Expansion of Valombola VTC thrown in limboBy: SELMA SHIPANGA
THE N$70 million expansion and renovation tender of the Valombola Vocational Training Centre (VVTC) at Ongwediva has been stopped.
The tender was put on hold by the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) after the chairman of the NTA board, Otto Shikongo, revealed that he had an interest in the company awarded the contract.
The chief executive officer of NTA, Maria Nangolo-Rukoro, was instrumental in stopping the tender which closed in March this year and was awarded to China Jiangxi International.
The delay in the expansion of the Valombola centre will affect close to 2 000 students who were to start vocational training at the expanded facility in the new year.
Well-placed sources within the NTA say the expansion would have led to the enrolment of more students, but since the process came to a halt, the institution is trying to find space to accommodate the 2 000 students already enrolled. Nangolo-Rukoro’s decision to put on hold the awarding of the tender to China Jiangxi International was informed by a declaration by Shikongo at a board meeting in August this year.
The NTA’s business practices dictate that where there is a perceived conflict of interest, management should be informed promptly, which was apparently not what happened in Shikongo’s case.
The closing date for the VVTC tender was on March 20 this year and shortly after technical and financial evaluation of the bids, China Jiangxi International was declared the winner. Shikongo only made his declaration to the board on August 29.
Shikongo’s declaration is contained in the minutes of the meeting held by the board on August 29.
The Namibian is informed that no action has been taken against Shikongo since his admission of a conflict of interest, as it is has to go through a number of internal processes.
In the meantime, the NTA has been asked provide all bids received for the renovations of the VVTC by Ernst & Young, the company that has been appointed to conduct a forensic audit into the affairs of the NTA.
In an unrelated matter, at a NTA Executive Committee meeting on April 27 last year, Nangolo-Rukoro declared having personal interests in one of the NTA service provider institutions through an extended family member.
In an internal memo on that date, Nangolo-Rukoro wrote: “The NTA is in the process of introducing a bridging course for entry into vocational education and training. Upon the finalisation of the preliminary audits, the CEO was informed by one of the audit teams that the company registered as Tuwilika is co-owned by an extended family member of the CEO.”
The NTA offers bridging programmes through various training institutions in the country such as the Polytechnic of Namibia, Monitronics Success College, ILSA College, Kleine Kuppe Private School and many others.
Nangolo-Rukoro in the memo states that upon receiving such information, she requested a verification of facts by the audit team and it transpired that Tuwilika was indeed co-owned by an extended family member.
“The CEO by way of writing this letter is therefore declaring her interest. It’s however worth noting that the CEO has not been involved in the pre-selection nor final selection of training providers and that in her opinion no conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest is or persist in the matter [sic],” Nangolo-Rukoro stated in her signed declaration memo.
In the same memo, she pointed out that the company failed to apply the “sound business practice” which dictates that where there is a perceived conflict of interest, NTA management is informed promptly, arguing that this was not the reality in her case.
“Senior members of staff entertaining the sensationalising of events for nearly a week long, instead of notifying the acting CEO or the CEO. The CEO received the information from a junior staff who needs to be commended for her professionalism. It’s all NTA staff members’ duty to protect the image of the NTA and its credibility, and most importantly to exercise collective governance,” she said.
The forensic audit currently in full swing at the institution revolves around alleged irregularities in some of the institution’s tendering processes, administration of subsistence and travel allowances (S&T), credit cards, petty cash, as well as salary adjustments over the past two years.
The NTA was established by the Vocational Education and Training Act to regulate the provision of vocational education and training. The NTA also provides for the funding of vocational education and training and advises the Minister of Education on all matters concerning vocational education and training.