French supplier suspends NIP over N$2,4m debt

NIP chief executive Kapena Tjombonde

The Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP), which splashed N$5,3 million on executive vehicles last year, is in trouble for failing to pay a company that supplies them with blood diagnostic products.

BioMérieux SA has suspended deliveries to the NIP due to N$2,4 million in outstanding invoices.

The company has been supplying the institute with microbiology reagents for over 10 years.

The NIP is a government agency which handles all public health sector pathology testing and disease monitoring services.

BioMérieux SA is a French multinational biotechnology company that has been supplying NIP with microbiology reagents for over 10 years.

BioMérieux SA finance manager Lawrance Nkanyane wrote to the NIP creditor’s department on Wednesday last week informing the company of its debt.

“This is to notify you that your account is currently on credit block due to non-payment. We will not be processing any order from your side until the overdue are [sic] paid,” the email reads.

The NIP statement of account, seen by The Namibian, indicates debt of N$2 472 086.

BioMérieux SA supplied products to NIP including unsensitised tubes, test kits, saline solutions and strips.

NIP is a public diagnostic enterprise that handles all public health sector pathology testing and an extensive array of disease monitoring services.

The microbiology reagents are crucial for the NIP to achieve precise results in experiments, research and quality control.

Failing to settle this debt would mean no reagents and consumables, no testing of microbiology samples and doctors cannot treat patients.

According to the NIP statement of account, the microbiology reagents amounting to N$2,4 million were supplied to NIP between May 2023 and the first week of January this year.

This is the same period in which the NIP rushed to purchase cars for its top five executives, amounting to N$5,3 million, amid claims that it is navigating the current financial turbulence.

In December, The Namibian reported how the parastatal paid N$1,1 million as a settlement for its chief executive Kapena Tjombonde’s Mercedes Benz, Nabot Uushona (chief technical officer) received a Ford Ranger worth N$1 million, while Vincent Nowaseb (chief operations officer) received a Nissan worth N$987 000.

The NIP further purchased Oaitse van Staden (chief human capital officer) a Toyota Fortuner worth N$1,1 million and Scholastika Mwetulundila (chief financial officer) an Amarok worth N$1 million.

The parastatal budgeted N$7,5 million for these cars.

Tjombonde did not respond to questions sent by The Namibian, citing confidentiality.

“Having pride in corporate governance principles, the NIP always strives to maintain mutual beneficial relationships with suppliers and stakeholders alike. In principle, all financial communications between us and our business partners are mutually treated with strict confidentiality,” Tjombonde told The Namibian.

She said the parastatal takes measures that minimise the impact on laboratory services.

“NIP takes its financial obligations seriously and management ensures that necessary measures are taken to avoid and minimise any impact on the ability to provide medical laboratory services to both the public and private healthcare sector,” she said.

Tjombonde added: “Therefore, the NIP as a commercial enterprise does not engage in discussion with third parties, but upholds mutually agreed business engagement principles with suppliers and partners.”

BioMérieux SA did not respond to questions sent by The Namibian on Friday.

The company is present in 44 countries and serves more than 160 countries through its large network of distributors.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Political analyst Rui Tyitende called for the NIP board and management to be dismissed. Tyitende argued that the parastatal’s current affairs are criminal.

“Transforming the organisation in the interest of the public is an afterthought. The current affairs at NIP is criminal and the entire board and management should be dismissed. Since their establishment, SOEs have become instruments of wealth accumulation by a coterie of black elites that owe their allegiance to the ruling political elite,” Tyitende said.

Tyitende questioned how NIP was able to buy cars instead of settling its debts first.

“How do they explain not paying critical suppliers that provide a service crucial to their mandate, but approve vehicles for fat cats that already receive ridiculous salaries? What exactly are they being rewarded for?

“These black managers and board members are serial ‘paper pushers’, whose aim is merely about climbing the corporate ladder, looting state coffers and idolising a culture of conspicuous consumption.”

Social scientist Ndumba Kamwanyah says Namibia has created a culture of failing to hold people in parastatals accountable.

“It boils down to accountability at all levels of our parastatal governance – management and boardship – including the line ministry responsible. People in our parastatals are never held responsible. We have created a culture of unaccountability in terms of how those parastatals are run, governed, managed and recruitment is done,” Kamwanyah said.

“In other words, who approved the procurement decision, how was it done, and were the people involved competent, or not?”

Tjombonde became the NIP chief executive, after her predecessor Augustinus Katiti was booted out of the position in 2018 and subsequently given a N$3 million golden handshake, despite being accused of various irregularities.

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