By Shinovene Immanuel | 17 October 2017
THE works ministry’s permanent secretary, Willem Goeiemann, has, since last year, clashed with prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and two ministers over government matters.
Goeiemann, a man on the edge, explained to finance minister Calle Schlettwein two weeks ago why he should not lose his accounting powers as works permanent secretary. Some of his associates say he is being singled out, and that the move by the finance ministry to disempower him could be because of the clashes.
His opponents say he should be punished, and accuse him of playing the victim.
People interviewed, said besides the PM, he has also clashed with Schlettwein and public enterprises minister Leon Jooste.
These accounts are based on interviews with six senior government officials, and others familiar with the interactions between Goeiemann and other leaders in government.
The sources declined to be named because they are not allowed to speak publicly about confidential matters.
Goeiemann, who declined to comment for this article, was appointed as the National Planning Commission deputy permanent secretary in March 2012.
He was promoted in July 2015 to works permanent secretary, a powerful portfolio which controls strategic parastatals such as TransNamib and NamPort.
However, after about five months into his job, Goeiemann awarded the N$7 billion contract to upgrade the Hosea Kutako International Airport to a Chinese company.
This contract turned out to be one of the reasons which led to his fallout with Schlettwein, who believes Goeiemann committed the government to a project when the state had no money.
People who attended meetings featuring the two described their relationship as edgy.
The two clashed at a State House meeting around May this year that discussed the payment of invoices.
Goeiemann, an economist, believes Schlettwein misled the public and President Hage Geingob by saying that all outstanding invoices for companies who received tenders would be paid, while that was not the case.
Schlettwein declined to comment for this article, but officials close to him said the finance minister insisted during that meeting that government will only pay outstanding invoices for tenders budgeted for by treasury.
He reasoned that 50% of non-budgeted for invoices came from the works ministry under Goeiemann’s watch.
Schlettwein is said to have told the meeting that payments of unbudgeted for invoices would be done later.
Geingob supported Schlettwein on the issue of invoices, a source who attended that State House meeting said.
Goeiemann told his colleagues a few weeks ago that he suspects Schlettwein reported him to the President about the issue of invoices.
The debate at State House continued that day, but things got heated during the meeting when Goeiemann’s exchange with Geingob was considered as “disrespectful”.
The Namibian was told that a minister advised Goeiemann after that meeting to be “polite” to the President.
Schlettwein publicly blamed the works ministry for pushing government into unplanned projects which were not approved by the finance ministry, such as N$2 billion worth of roads contracts.
The clash between Schlettwein and Goeiemann did not end there.
The Namibian reported earlier this year that the two also clashed over the N$50 million payment of Air Namibia’s monthly bills.
Goeiemann furthermore clashed with public enterprises minister Jooste, who is seen by some works ministry officials as encroaching onto their turf at state-owned entities.
Sources said the two clashed on how to treat the allegations of corruption at the Namibia Airports Company (NAC).
The two also differed on how to deal with a Deloitte forensic investigation report published in August this year, which exposed corruption at the NAC.
Goeiemann told colleagues that the report was not strong enough to warrant action against alleged culprits, while Jooste believes the report is solid.
Goeiemann also believes that Jooste’s team of experts called the Corporate Advisory Reform Unit is becoming so powerful that they attend Cabinet committee meetings.
A public enterprises ministry insider said: “I know that they (works) do not like the way we handle things. We do not approve business plans which are not feasible.”
The official added that their ministry’s stance of blocking tainted board members made them unpopular at the works ministry.
Another issue which made Jooste unpopular at the works ministry is his plan to close the state-owned Roads Contractor Company (RCC), which falls under the works ministry.
Works officials blamed Jooste for going behind their backs to instruct RCC’s bankers not to give the parastatal a loan.
A person familiar with Jooste’s thinking said all they did was to ask the bank for RCC’s account balances because parastatal bosses had refused to give them information. Jooste declined to comment for this article.
Goeiemann also clashed with Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The two differed at a meeting in Windhoek two months ago about the government’s decision to keep Zimbabwean engineers in the country much longer.
Goeiemann informed colleagues at the works ministry that the Prime Minister had questioned him at that meeting why he had brought Zimbabwean engineers to Namibia.
He shot back that he was not at the works ministry in 2012 when government signed the agreement with the Zimbabweans.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila did not answer questions sent to her two weeks ago, but she issued a blanket media statement after our queries.
The premier blamed Goeiemann for misleading people that she had asked him to award the N$7 billion airport contract. She rejected the allegation.
“It is damaging to the public interest when certain persons use their positions of public trust to deliberately misinform the public in an attempt to damage the public image of others,” her office stated.
Two officials familiar with Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s decision, said she preferred appointing I-Ben Nashandi as works permanent secretary in 2015, instead of Goeiemann.
Nashandi, the current permanent secretary at the poverty eradication ministry, was Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s deputy permanent secretary at the finance ministry from 2011 to 2015.
Goeiemann’s group claims that they have the support of the President since he lobbied for Goeiemann’s appointment in 2015.
However, a person briefed by the President on this matter said Geingob did not push for Goeiemann’s appointment, but mediated during a stand-off among politicians on who should be the permanent secretary at the works ministry.
Geingob allegedly asked ministers to pick their preferred permanent secretaries so that they could not complain later of being sabotaged by their administrators.
Goeiemann has the support of works minister Alpheus !Naruseb.