Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, wants officials implicated in the purchase of a rundown Katutura bar for N$18 million by the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA
) to face the music after the Windhoek High Court ordered the freezing of bank accounts of the former owners of the property.
Schlettwein, who has been leading an inquiry into how BIPA, through the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, bought the property without approval from the procurement board, treasury and the line minister, told the Windhoek Observer this week that he was pleased with a recent court order to freeze all accounts through which the N$18 million was paid in August last year.
“The situation was brought to court sometime last year after media reports. We have always maintained that it was an illicit transaction and the court has now made a decision, so we are pleased with the outcome as well as the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
“However, what is still outstanding is how to bring to book all those who are implicated. This will be the next step of this investigation,” Schlettwein said in a telephone interview.
Officials implicated in the scandal are trade Permanent Secretary Gabriel Sinimbo, BIPA CEO Tileinge Andima, and Offshore Development Company Acting CEO Phillip Namundjebo.
The three officials have been accused of buying the rundown former bar in Katutura without board or ministerial approval which led to the suspension of Andima in March with full pay, pending an investigation into the multimillion-dollar purchase.
Namundjebo, through his lawyers, Theunissen, Louw & Vennote partners, has maintained his innocence.
Namundjebo’s lawyers wrote to the Windhoek Observer last year when this newspaper first broke the story, saying that they reject insinuation that he together with his chairman might have personally benefited from the deal by inflating the sale price.
Schlettwein instructed the trade ministry in October last year to find ways to reverse the deal after property evaluators estimated that the building is not worth more than N$4 million.
A property expert at Property Valuation Namibia, Jurie Scholtz, told the Windhoek Observer that the N$18 million purchase price was ‘way too high’.
“If you are talking about the property on erf 2780, then N$18 million is way too high. The property is not even worth more than N$4 million,” Scholtz said.
BIPA, using funds from the Offshore Development Company, splashed a total of N$20 million- N$18 million for the purchase and N$2 million on renovations– for the building which previously operated as a bar and is located in the Windhoek high density suburb of Wanaheda, Katutura.
Investigations by the Windhoek Observer have revealed that the line minister, the BIPA board and Treasury were not consulted on the questionable transaction which was finalised in late August of last year.
Those involved in the deal are said to have violated the Public Procurement Act and bypassed the former Minister of Trade, Industrialisation and SME Development, Immanuel Ngatjizeko.
“I was not consulted or informed about it. I am only hearing it from you now. I do not know how this decision was made, I will find out,” Ngatjizeko told the Windhoek Observer last year.
Central Procurement Board Chairman, Patrick Swartz, also confirmed that the board was not consulted and no tender was ever issued out for the purchase of the building.
He said in terms of Section 9 (4) and section 7(4) of the Public Procurement Act, should the board find that there has been non-compliance with any provision of this Act, directives, code of procedures or guidelines made under its Act, it has the power to refer the matter with recommendations to the appointing authority of the staff member for appropriate action to be taken.
The Act also empowers the procurement board to refer any matter of non-compliance to the Namibian Police, Anti -Corruption Commission or any other competent authority for investigation, when it thinks appropriate, and must inform the public entity concerned
BIPA board chairman, Othy Kaakunga, told the Windhoek Observer this week that he is aware of the order to preserve the funds that were paid out to Windhoek couple, Hilma and Martin Shilengundwa for the property.
“I am in Omaheke now, and I don’t have the copy of this order yet, but I know that it is about us preserving the funds that were involved in the purchase because of irregularities,” Kaakunga said.
When asked whether there are any plans for the board to carry out disciplinary action against the implicated officials, Kaakunga said they will only do so when advised by the forensic auditors.
“The board will only carry out a disciplinary action following advice by the forensic auditors if it is found the officials’ conduct was contrary to the BIPA policies,” Kaakunga said.
The Shilengundwas are parents of lawyer, Anne Shilengundwa, whose former law firm, Ellis-Shilengundwa Incorporated, handled the N$18 million transaction.
The family has been given 120 days to respond to the decision of the high court.
The Windhoek Observer obtained documents during investigations which revealed how the transaction was finalised at lightning speed.
The deal was completed just five weeks after Andima had motivated for purchasing of the property to Sinimbo.