…as fund pays money to 46 ghost accounts
By: Justicia Shipena
The manager of annuities at Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), Ignatius Manyando Manyando, says that the amount of money lost through fraudulent activities on payments made to beneficiaries is likely to increase.
Manyando said this in his sworn statement dated 19 August 2022, which is the possession of The Villager newspaper.
In that statement, he revealed an additional was N$21,027.33 paid ‘fraudulently’ to a certain Jessica Gowases.
This payment was allegedly made on 15 July 2022. This comes after, in August, the fund launched an internal investigation after detecting possible fraudulent activities on payments to beneficiaries.
In the same month, The Namibian newspaper also reported that two suspended GIPF employees, Martin Eugen Smith (34) and Fabiola Shirley Aoses (44), face a N$17 million fraud charge.
They were, however, denied bail, and their case resumes on 8 November.
“The investigation to establish the full extent of the loss is ongoing; however, the preliminary findings point to about N$ 17 703 477.10. This amount is likely to increase with the ongoing investigation,” said Manyando, who is responsible for the annuity payroll and administration, claims processing and pensioner services.
The 36-year-old manager said on 06 July 2022, the fund’s annuity division received an enquiry from the Otjiwarongo regional office regarding a child annuitant named’ Jessica R. Gowases, who claimed that she did not receive her children’s pension for the 2019 school calendar.
“The Otjiwarongo office was approached by a certain Ms Jessica Gowases who enquired about her monthly benefit, which had stopped,” he said.
He said that as a requirement, the fund suspends annuities if proof of life or studies has not been received, adding that upon a quick investigation, the state-owned fund discovered that Gowases payments were paid and up to date.
“But shockingly, it was paid to a different account not belonging to her,” he said.
Manyando said they also discovered that the proof of study and certificate of existence which enabled such payments were fictitious.
He said Gowases confirmed that she never attended school in Windhoek. The proof of studentship submitted in the case documents showed that Gowases attended high school at Augustium Secondary School from 2018 to 2019 and was a full-time student at the Namibia College of Open Learning (Namcol) in 2020.
At the same time, another proof of studies shows that she attended the community skills development centre (COSDEV) from January 2019 to December 2019 and studied tourism and hospitality.
Manyando, in his sworn statement, added that they found that the payment was made to an FNB account which Gowases confirmed does not belong to her.
“Such payment was made in line with a fictions banking confirmation letter. These are contrary to the authentic details provided by Ms Jessica Gowases, namely school letter and banking details,” he said
The bundle of documents provided show that the bank confirmation letter dated 27 June 2022 was from NedBank and revealed it was signed by NedBank Namibia Tsumeb Branch manager Timotheus Shipoyeni.
Manyando further revealed that the incident of Gowases led the fund to widen its investigation to determine if there are other similar cases.
ORPHAN MONEY PAID TO 46 GHOST ACCOUNTS
In this light, he narrates that on 10 August 2022, the GIPF uncovered a host of other fraudulent incidents in which payments were made to several accounts that do not belong to the fund’s members.
“At this stage, the GIPF has uncovered that illegal payments were made through Bank Windhoek, Standard Bank, and First National bank (FNB), which involves 46 bank accounts,” said Manyando.
He said the GIPF’s investigation revealed that staff members Aoses and Smith were personnel who captured the data, leading to several dubious payments.
“Our internal controls require personnel to use individual system passwords when working on member records, and the investigation revealed that their credentials were used to effect changes on the system. Resultantly suspicious bank details and bank confirmation letters were used, resulting in fraudulent payments. Extracts from the system indicating the user and forged banking confirmation letters.”
He stated that during the cause of investigation, it was found that payment was made to Gowases’ Nedbank account with a payment
reference indicated as ‘Vabiola Aoseb Ref GIPF Fund E41’.
“Upon checking records, the GIPF has not made such a payment to Ms Jessica Gowases. The reference used when the fund makes payments to members does not indicate the staff members’ names, and as such, the reference on Ms Jessica Gowases’s bank statement raised a red flag,” he stated.
He explained that when Fund makes payments to members, the payment reference reads as ‘GIPF FUND’ with a unique number followed by the EFT number.
Moreover, the statement revealed that the fund also discovered several forged bank confirmation letters that the implicated staff members had processed. “Bank confirmation letters where account holder names are different, but the account number is the same.”
However, the suspects in the case of Gowases are not yet arrested, according to Manyando.
At the same time, the manager said the fund intends to pursue criminal cases against the implicated staff members.
“And the registration of this case will assist the internal investigating team in obtaining necessary access to external parties, including financial institutions,” he said.
He, thus, requested a thorough police investigation of this matter.
In August, GIPF denied suspending four more staff members concerning the alleged fraud.
This followed after the Affirmative Repositioning movement leader (AR) Job Amupanda took to social media that the GIPF suspended four more junior administration staff members.
Amupanda had said that the stolen orphans’ millions passed N$30 million.
“Money ostensibly went to more than 30 bank accounts. The bosses who approved the payments remain untouched. The prime minister and finance minister are busy with [Swapo] congress politics,” Amupanda said.
On Sunday, he posted on his Twitter account, stating, ” You have seen how GIPF has kept denying that it exceeded N$17 million and went to more than 30 bank accounts. The banks are actually 47.”