The chairperson of the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN) Patrick Sam has acknowledged incidents of maladministration, citing the lack of capacity and human resources and rubbishing allegations of corruption at the council.
Sam was responding to former board member Leitago /Narib, who resigned from the council for various reasons, including the awarding of N$100 000 tender to design a website by a company that does not specialise in creating websites and whose general manager Shareen Thude is also the deputy chairperson of the council.
“This is corruption, as the Craft Centre has no competence in website development and Shareen Thude is both the general manager of the Craft Centre and the vice chairperson of the Arts Council,” stated /Narib.
He said the cost of N$100 000 for a website is way above the normal cost of a website (even after including the photography), and when he brought up the issue countless times with other council members, he was treated like a troublemaker and told the decision was made.
“I find it suspect that Patrick Sam and Shareen Thude continuously defended the N$100 000 website without ever questioning how an MoU can be signed by the chairperson on behalf of the NACN and by Thude on behalf of the Craft Centre. Simply put, it was signed by the top two of the NACN board. That should raise red flags,” expressed /Narib.
Sam said /Narib was a main member of the NACN with voting rights and he chose to vote for the approval of a contract to the Namibia Craft Centre for the development of a catalogue of hand-crafted gifts that can primarily be sourced by public institutions for events like state galas, international visitors and national events.
He said: “The accusations of fraud and corruption asserted on social media, attacking the NACN and its council members, are without basis and evidence”.
“The NACN did not give the Craft Centre N$100 000 solely for a website but also included a fully integrated e-commerce platform and portal for Namibian crafts, photography, marketing and copywriting. It is clear that the allocation was not merely for a website as claimed, but for a service that can manage the value-chain for crafters migrating to an online platform through to the end-consumer,” added Sam.
He said the claims of corruption against the institution do not only threaten the mandate of the council but also the funding for the artists.
“If there are allegations of corruption, bring the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and then let’s deal with it because there are systems to deal with this,” said Sam.
Thude said there were allegations sent to the line minister via SMS and what puzzles her is that when she drew the terms of reference, it was sent to /Narib, the marketing committee, to give their input but no objections were brought to her attention.
“If /Narib had come to me and asked why the completion of the website is taking long, why was I not approached if people were not happy? We could have talked it through because they are in the marketing. But nothing came out and it was blown out. I don’t know what the ulterior motive is,” added Thude.
Namibian literature heavy-weight Frederick Freddie Philander said this is not a good sign for artists, as they are the ones
“We are concerned about the future of art in this country. It is static because of things like these. Personal things should stop for the sake of improving the art sector. All of us need to stand together as one because we are being taken for a ride for years,” he fumed.
He said the issue of the council should be investigated because the situation of corruption is ruining the theatre as well as the art sector in the country.
The council is mandated by government to develop and support programmes and projects that will ensure the continued practice of all art forms in Namibia, to enrich and enhance the national heritage – and above all, to unify all Namibians through arts practice.
It should also advocate, promote and develop art forms on a wide scale – locally and internationally.
Repeated attempts to get comments from the ministry of education’s executive director, Sanet Steenkamp, proved futile.