Auditor general Junias Kandjeke is fed-up with the general lack of accountability in the public sector, saying it is perplexing how those caught pants down go scot-free while laws are in place to reprimand them.
Kandjeke, speaking exclusively to New Era this week, was responding to amongst others the report on the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund’s (NSFAF) head office in Windhoek, which was built on an avalanche of irregularities.
Situated in Windhoek’s affluent Eros suburb, the N$300 million avant-garde facility was constructed without treasury’s blessing, nor did it pass the building requirements of the City of Windhoek.
But still, nobody has been held accountable for the quagmire the students' financial fund finds itself in.
Kandjeke finds this baffling.
“If public resources were used and that building does not meet the requirements, it is a waste of resources. Each time, you must follow procedures. When building, you first approach the municipality, which must approve the building plan. After its approval, at various stages during construction, the building is also inspected to ensure standards are met,” he said about the NSFAF fiasco without passing judgement.
It was Kandjeke who found in 2020 that the construction was done without treasury’s approval, and that it was never listed as part of government’s capital projects.
The structure in question cannot be granted a fitness certificate, or used as collateral to secure funding.
Worst still, the multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art NSFAF headquarters has no owner.
“There is no title deed for that building. It was never registered with the deeds office,” confirmed an official at the deeds’ registry.
This is not all.
The building’s actual value is shocking. Despite N$300 million having been pumped in during the construction phase, its actual worth is estimated at around N$170 million, leaving an unexplained difference of N$130 million.
Allegations in NSFAF corridors are that tender awarding procedures were thrown out of the window, while those responsible for the actual job were allegedly handpicked.
Embattled erstwhile NSFAF boss Hilya Nghiwete, who oversaw the construction, yesterday said she would call back, but at the time of going to print had not done so.
It is alleged that she picked Claud Bosch Agapitus Architects at a whim to execute the project as the principal agent, architect and designer.
The company denied this.
“I know there was a tender. We submitted our documents, and the tender was awarded to our company. We went through all the standard procedures. Everything was out in the open. There was nothing funny,” project manager Cornel Swart stated.
Should the building fail to secure certification from the municipality, it could face demolition, costing taxpayers millions.
“If the building is a safety threat, the municipality will have to destroy the building. The most disheartening of this whole scenario is that a building was constructed on municipal land without municipal approval. How it even happened will always be beyond any sane man’s comprehension. The municipality has by-laws, and they should be followed,” legal expert Natjirikasorua Tjirera cautioned.
As of yesterday, NSFAF had not responded to questions sent to them on Monday regarding the building.
What pains Kandjeke, however, is how officials blatantly disregard laws without facing consequences.
“Each institution has a code of conduct. Why employers and sometimes appointing authorities are not implementing these codes of conduct to discipline employees [sic]… I just don’t understand,” the AG lamented.
In Namibia, those implicated in dodgy dealings are rewarded with promotions, Kandjeke advanced.
“The process [of accountability] takes forever. You find people who are implicated being moved around from one institution to another. We are not taking action against employees. I don’t know why,” he added.
Over the years, Kandjeke’s office has exposed how accountability is absent from most public institutions, while also pointing out those consumed by corruption.
But little to no action is taken, while audit reports continue collecting dust in the corridors of parliament.
As to how long the status quo will remain firmly intact, Kandjeke pointed to the legislation which ends his powers at the doors of parliament.
This is due to the Westminster-inspired auditing system that requires the AG to report to parliament.
Kandjeke conceded that his office needs to be armed with more teeth to effectively hold those entrusted with positions of influence and power accountable.
“Those powers must be accompanied by another body to implement [the findings],” he said before pointing to Ghana, South Africa and Angola as prime examples where auditor generals are effective.
Those countries have a court of accounts systems, which is tailored to hold the executive and civil servants accountable.
He wants the same in Namibia.
The auditor general also proposed that a special parliamentary committee dealing with the implementation of the AG’s recommendations be established.
Moreover, draft legislation on the State Finance Act, wherein the powers and functions of the AG are contained, will soon head to the National Assembly.
The changes aim to strengthen the AG’s office.
“The bill has taken years. We have consulted various stakeholders on how to improve,” he noted without going into the specifics.
“The public accountants’ and auditors’ amendment bill will head to parliament in a year or two. Maybe that will also improve accountability in the public and private sectors. Public input to this is very important,” he emphasised.
Like Kandjeke, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) leader Mike Kavekotora, former chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts (PAC), said drastic changes ought to take place to address bottlenecks to hold those found wanting liable for their sins.
“The Office of the Auditor General does make recommendations, and then we as the PAC scrutinise them. If they are valid, we also then make recommendations to parliament and the custodian ministry,” the economist-turned-politician said.
“The problem is more on the reluctance of ministers to implement what we would have recommended. That is why rules need to change to make sure that we hold the minister to account.”
A provision exists in the rules and orders governing the National Assembly which compels ministers to act within a certain timeframe of the recommendation, and report back to parliament.
It is, however, ignored with impunity, Kavekotora charged.