Storm in the Kitchen

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek The Zone Six Under-20 Youth Games came to an end just over a month ago but the bad blood generated by the event continues to simmer within the local sports community. The event was marred by poor organisation, the late start of events, non-attendance by some nations, strikes by match officials, complaints of poor food for participants and constant bickering with government officials. The bickering continues, with the chairperson of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Dr Vetumbuavi Veii now being criticised for the way his committee awarded a catering tender for the games. Veii is also Director of Sport in the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture. The contract was awarded to Geetee Caterers, headed by Dolly Jaepa, which provided meals for participants at the University of Namibia (UNAM) dining hall during the games. The tender in the end cost the Namibian government around N$3million, while the lowest tender submitted was allegedly for N$1,5million. Those making the accusations have submitted a formal complaint to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), while at the same time circulating an unsigned copy to the media. The Director of the ACC, Paulus Kalomho Noa, yesterday confirmed a complaint had been submitted to the commission. He said the few investigators so far employed by the commission were preoccupied with other cases, but they would be allocated the Zone Six catering tender case at the earliest opportunity. Noa could not immediately confirm whether the complaint sent to the commission is also anonymous, or whether or not Veii’s accusers identified themselves. Whether a complaint is anonymous or not seems to have no bearing on whether or not the commission decides to investigate. “It is our obligation to investigate, so we have no problem investigating anonymous complaints. The only constraint is that if we need further information we don’t know who to go to,” Noa said. The anonymous fax circulated to the media alleges the successful tenderer is related to the chairperson of the LOC, and that everybody on the LOC knows that. The complainants strongly argue the LOC did not receive value for the N$3million it paid Geetee Caterers. They say the food provided was poor, both in terms of quality and quantity, and that some games participants even fell ill after eating the food. In an interview on Friday, Dr Veii was first reluctant to respond to the accusations, saying it was unfair to expect him to respond to allegations when those accusing him did not have the courage to come out in the open. “If anyone wants to carry out an investigation, they are more than welcome. It is only a pity those making the accusations are such cowards that they are not prepared to come out in public. If they have their facts, why are they hiding behind anonymous letters,” Veii said. But, in the end, he said he was prepared to refute the allegations made against him. “I don’t’ even know the person who is alleged to be related to me,” he stated. Dolly Jaepa of Geetee Caterers yesterday also denied that she is in any way related to Dr Veii. Jaepa explained that there are four other shareholders in Geetee Caterers, saying there was no way for her to know whether any of them are related to Veii. Turning to the tender itself, Veii said the decision to award the contract for the Zone Six Games was not a one-man-show, but a collective decision taken by a committee. The recommendation to grant the tender to Geetee Caterers was also communicated to Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture John Mutorwa. He emphasised that during a presentation the committee made to Mutorwa, not one of the committee members raised any objection to the tender being awarded to Geetee Caterers. Geetee Caterer’s tender was accepted because it was a more experienced company; even though it was true another company submitted a lower tender price. Geetee Caterers, according to Dr Veii, is the company that normally provides catering services to Unam and therefore knows the kitchens at the institution well. The company also provides catering for the TISAN and CUCSA games, which are also usually held at Unam. The committee therefore felt Geetee could provide better service based on their experience. The committee also took into account that Geetee employs people from previously disadvantaged communities – predominantly black women. Veii said the committee worried about the capacity of the company with the lower tender price to fulfil the contract at such a low price. The tender required the successful company to provide three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to 800 participants at a time. He stressed the tender was not based on a global figure for the entire contract, but on a cost-per-meal basis. This of course meant there was no way of predicting the final cost of the tender because it depended on how many meals were served. It was true, Veii said, that when the first Chef de Mission meeting was held there were complaints about the quality of the food. The main complaint was about the variety on the menu. The manager of the catering sub-committee was informed of the complaint, and there were no more complaints after that. “When you are catering for anything up 1 800 people you can’t cook to the satisfaction of each and every person. You can’t go to games of this size and eat exactly what you want,” Veii said.