Vahekeni on ACC, PG radar

07 April 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is still occupied with an investigation into alleged corrupt practices by health ministry senior pharmacist Fabiola Vahekeni - despite the ministry having exonerated her on the same matter.

ACC spokesperson Josephina Nghituwamata confirmed that the investigation had been concluded and said the matter was submitted to Prosecutor-General (PG) Martha Imalwa with its relevant information.

“Thereafter, the docket was referred back to the ACC with instructions. The commission up to this point conformed to the instructions; subsequently, it will soon be sent back to the PG’s office,” Nghituwamata said.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has concluded an internal investigation and cleared Vahekeni of any wrongdoing. This was prompted by a previous investigation by the finance ministry, which urged its health counterpart to charge Vahekeni for misconduct.

Vahekeni stood accused of using her position to help her friends land a medical tender to import unlicensed anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines worth N$7 million in 2018.

A probe was launched after a container carrying medicine imported by NM Medicals, owned by Vahekeni’s friends and former business partners, was seized by customs authorities due to an expired import licence.

‘Nothing wrong’

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe yesterday insisted that their investigation found nothing wrong.

“The ministry conducted an internal preliminary investigation as required by the Public Service Act before a staff member may be charged with misconduct. The investigation found that there was no wrongdoing or violation of procedures or the Public Procurement Act. The ministry is not privy to the investigations and has not been apprised of the progress of investigations by the ACC,” he said.

However, in a letter to the health ministry, acting finance ministry executive director Phineas Nsundano pointed out several wrongdoings and even stated that Vahekeni was the person responsible for the transaction and authorised amendments to contracts awarded without review of the procurement committee and without the accounting officer’s approval.

“It has been discovered that Fabiola Vahekeni may have indirect interest in the matter that NM Medicals is owned by very close friends, being Naamob Taimo Amakutuwa and Meameno Kamea Nghikembua, all pharmacists who studied together,” he wrote.

He further said: “The probability that Fabiola Vahekeni could have used her office to indirectly gain from this or cause anyone else to gain from this is quite high.

“There is no logical explanation as to why Fabiola would allow NM Medicals to engage the Chinese supplier without verifying that they complied with the tender specifications”.

‘Quite serious’

According to Nsundano, the procurement was carried out as an ‘emergency procurement’, but no alternative arrangement was made by the Central Medical Stores when they learnt of the shortages experienced by NM Medicals.

He also added that it would appear that Vahekeni and her friends at NM Medicals were colluding.

“The fact that NM Medicals sought to bring in unregistered medicines after having their application to have it registered declined by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council in July 2018 is quite serious.

“Counterfeit medication is quite a serious issue as it threatens the lives of people,” he said.

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