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‘Missing millions’ sparks Ruacana protest

2022-05-23  Edgar Brandt

‘Missing millions’ sparks Ruacana protest
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Ruacana – A large crowd of residents last week took to the streets to demand the recovery of missing millions as well as the resignation of acting Ruacana CEO Isai Hipudilo, who is implicated in the disappearance of the monies meant for capital projects. 

The protesters demanded that the local authority opens a criminal case against the trio implicated in the saga, as well as requested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate the former chairperson of the council.

“We want the ACC to investigate the seven local authority councillors of 2015-2020 because we entrusted the council into their hands, and we believe they are part of the syndicate,” reads the petition.

The protesters also demanded that the assets of those implicated be frozen.

An investigation undertaken by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development recently revealed that during the financial year 2020/2021, N$4 million was budgeted for capital projects, including the drilling of boreholes in Oshifo and Ruacana.

The council allegedly requested the ministry to disburse funds for projects using forged documents.

According to the investigation, the council appointed JV Drilling CC to drill boreholes in Oshifo and Ruacana at an amount of N$1 126 908, with no date of invoice or number given to them.

Documents about the investigation seen by New Era show that upon enquiry from the ministry, Juandre Marais of JV Drilling CC indicated that he did not know of such an appointment as he had only submitted a quotation to the council.

An online news site reported that the finance manager of the Ruacana Town Council has allegedly admitted to having forged documents to the payment requests such as procurement committee minutes, tax invoices and appointment letters to JV Drilling CC and GM Electro Mechanical Solution.

The forged documents were the fabricated procurement committee minutes signed by the secretary of the procurement committee and finance manager on behalf of the chairperson of the procurement committee’s technical manager.

“The forged invoice for N$1 126 908 in favour of JD Drilling CC is stamped and certified by the council. And an invoice of N$1 030 042.35 belonging to GM Electro Mechanical Solution was also signed, stamped and certified by the council,” states the document.

The document also shows that the appointments of JV Drilling CC and GM Electro Mechanical Solution were done without following the procurement regulations of 2015.

It is furthermore reported that the former CEO utilised funds amounting to N$61 070.75 meant for different projects without authorization, and requested funds for 10 boreholes while the contractor only quoted for and was appointed for nine boreholes.

Hipudilo yesterday said he had no comment on the allegations.

The report also states that the drilling of the boreholes was not in the activity plan under the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Forestry’s 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.

Among the accused are the former secretary of the procurement committee, Ngatangue Tjambiru, for signing falsified minutes of the committee in contravention of the procurement regulations; then manager of finance, who is now the acting CEO Hipudilo for drafting procurement minutes, forging the signature of the procurement committee’s chairperson and changing quotations to invoices without the contractors’ knowledge; and former CEO Emily Nanyeni for signing forged recommended minutes, and claiming funds from the ministry on behalf of JV Drilling CC and GM Electro Mechanical Solution without their knowledge, using forged invoices.

Asked for comment, town mayor Linda Mbwale said they are yet to discuss the matter with all councillors and the line ministry, and that will determine what could happen to those implicated.

“We are going to have a meeting this week, and I will then share the outcome,” she added.

The council’s usage of forged documents to acquire funds from the ministry is reported to have been a norm over the past few years.

The same issue allegedly happened during the 2017/ 2018 financial year when the council requested funds by using fictitious invoices.

Among other complaints, the aggrieved protesters also questioned the council on the allocation of plots to foreign nationals.

“We want to know why the council only gives plots to people who relocate to Ruacana, but not to the current inhabitants. We also want to know why the town council supplied water to nearby villages, instead of Rural Water Supply or NamWater. The charges include services that are not even applicable to them, which becomes costly. We demand that the council hands over the water bills’ management  to NamWater as the community members cannot afford them,” said one of the protesters, Tjikomeno Jackson.

The protesters then threatened to disrupt upcoming council meetings if officials fail to comply with their grievances.

Attempts to get hold of Nanyeni and Tjambiru were unsuccessful.

- ashikololo@nepc.com.na

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2022-05-23  Edgar Brandt

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