Telecom’s worst kept secret is out

Telecom’s worst  kept secret is out

A damning report into the affairs of Namibia’s premier network provider, Telecom Namibia (TN), has made shore and reveals an unholy alliance between the parastatal and a global IT solutions and service provider it had enlisted for about four years.

The report, titled: ‘Telecom Namibia Limited – Report on our investigations into the agreement with Dimension Data, the procurement of spare parts and alleged conflict of interest’, was swept under the carpet and has been gathering dust since it was released in 2011. That was during the time of former minister of information and communication technology Joel Kaapanda.

The report indicates that investigations conducted by auditing firm Ernst and Young probed in particular the relationship between Frans Ndoroma – who at the time was Telecom’s managing director – and then general manager for corporate finance and administration Robert Offner, and Dimension Data.

However, the findings into that relationship and possible conflict of interest were redacted from the entire audit report provided to New Era Weekend.

It is understood that in 2006 Dimension Data won a Telecom contract, worth N$250.4 million to build an Internet Protocol/Multi-Protocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) system, which was expected to help realise the parastatal’s aim of becoming a next generation network operator.

The service provider was also contracted to provide support and maintenance services for the infrastructure. Subject to the probe was a thorough study of Telecom’s procurement policy, internal audit reports relating to the IP/MPLS, related e-mail correspondence and minutes of projects meetings, as well face-to-face interviews with officials from both companies.

Ernst and Young found that at the time of their investigation numerous issues remained unresolved between Telecom and Dimension Data in relation to the project.

“These issues revolve around concerns whether services were provided and/or whether value for money was obtained,” the report revealed.

“In terms of the IP MPLS it was noted no engineer with a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) qualification was made available to Telecom Namibia in Windhoek, as per the agreement.”

“Dimension Data technicians were not on site on a 365 days a year basis from 08:00 – 17:00, as stipulated in the support and maintenance agreement for the duration of the four-year agreement that ended on December 2010.”

According to the findings, the total number of days where a Dimension Data technician entered Telecom premises, was 478 out of an expected 1 095 days for the period September 1, 2007 to August 31, 2010.

The investigation showed that no supporting documentation was provided by Dimension Data to substantiate that their staff had been trained, as paid for by Telecom in terms of the support and maintenance agreement. However, the contractor told the investigators no such proof is required, or stipulated in the agreement with Telecom.

“No training services were facilitated by Dimension Date for the benefit of Telecom Namibia staff, as paid for in terms of the support and maintenance agreement,” the report indicates.

“Monthly health checks were performed for nine out of 36 months, in relation to the Namibia Medical Society (NMS) support services paid for in terms of the [agreement],” it continued.

“No supporting documentation in terms of travel and subsistence expenditure incurred for NMS support services was provided to us.”

Also, no payments in excess of the amounts as specified in the agreement were recorded to have been paid to Dimension Data.

However, the last payment for spare parts, amounting to N$9.4 million was processed without a purchase requisition, or a purchase order. This is in stark contrast to standard procurement procedures at Telecom.

“The stock count performed identified five spare parts that were not delivered to Telecom, as required by the [agreement].”

Ernst and Young recommended that Telecom should obtain legal advice if it cannot reach a conclusion in its contractual dispute with Dimension Data.

“Telecom should return spare parts received in excess to Dimension Date. The value – N$2.6 million – of these excess parts should be deducted from any amount still due to Dimension Data.”

Further: “Telecom should arrange with Dimension Data to obtain the five missing spare parts from [the company] that were identified as not being delivered following the stock count.”

New Era Weekend tried to get answers from Telecom and Dimension Data, but the former did not respond to questions sent, while the latter promised to call back but did not do so by the time of going to print.

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