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Goeiemann asks Schlettwein why he didn't strip Shafudah of her powers

23/10/2017
by The Villager Reporters
News

In this series, The Villager will look into the events that led to the awarding of the controversial N$7 billion Hosea Kutako International Airport tender to Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group Corporation. Currently, the works permanent secretary Willem Goeiemann has been singled out as the main culprit, but he is also pointing fingers at Finance minister Calle Schlettwein, accusing him of double standards.

 

The beleaguered works ministry permanent secretary Willem Goeiemann has told finance minister Calle Schlettwein that he has no right to charge him.

Goeiemann also told Schlettwein that he did not attempt to withdraw his permanent secretary Ericah Shafudah's roles for her involvement in the bulk fuel storage tender that has cost the government to lose N$1,8 billion.

Schlettwein wrote to Goeiemann on 28 August 2017 notifying him of an intention to withdraw his appointment as the works ministry accounting officer because of the awarding of the controversial airport tender.

In his letter, Schlettwein told Goeiemann that he was charging him under Section 8 of the Finance Act (1991) and the Tender Board Act (1996).

Schlettwein told Goeiemann that he intended to strip him of powers over votes 23 and 24 under the Finance Act.

Votes 23 and 24 pertain to accountability for the revenue and expenditure within the ministry.

"Should this integral power and duty be removed from those to be exercised by our client, such a step would constitute a lowering of our client's status as permanent secretary and a change in the nature of work he is required to perform," the lawyers wrote.

Goeiemann's lawyers De Klerk Horn and Coetzee Incorporated in a letter dated 6 October 2017 told Schlettwein that as the finance minister he has no power to institute what are effectively disciplinary steps against Goeiemann.

The lawyers said by doing so Schlettwein was "circumventing the provisions of the Public Sevice Act no. 13 of 1995 as well as the relevant provisions of the Labour Act no. 11 of 2007".

Through his lawyers, Goeiemann also said that Shafudah was found guilty and given a warning but was not subjected to any attempt by Schlettwein to demote her or remove her from her position as an accounting officer regarding the Finance Act.

In Goeiemann's case, the lawyers said they challenged Schlettwein to provide backing evidence of losses the government has suffered but could not come up with any.

Furthermore, the lawyers said that Goeiemann was appointed on the recommendations of the Public Service Commission and is obliged to comply with the control and directions of the President, the Prime Minister or the minister concerned - which in this case would be the works minister and not the Minister of Finance.

According to the lawyers, Goeiemann did not consent to the demotion, the purported decision or any decision of this nature that constitute or would constitute an impermissible unilateral amendment of his contract.

They said such action could also be the basis for dismissing Goeiemann.

Schlettwein's intentions, the lawyers said, has not been done in government before where a permanent secretary's roles are taken.

"To blindly pursue this view in the light of the incontrovertible and weighty facts pointing in the opposite direction simply confirms the view that the Minister is hell-bent upon disciplining and demoting out client while maintaining the fiction that his Notice is unrelated to a disciplinary measure for misconduct," the letter said.

Schlettwein, the lawyers said, "has acted arbitrally, irrationally and grossly unreasonably", especially after concluding that Goeiemann's actions had caused severe harm to the public finances. 

By doing so before Goeiemann had presented his case, Schlettwein "displayed a closed mind on these issues which is evidence of his pre-judgement and bias in the matter".

The lawyers further accuse Schlettwein of being the prosecutor in the case because it is him alone who has concluded that he should exercise his powers to revoke and withdraw Goeiemann's appointment as the accounting officer.

"The Minister is a central witness to all the important events leading up to the award of the tender. This ranges from the meetings with the Namibia Airports Company, meetings between his Ministry and that of works in April 2015 and meetings between the Prime Minister and senior ministers during the process. Much of this process preceded our client's appointment," the lawyers argued.

Schlettwein, the lawyers said, is trying to use Goeiemann as a scapegoat for an issue he was personally involved by having been present at the meetings where the awarding of the tender was discussed and agreed.

"It accordingly follows that the Minister of Finance bears co-responsibility for the decision to award the tender to the successful bidder," they said adding that Goeiemann cannot be held accountable for a collective decision.

"The Minister is fully aware that this was a decision mandated not only by the Minister of Works and Transport but also as a result of a collective decision-making process that was initiated before our client was appointed as the permanent secretary as of 1 July 2015.

When His Excellency the President expressed reservations about the award - not because of the merits of the project and the identity of the successful tenderer - but instead upon negative press reports which suggested wrongdoing and possible corruption, our client was in no way implicated in any such wrongdoing," they further argue.

Schlettwein, the lawyers said, was using the court's view that Goeiemann did not depose of an affidavit since he was cited as a respondent yet he had advised him that the government would depose of a unified affidavit.

"This meant that there could be a unified response by Government, thus preventing our client from setting out his version of events as to why he signed the letter dated 3 December 2015 and most importantly on whose authority he signed the letter," they charged.

By accusing Goeiemann, the lawyers said Schlettwein was distancing himself and others from the decision and seek to blame the messenger.

"It thus suits the Minister of Finance to do so and thus avoid his responsibility for what happened and more generally that of Government in what happened."