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Public funds squandered on fake awards

2022-09-21  Maihapa Ndjavera

Public funds squandered on fake awards

According to the report released yesterday by the Institute for Public Policy Research, Namibian public entities fall for fake awards where they pay huge participation fees. 

IPPR research associate Frederico Links noted such cases of public entities procuring vanity awards makes a mockery of claims of belt-tightening, stricter financial controls and lack of money in government. 

Links mentioned Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) as two entities who occupied this award.

“In what must surely rank as clearcut examples of careless and wasteful spending of public funds at a time the Namibian government is going around telling everyone listening that it is cash-strapped, at least two public entities have spent sizable amounts of money on buying vanity awards over the last year,” he stated.

Vanity awards can be explained as an award in which the recipient purchases the award and/or marketing services to give the false appearance of a legitimate honour. 

According to him, vanity award scams are all about making money for those who run such scams. He further quoted an online article saying: “Many of these vanity award schemes involve organisations receiving awards not based on merit, but rather for the sole intent of purchasing the plaque or certificate for an inflated price. And it states of the modus operandi of such scammers. One tell-tale sign of a vanity award is that you receive an unexpected email or letter saying you or your (organisation) has just won an award, even though you never entered anything and you’ve never heard of the organisation bestowing the award.” 

The research associate explained that if a private entity or company pays for a vanity award, then the loss of money in such a scam is borne by the owners of that entity. However, when a public entity that is funded by the government from taxpayer money, buys a vanity award, then the loss falls to the public in lost resources that could have translated into better service delivery. 

He added there are a number of vanity award peddlers out trying to entice Namibian entities to buy their awards.

The company known for selling such award as from the report is European Society for Quality Research (ESQR) and stated it targets especially developing country officials and academics for their awards, meaning that entities that receive their awards actually buy these awards. 

NIPDB received the same ESQR “Quality Achievement Award” at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 11 December 2021. 

The board’s response, published in the IPPR report, said NIPDB was contacted by ESQR with the news that it has been selected as the winner of the ESQR Quality Achievement Award. Being a relatively new organisation at the time and unfamiliar with these awards and the awarding body, the board requested more information from the organisers specifically pertaining to the selection process and criteria used to determine the winners. 

NIPDB also indicated that they had paid 4 100 euro as a participation fee in order for NIPDB CEO Nangula Uaandja to accept the ‘award’ at a ceremony in Dubai. On the day, 11 December 2022, that Uaandja received the award, 4 100 euro was equal to just over N$74 000, underscoring the statement that the awards do not come cheap, said Links.

NUST was also contacted but no response from their side on the costs they paid to acquire their ‘award’.

2022-09-21  Maihapa Ndjavera

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