Windhoek-Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku has said his widely reported fallout with permanent secretary Dr Andreas Mwoombola is down to a clash of principles and not personalities.
He said several events that occurred in the ministry under Mwoombola’s watch ate away at what was left of his trust in the permanent secretary, and that he was no longer willing to work with Mwoombola.
Many decisions, which Haufiku described as “impulsive”, were taken without consultation with him as political head of the ministry, he said. This includes the issue of expectant mothers at Outapi State Hospital,
who bathed in oshanas without proper accommodation.
A letter by Haufiku seen by New Era, dated May 15 2017, suggests Mwoombola exposed the ministry to payments of N$3,000 per day to an Ongwediva-based entity, from which tents were rented to accommodate expectant mothers at the hospital.
The rental costs reached N$540,000 after six months. An assessment conducted later showed that the ministry could for the same price have acquired more tents of its own at a much lower price.
Other activities conducted without proper consultation, according to Haufiku, include the refurbishment of Windhoek Central Hospital theatre in 2015. Although the projected cost was about N$4 million, the ministry ended up paying N$9 million, he said.
Yesterday the health minister – a qualified medical doctor – told New Era that he has completely lost confidence in Mwoombola and hoped the appointing authorities would redeploy one of them away from the Health Ministry, so that they no longer have to work together.
He said he had considered resigning as minister, but felt his ministry is in dire straits and needs him now more than ever.
President Hage Geingob on Tuesday told Haufiku to impose his authority on his staff, amidst reports of infighting at the ministry.
Haufiku felt he cannot preside over a ministerial regime that “spends state resources to advance private interest”, an apparent reference to the suspected irregular awarding of tenders to suppliers.
He said the suspected unscrupulous activities were detected very late and that he personally took it up with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which has since been conducting investigations based on his submissions.
Haufiku also informed the Office of the Prime Minister via Cabinet about questionable activities at the ministry, which led to the brief suspension of Mwoombola in July. Permanent secretaries are appointed by the Office of the Prime Minister and report to the secretary to Cabinet.
Mwoombola was suspended for undisclosed reasons, but was reinstated after 14 days. New Era has since learned that the PS was reinstated in order to comply with a legal requirement that a suspended official must be charged within 14 days, or be reinstated in their jobs.
At the centre of Haufiku’s displeasure are procedural issues and the perceived abuse of ministerial resources on Mwoombola’s watch.
The two first clashed in April, after Haufiku reportedly expressed dismay that his repeated requests to Mwoombola for a meeting with ministerial staff went unheeded.
Haufiku says he did not have a single staff meeting during the whole of 2016.
Mwoombola, after being reprimanded in April, apparently offered to resign, but later changed his mind. Since then, a number of issues came to the fore, including allegations that some service providers to the ministry were milking the system by submitting inflated invoices, amongst other abusive practices.
Haufiku was seemingly irked by the fact that Mwoombola approved payment without proper scrutiny. A company called FITO Medical Supplies was one of the ministry’s main suppliers, but it later turned out that it is co-owned by the minister’s personal assistant.
“One of the principals of FITO Medical Supplies is Mr Fillemon Auwanga, who at the time he and his partner(s) established FITO Medical Supplies, was my personal assistant,” Haufiku noted in a May 15 letter to Mwoombola.
“Mr Auwanga was also a member of the ministerial tender committee, a concern I raised with you in 2016 whether you have checked with the Tender Board of Namibia, its legal instruments and Office of the Attorney-General, to which you responded in the affirmative and stated to me that it was within legal parameters,” the health minister further wrote.
Mwoombola was said to be out of the country yesterday. Questions sent to him were not answered at the time of going to print.