Inflated pricing rocks N$125m drought relief boreholes

By Hilary Mare and Maria Kandjungu

A shocking trail of irregularities in the pricing of tenders to drill and rehabilitate boreholes under the drought relief programme funded to the tune of N$125 million by the Office of the Prime Minister, has prompted the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land

Reform (MAWLR) to launch an immediate investigation. Under this project, MAWLR was entrusted with the role to coordinate the whole process and offer technical assistance by conducting siting of boreholes, drilling supervision and ensuring that the Ministry’s standards and regulations are adhered to. A report produced by MAWLR and seen by Confidente on the prices charged by contractors in various regions shows gross irregularity that also points to potential corrupt practices. One such discrepancy is that while the rehabilitation of 11 boreholes in Omaheke region amounted to N$562 000, the rehabilitation of the same number of boreholes in //Karas region amounted in excess of N$20 million.

Further, the drilling of 16 boreholes in Erongo amounted to N$2 million, but the drilling of 15 boreholes in Otjozondjupa amounted close to N$6 million. Otjozondjupa also attracted a cost of N$1.7 million for the procurement of materials for inhouse borehole installation apart from the drilling charges. In the north of Namibia, drilling of 13 boreholes in Oshikoto amounted to N$2.5 million while drilling of one less borehole (12), was costed at above N$3 million in Ohangwena region. Confidente’s evaluation of the pricing further shows that, while the government had calculated that the price of drilling a borehole should not exceed N$200 000, most of the amounts charged in the regions were inflated past N$400 000 for a single borehole. However, regions like Kavango had more reasonable charges, pricing around N$150 000 per borehole. Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein told Confidente that in their preliminary analysis it looked like private contractors used to construct these boreholes overcharged government extensively for this work. “I have therefore decided to lodge a fully-fledged investigation into the matter with the Office of the Prime Minister to get to the bottom of this and see if there is any justification for some of these amounts,” he said. The agricultural ministry planned to drill a total of 206 boreholes countrywide during the drought relief programme for 2019/2020 financial year. Of these, 166 boreholes were completed at a total cost of N$32 006 031 (excluding //Karas and Kunene regions) and 40 boreholes are in progress. Executive Director in the Office of the Prime Minister, I-Ben Nashandi who at the time of Confidente’s inquiry had not seen the report, however acknowledged

that government is facing a problem of private contractors overcharging them for work. “I have not seen those amounts but I have received reports from some of the regions. I am just waiting to get reports from all the 14 regions then I can compile them in one report and look at them but if that is the case then those are alarming numbers and we will need to investigate. There is this habit of people over-quoting government and we are always

made to pay more. We had set the benchmark for drilling a borehole to at least N$200 000 that is taking in consideration all other factors that can impact the price,” he said. He added that the set benchmark is based on figures obtained from private people who have drilled boreholes of their own. “So, if someone is spending half a million on a borehole or even N$300 000 just to drill the borehole, then you are basically telling me that boreholes are now unaffordable. It will mean that only government can afford to drill boreholes because that is a lot of money for an individual. It is not right because you have a lot of people who have them at their private farms. So, you want to say all those people went to get loans of half a million and

more from the banks to drill these boreholes?” Nashandi stated adding that this issue is one his ministry will seek to address

soon. While Confidente was unable to get hold of some Chief Regional Officers whose regions are facing a price inflation investigation,

Omusati Chief Regional Officer, Gervasius Kashindi told Confidente that prices of boreholes differ depending on a wide array of issues. “You have to understand that the cost of the borehole differs depending on the areas. Sometimes it’s too hard, sometimes the water is too far and requires different and more expensive material to drill but even then our region is staying within the approved threshold set by the agricultural minister. All our spending was approved by the technical support here in the region and we have also shared a report with the office of the Prime Minister,” he said. Otjozondjupa Governor James Uerikua and //Karas Governor, Aletha Frederick said that they had requested reports from their chief financial officers which explain the spending.