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Calle Schlettwein testifies over finance ministry fraud case

by Kelvin Chiringa

The minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein yesterday stood in the Windhoek High Court to testify over a case in which his ministry is said to have been defrauded in a scanning equipment purchases deal (N$477 million) involving a Chinese company Nuctech.

The saga has dragged in the mud the heads of former Public Service Commission member Teckla Lameck (57) as well as her colleague in business Kongo Mokaxwa (39). 

 The Chinese company allegedly inflated the equipment costs to pay US$12,8 million in commission to Lameck and Mokaxwa's Teko Trading CC.

Both have pleaded innocent to a total of 18 charges levelled against them.

Schlettwein testified that the ministry had done its part to meet in full the purchase agreement which was carried out while he was still Permanent Secretary and had processed an advance payment of US$12,8 million to Nuctech in February 2009.

The minister said he wanted to know if “The advance payment has served its purpose.”

The borne of contention is that Teko Trading had not played any role in the deal between the ministry and Nuctech.  

Schlettwein testified that before the deal was entered into, the ministry had set up a technical committee to engage possible companies that could provide the needed products.

Visits had also been lined up to Europe and America to engage with other companies and assess their offers.

However, the tendering process had to be chucked off the window when the Namibian government committed to a loan agreement with the then Chinese president Hu Jintao which involved an array of projects.

However, the ministry had already set aside a budget commitment for the purchase of the scanners which, according to Schlettwein would in turn make it easier to reduce the debt.

The Chinese agreement, supported by the Chinese embassy meant that the ministry would get such equipment from a Chinese company thus elbowing out the other competitors.

Said the minister in his testimony, “Cabinet approved this and we then approached the tender board to be exempted from the bidding process which was approved. After this we pursued the development of the purchase agreement.”

The loan agreement was thus negotiated which involved the Chinese Import Export bank and the ministry was obligated to prepare sights for the installation of the equipment.

The minister said for its part, the ministry has taken care of customs clearances and tax matters and no second part was involved and all equipment was installed.

Meanwhile, judge Liebenberg has postponed the case to the 4th of June at 10:00am while the accused three's bail has been also extended on same conditions.