• SONJA SMITH and SHINOVENE IMMANUEL
A CENTRAL Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) bid evaluator was involved in awarding a N$48 million Ministry of Health and Social Services tender to a close corporation owned by her relative when bidding closed last year.
Yesterday, the board stated it had no knowledge of the connection between the company and the individual responsible for evaluating tenders, as it had not been disclosed.
Additionally, documents reveal that the company at the centre of the controversy underwent a change of ownership in August – just two weeks after the tender process was closed.
This was also three weeks after the company submitted its bids to the procurement board.
This development adds more question marks to the N$2,4 billion health tenders which have attracted public attention since last month.
The origin of this tender can be traced back to April 2022 when the CPBN issued an invitation for bids to supply clinical products to the health ministry.
The bidding process ended in July, which permitted the evaluation committee to examine the quotations within five days after the opening of bids.
In this case, the committee was appointed between April and July 2022 to evaluate the N$2,4 billion health tenders.
One of the three members of this bid evaluation committee was Kula Ithana – a long-serving nurse at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
Among the entities which received tenders under her watch were Facai Investments CC, founded and owned by Kuna Mushimba (Ithana’s niece) and her then partner, musician-turned-entrepreneur Maximillion ‘KK’ Kaoseb.
Mushimba and Kaoseb have a child together.
CPBN chairperson Amon Ngavetene in January wrote a letter stating that Facai Investments CC received health tenders worth around N$48 million to, among others, supply disposable baby napkins (N$38 million), dispensing bottles (N$3,1 million), equipment to measure blood pressure, surgical scissors, and microscope slides.
CPBN spokesperson Johanna Kambala yesterday told The Namibian that Ithana, like other evaluators, did not disclose that she was conflicted.
“Yes, Ms Ithana disclosed that she is not conflicted. It should be noted that all bid evaluation committee members are obliged at the beginning of the bid evaluation to declare any conflict of interest once they have been provided with the ownership details of participating bidders in terms of Section 66 A of the Public Procurement Act,” Kambala said.
It appears that the procurement board did not verify whether bid evaluation committee members were indeed not conflicted.
A search at the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) shows Facai changed ownership around August – about the same time the health tenders were being evaluated.
Executive director of health and social services Ben Nangombe yesterday confirmed to The Namibian that Ithana was one of the people whose names the ministry provided to the procurement board.
“Where a tender is to be evaluated by the Central Procurement Board of Namibia , the health ministry provides names of one or two technical staff members to assist with the evaluation. The technical person’s task is to evaluate the samples submitted by the bidders as a mechanism for quality assurance,” Nangombe said.
He added: “The CPBN chooses from the names submitted. These are persons, such as nurses or other health professionals, who on a daily basis work with and are knowledgeable on the clinical supplies or clinical consumables offered by the bidders.”
Sources have over the years expressed complaints that tenders have been manipulated through the influencing of requirements and the individuals responsible for evaluation.
Members of the committee are required to declare their interest in the tenders they evaluate.
The Procurement Act states that “staff must disclose his or her interest or the interest of his or her close relative, if any”.
A “close relative” means a parent, sibling, spouse, child or grandchild, having substantial financial interest in the bidding entity.
Staff members must then withdraw from the procurement process if there is a potential conflict of interest, the act states.
Speculation started last month that Facai Investments, which was formed in 2017, was somehow connected to the group of elites who won big on the latest health tenders.
Bid documents show that Facai Investments had, on more than one occasion, provided quotations clashing with those of Amnics Trading, which is owned by businessman Shapwa Kanyama.
Industry players questioned whether Facai was favoured through Ithana’s role in the process.
Ithana on Wednesday confirmed to The Namibian that she is one of the evaluators of this health tender, but that she is maintaining independence.
“Yes, I am one of the evaluators, but what do you want? I am not allowed to speak to the media. I am here as an independent evaluator only. If you have anything to ask, speak to my director. I have nothing to say,” Ithana said.
Facai’s founder, Mushimba, is a daughter of Ithana’s sister, Jacqueline Mushimba – who in turn is a niece of the late businessman, Aaron Mushimba.
Bipa documents show that Mushimba resigned from the company on 5 August 2022, and was replaced by Daphine Nyambe – a co-worker at Standard Bank.
Mushimba’s resignation from the company just two weeks after the health tender bids closed on 14 July 2022 raises concerns of rushing to submit bids in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
Nyambe yesterday declined to speak to The Namibian about the tender.
“Yes, I am aware that we have been awarded the tender, but as far as I am concerned we have only been shortlisted,” she said.
Mushimba on Wednesday confirmed that she registered the company, but said she is no longer connected to it.
“Yes, we started the company in 2017, and we didn’t understand each other, so I left. I am no longer there. I don’t know what the company does to speak about it. Rather reach out to those involved,” Mushimba said.
She confirmed having worked with Nyambe, but denied the existence of a conflict of interest.
“Yes, I worked with Nyambe, but we no longer do, I moved in 2018. There is no conflict of interest as my aunt doesn’t work at the procurement board. If you say she is a bid evaluator there, then I have no idea. I am hearing this for the first time,” Mushimba said.
She added: “My family does not know anything about KK, they don’t even know what he does. So if my own mother doesn’t know what he does, how would my aunt know?”
Twenty companies have submitted objections to the manner in which the N$2,4 billion medical tenders have been awarded.
- This article has been produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit.
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