Govt to strip CPBN chairperson of powers

Andrew Kathindi

Government is proposing changes in the structure of the Central Procurement Board of Namibia’s (CPBN) Board, a development which will strip current Chairperson, Patrick Swartz, and his deputy’s powers when amendments into the Public Procurement Act, Act No. 15 come into effect.

The amendments, which according to the Ministry of Finance are to strengthen governance issues around the CPBN, will see Swartz and his deputy, Lischen Ramakhutla, no longer with administrative powers if they opt to retain their current positions after the amendments.

Swartz was embroiled in a recruitment scandal in May last year involving 14 employees, most of them from one tribe. “Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson are also responsible for administrative issues of the institution, which sometimes becomes a challenge when they have to present their matters to the board where they also serve as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. It is proposed that this arrangement be changed and employ an Administrative Head who will act as the CEO. If that amendment is anything to go by, then the Chairperson and Deputy will also become part-time like other board members,” Finance spokesperson,Tonateni Shidhudhu, told Windhoek Observer.

“Further public consultations are scheduled to start next week, on 8 March after which the draft is prepared and taken to Cabinet Committee on Legislation. We are hoping that by November this year they will be able to communicate to Parliament to list the bill as one of the bills to be tabled in the next session,” Shidhudhu stated.

According to the Finance ministry’s Spokesperson, among the list of objectives for the consultations, is to strengthen transparency in the public procurement process, and also efficiency among the Accounting Officers in taking decision and delegation of power.

A 22-page report by the Office of the Ombudsman last December fingered Swartz as the main culprit in multiple recruitment irregularities at the CPBN.

Swartz was also fingered by the Omubudsman, John Walters, for having added additional criteria that were not advertised to qualify certain candidates who did not qualify to be recruited by the CPBN.

The Office of the Ombudsman then recommended that “the Board take the necessary disciplinary action against those who were responsible for the mistakes, which led to the irregular appointments of persons and inform the Ombudsman of the outcome.”

No disciplinary action against Swartz has since been taken despite the damning findings of the Ombudsman, as the structure of the CPBN, where he serves as Chairperson of the CPBN Board, and administrative head, made him only answerable to himself, presenting a corporate governance predicament.

This is likely to change with the proposed amendments, amid continued denial by the CPBN.

“The Board intends to have a fair and equitable recruitment process that will provide equal opportunities for all Namibians. Hence, CPBN is working towards adjusting its recruitment process to ensure a fair process that is well documented, and open for review by our auditors and any competent institution that deemed it appropriate to do so,” a statement by CPBN spokesperson, Johanna Kambala, reads.

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