City infighting intensifies

13 March 2014 Author  

front city 14 marchSuspicions of mistrust and blatant disrespect have led to a breakdown in communication between the City of Windhoek’s senior management and elected councillors. The pressing situation that now threatens the operations of the City has become so severe that they have had to bring in an external mediator to salvage the situation.

 

Councillor Brunhilde Elke Cornelius of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) confirmed that at the request of both parties the head of NIPAM Joseph Diescho has agreed to help the parties find common ground.

Although it is not entirely clear what led to the deterioration in relations between the councillors and senior executives of the City, tensions between the two parties have been building up.

It appears as though the management committee, which is comprised of council members, is fed up with not being given explanations about the tendering process when requested, and feels management just expects it to rubber stamp recommendations.

The City has become notorious over the years for alleged corrupt practices regarding the decisions taken by its tender board, which the council feels is often beyond their control.

Members of the City’s executive management team have been accused of playing by their own rules when it comes to the handling and selection of tenders, maintaining that the council can do nothing to challenge their decisions.

Cornelius said that on more than one occasion councillors would request meetings with senior executives in the City’s management, who would not turn up or send their juniors instead.

In May of 2011, the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested two former employees of the City of Windhoek and a Rehoboth businessman on a charge of tender fraud valued at over N$5 million.

Former contracts manager at the Windhoek Municipality, Chalmer Quintynn de Waal, former technician Leonardo Williams and Garold Deon Plaatjies owner of Rehoboth Properties were arrested between April 28 and May 16.

Williams and Plaatjies were arrested in Swakopmund, according to the ACC.

All of the accused appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court and they were released on N$150,000 bail each.

According to a press release, since 2008 the ACC has been engaged in an investigation of an alleged corrupt practice at the Windhoek Municipality with regard to a tender advertised by the City for the ‘upgrading of intersections’.

The tender value was N$5 103 571. Six companies initially bid and the tender was eventually awarded to Plaatjies’ Rehoboth Properties.

It was however, discovered that the tenders of three of the companies that tendered along with Rehoboth Properties were allegedly ‘inflated’ on the electronic bill of quantities while the tenders were being evaluated by officials.

Also in August of 2008, alleged corrupt practices with regard to appointments in the City of Windhoek’s building maintenance division were reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

A letter with the names of the people involved in alleged nepotism and favouritism was provided.

The forensic investigation into the operations of the City of Windhoek’s Solid Waste Management Division back in January 2011, provides yet another classic example of dubious dealings at the municipality.

Through the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), the divisional employees called for an investigation, which Ernst and Young conducted.

Chief Executive Officer Niilo Taapopi at the time admitted that the division had been rocked by accusations of administrative and recruitment irregularities, on top of corruption allegations following the outsourcing of the City’s cleaning services, now called the Ward Contractor System (WCS).

The NAPWU dossier further revealed that officials had constantly inflated the budget for the WCS, with figures ranging from N$3 million to N$10 million annually between 2006 and 2010.

According to sources within the council, this had led to mistrust between the management committee and executives that now Acting Chief Executive Officer Taapopi failed to address.

It also appears as though his power over management executives has been undermined because his management colleagues only expect him to continue serving in an acting capacity for the next few months.

His term as CEO came to an official end in June last year but the City extended his contract by one year.

The city has still not advertised the post, even though the one-year extension is due to end soon.

When approached for comment this week Taapopi referred all questions relating to the progress of the mediation exercise to Diescho.

Contacted for comment Diescho’s mobile phone went unanswered.

The most recent example of the power struggle between the council and management were the conflicting views over whether to cancel tender PLA 01/2013, which related to the sale of 95 erven by way of open tender.

Taapopi explained that with regard to the cancellation of the tender, the management committee had reservations and concerns that it could have an impact on the fair and reasonable norms required in the exercise of their powers.

“Given the circumstances the council decided to cancel the tender to ensure a transparent, accountable and fair process in the allocation of land which was put up for tender,” he said.

One of the city councillors also witnessed the chaos at the customer care centre on that particular day, where businessmen and women were complaining as City employees shut the doors on them.

“I saw for myself that some people were not allowed to submit their tenders and had been waiting all along. It was also evident that we needed to organise a larger tender box because documents were overflowing.”

“I did my level best to assure the local business personalities that these shortcomings would be addressed as soon as possible, and I raised the matter with the CEO,” the councillor said.

Councillors then decided to submit a petition in support of the cancellation of the tender, which management ignored and the tendering process continued as normal.

Taapopi however, stressed that following the petition they based their decision to proceed with the tender with due consideration to the fairness and reasonableness of the decision.

“The eventual cancellation can in no way be equated to the initial request of the councillors to cancel,” he said.

Taapopi did confirm that at the time of the cancellation of the tender, they had made recommendations about successful bidders, but he was not willing to mention the companies because of the cancellation of the tender.
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