Nampower Board Chair Accused of Conflict of Interest

THE NamPower board chairperson is embroiled in allegations of conflict of interest involving a N$4 billion tender to construct a power plant.

Maria Nakale allegedly failed to declare a possible connection to Xaris Energy director Boni Paulino, her superior at the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa).

Xaris Energy is one of the companies vying for a tender to set up the 200 mega watt power plant. It is one of the shortlisted companies that will present their formal tender bids to the power utility.

Apart from being colleagues at Namfisa, Nakale and Paulino are also said to be friends although she, as a general manager for Provident Institutions, does not report to Paulino, who is an assistant chief executive for support services at Namfisa.

She disputed any wrongdoing, saying she did not know who the individuals behind the bidding companies are.

“I did not have information on related parties to the shortlisted companies hence could not declare that interest,” she said, but confirmed sitting in three board meetings dealing with the project.

Nakale also said although she works with Paulino, she could not say that he is her friend.

“However, friendship can be defined differently by different people,” she said, adding that with the size of the Namibian market, it becomes difficult to decide whether there is conflict of interest just because people know each other.

“If the conflict is to be assessed based on whom you know, chances of having the majority present at a meeting declaring an interest are high, leading to the situation where a quorum may not be reached,” she said.

Claiming unfair accusation, Nakale said at NamPower, the board is not given full information about companies during the initial stage of pre-qualification, but just company names. She said the board had requested full company information at its last two meetings.

“The request was made to avoid situations where board members adjudicate tenders involving their relatives or associates without them knowing,” she said.

Nakale said every board member at NamPower is required to declare, in writing, their interests at every meeting.

Paulino declined to comment.

The Namibian understands that although the board does not adjudicate tender directly, it is involved in the process and has access to individual bids and other information about the tender process.

Critics say Nakale has set a precedent regarding the issue of conflict of interest at board level at NamPower after

making it clear in March this year that conflict of interest will not be tolerated because it gives the company a negative image.

She allegedly made the comments during a board meeting after another board member, Patty Karuaihe-Martin, declared her interest to the board, revealing that her husband was a local representative of one of the companies tendering to build the Kudu Gas plant.

Sources said Karuaihe-Martin left the meeting after making the declaration and the board then discussed whether she should be allowed to sit in any meetings dealing with the tender. They also discussed if she was entitled to information regarding the Kudu Gas plant tender even though the board does not adjudicate the tender directly.

Furthermore, the sources said the board discussed whether Karuaihe-Martin should be allowed to accompany fellow board members on an international trip to visit power plants built by bidding companies.

The sources said while other board members felt that Karuaihe-Martin would not influence the process and that she should be part of the trip, Nakale allegedly led the move to exclude her on the trip, saying it could create negative public perceptions of NamPower and its reputation.

In addition, the sources said Nakale recused herself from a board meeting last year because another Namfisa colleague was being discussed in connection with the appointment of NamPower representatives on the Nored board.

According to the sources, Nakale’s past behaviour has led to questions on why she did not recuse herself this time around.

NamPower sources also questioned the board’s decision to build the gas-to-power plant, while the building of the Kudu Gas project has not even started.

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Source : The Namibian