had to let go of Khoisan Securiforce Trading to new owners to remedy our financial matters. The new ownership was effective in 2017. I am still liable for container debt and take full responsibility for the transaction and not the company,” he said.

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