The High Court yesterday ruled that Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund’s former payment officer has a case to answer.
This follows a suit in which the fund wants him to return more than N$500 000 he allegedly fraudulently transferred to a “student”.
Former payments officer, Tomas Konghola applied for absolution after NSFAF presented its case against him last year. According to him, his former employer failed to present evidence that will sway the court to rule in its favour.
Before dismissing the absolution application, judge Boas Usiku said the fact that NSFAF was unable to locate Nelson Ndeitunga Sheefeni – to whom the funds were allegedly transferred or whether or not Konghola is being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Namibia, are not crucial issues pertaining to the lawsuit at hand.
“On the facts of the present matter, it cannot be said that the evidence led by the and on behalf of the plaintiff is incurably and inherently improbable or unsatisfactory as to be rejected out of hand,” said Usiku.
He further indicated that NSFAF has placed forth its evidence to support its allegations that Konghola while employed by the fund, unlawfully and fraudulently facilitated payments in the amount of N$529 250 to Sheefeni – who is not entitled to it.
NSFAF wants the High Court to compel Konghola to pay back N$529 250.
The fund is claiming Konghola fraudulently made amendments to its payment requisition list by changing identification numbers, student numbers, and courses of students.
He further changed bank account numbers, replacing them with account numbers belonging to Sheefeni under the guise that he is a NSFAF-funded student.
According to NSFAF, Konghola was not authorised to make the payments and knew that he was committing fraud when he accessed the interim payment system and made the changes.
An investigation report compiled by the Anti-Corruption Commission indicates that payment of N$355 250 was made to Sheefeni’s First National Bank account between 21 October 2016 and 18 April 2019.
The second payment of N$87 000 was made to Sheefeni’s Nedbank account on 6 December 2017. The last payment that Konghola made was on 25 October 2017 directed to Sheefeni’s Standard Bank account.
The report further indicates, in order for Konghola to cover his tracks, once the payments have gone through, he would delete the banking details of Sheefeni from the payment database.
Although Konghola was suspended in August 2020 for a disciplinary process to begin, such proceedings could not be concluded as he opted to resign in March 2021.
Konghola has since denied the allegations against him. He claims that it was not within his duties to give instructions to NSFAF’s bank to process and make payments to any student.
“… all the information that was entered into the payment requisitions was obtained from the files from student care centre,” said Konghola.
He said he has no idea how he is being linked to the fraudulent activities by the ACC report. He claims his supervisor at the time, Margaret Hofeni, and senior management who were in charge of verification and authorisation, were never questioned – (the ACC report indicates that several officers, managers, executives, and acting CEO Kennedy Kandume were interviewed).
“They only highlight the loopholes and weaknesses in the system from the student care centre to the end of the process at the finance division,” said Konghola.
According to him, there is no evidence that he was the only person who dealt with Sheefeni’s file. In addition, during his employment at NSFAF, he never had face-to-face interactions with any student. The suit will commence on a date to be determined by the court on 7 February so that Konghola can present his defence.