N$14 million borehole scandal rocks Omaheke

By Hilary Mare

ACTING Chief Regional Officer of the Omaheke Regional Council, Karukirue Tjienda is under fire after misappropriating nearly half of the of the N$14.7 million the region got from the office of the Prime Minister for the rehabilitation, installation and drilling of boreholes under the drought relief programme.

Having received these funds in November last year, Tjienda allegedly advanced at least N$5 million to Northend Solar Solutions, a company with recurrent tenders in the region which was also awarded the tender to drill boreholes.

Bank statements in possession of Confidente show that against Treasury directives that regional councils are to pay for work done only and not deposits, the regional council advanced an amount of N$4.9 million to Northend Solar Solution on December 12 2019 and another amount of N$510 000 to Proska Investment which uses the same bank account as Northend Solar Solution on January 20 2020.

Both these companies that use the same account number at the bank are owned by Martin Nambundunga.

Confidente has it on good authority that Tjienda allegedly made these payments over the bank counter after accusing internal accounting systems for being too slow.

The management committee of the region has also unearthed that Proska Investments which had a running tender for installations of solar pumps had late last year received a double processed payment of approximately N.

2 million when it was actually supposed to receive only about N$600 000.

It remains unclear how two companies both owned by the same person, Nambundunga, were handpicked for both the borehole drilling and solar installation tenders.

Confidente investigations have unearthed that despite the money for the borehole tender having being paid as early as December 2019, the contract putting the tender to install and refurbish 45 boreholes into motion was only signed by Tjienda on April 9 2020 and on May 18 2020 by Nambundunga. It remains unclear why this contract was signed in timeframes one month apart.

Office of the Prime Minister demands money back

With little work having being done; Confidente can reveal that the Office of Prime Minister is demanding every cent of the advanced money back.

In a letter dated April 2 2020, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila wrote to former Omaheke region governor, Festus Uitele demanding for action.

“The Office of the Prime Minister learned on or about 19 February 2020, through the social media that the Omaheke Regional Council paid in advance N$5 million to a contractor who won a bid to drill boreholes under the drought relief programme and the contractor splashed the money and no single borehole was drilled.

“It is on the basis of that that on 20 February 2020, we requested Omaheke Regional Council to provide us with a report on the reported matter. The report submitted via a letter to the Executive Director in the Office of the Prime Minister by the Acting Chief Regional Officer of the Omaheke Regional Council indicated that an amount of N$4.9 million was paid to Northend Solar Solutions as a deposit, however as at that date, the contractor only performed work of N$562 700.

“Subsequently in our letter of 9 March 2020, the Office of the Prime Minister directed the Omaheke Regional Council to request the advanced funds to be paid back to the regional council and that payments be done only upon satisfactory performance of works which is duly certified by professional government officials who are so authorised,” she said adding that she pled with the governor to ensure these funds are paid back.

Speaking to Confidente this week, I-Ben Nashandi, Executive Director in the Office of the Prime Minister said that this position has not changed and their office needs the money to be paid back.

“We have heard that they re-engaged the contractor and we are waiting for a comprehensive report that we have asked for.

Our position is that money must only be paid for work done. We have made it clear that money must be returned. There are other avenues that we will pursue if the money is not returned”.

Tjienda admits funds were mishandled

“I am correcting the mistake we did. I was informed by a financial advisor that the money is part of reimbursement received from OPM. When I investigated I took a decision to repay. Please bear with me, I promise to correct this mishandling of funds. I hope to overcome this challenge soon,” reads an email response sent by Tjienda to I-Ben Nashandi last month, when he demanded that the money be paid back or the matter will be taken to the next level of enforcement.

This week, when asked by Confidente whether the money was paid back or not, Tjienda responded: “Who is going to pay the money and to whom?”

Denying any ties to Nambundunga, Tjienda also said the progress with the boreholes is not satisfactory but they are demanding the contractor to come to the site despite challenges he encountered.

“Some other boreholes that cost N$957 000 were already drilled. The contractor has started with drilling at Tukus in Amunius constituency and I am informed they got some water today at approximately 30 metres,” he said.

Responding to questions around the double payment of N$1.2 million to Proska Investments, Tjienda said that the overpayment was done but in the meantime the money was being recovered with work performance.

“The council is busy investigating any act of negligence by us as staff members,” he added before stating that he doesn’t know that Northend Solar Solutions and Proska Investments are owned by the same person.

Northend Solar Solutions and Proska Investments owner, Martin Nambundunga speaks

In an interview with Confidente this week, Nambundunga said his company was contracted for siting, drilling and rehabilitation of boreholes in the Omaheke region in November 2019.

According to him, the entire project was marked at N$8 million for siting and drilling a total of 26 boreholes. Nineteen boreholes were to be rehabilitated which was estimated and quoted to N$1.8 million.

“During our quote submission, we requested a 50 percent deposit, which is the case for all our drilling services; N$4.9 million was then paid to us. Our team was on site on December 24th to start with the project in Eiseb 9,” he said adding that the money paid was used for site establishment and to acquire materials that were needed.

“Last month we provided the regional council with our bank statements and proof of materials bought. We currently have materials in the region to finish the entire project.

“To date we have rehabilitated a total of 15 boreholes (invoices and reports provided to the regional council). Slow progress was encountered during drilling as we have encountered problems.

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In February while heading back to site, our drilling truck overturned in the region which resulted in delays as the rig had to go for repairs. The rig was repaired and drilling commenced.

“We have drilled a total of six boreholes of which water was found. The longest delay was the month of May where we spent the entire month on one borehole. The reason for the delay was that our drilling rods were stuck in the ground at a depth of 150m. The recovery process was costly and needed special chemicals to assist to remove the rods from the ground. We also lost the engine of our compressor,” explained Nambundunga adding that his company has done work to the tune of N$2.4 million to date.

“I am not related to the acting CRO and only met him recently,” said Nambundunga refuting claims that he was related to Tjienda.