Namibia: Telecom Sleaze Exposed
The staggering extent of corruption in the procurement department of Telecom Namibia about 10 years ago started emerging more fully as the Telecom scrap-copper corruption trial continued in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday.
Ivan Ganes, who as Telecom Namibia's Manager: Procurement was in charge of that department at the parastatal between April 1995 and early 2001, readily admitted in testimony given before Judge Collins Parker yesterday that he received millions of rand in "commissions", which were in fact bribes, over the last five years of his employment at the company.
Ganes is a key witness for the prosecution in the trial of former Telecom Namibia General Manager James Camm and businessmen Ettienne Weakley and Heinz Dresselhaus, who are the partners in a scrap dealership, Dresselhaus Scrap CC, that had an exclusive contract to buy all Telecom Namibia's scrap copper.
The three men are on trial on 30 charges of corruption, fraud and theft, to which they have all pleaded not guilty.
It is alleged that they and Ganes had been partners in a fraudulent scheme in which Telecom Namibia's sale of scrap copper to Dresselhaus Scrap was manipulated with the aim of allowing Dresselhaus Scrap to pay lower prices than agreed for the scrap metal, while the four alleged participants in the scheme then shared in the profits that the scrap dealer reaped in this process.
Ganes has served a two-year prison sentence that he received in the High Court in June 2005 after pleading guilty to 13 counts of fraud in connection with the scrap copper sales deal. He is now testifying as a State witness in the trial of his alleged former co-conspirators. When he started working at Telecom Namibia as the company's Manager: Procurement in April 1995, he found a procurement department that was in disarray, Ganes confirmed in his testimony yesterday. Ganes set about getting the department in order, created a procurement policy that included an emphasis on business ethics and high moral standards - and then he slipped into corruption himself, dragging the department with him, the court heard.
It seems that instead of correcting the disarray, Ganes was actually the architect of the complete corruption of the department, senior counsel Willie Vermeulen, who is representing Dresselhaus and Weakley in the trial, told Ganes at one point in his testimony.
Ganes initially replied that he did not agree, as there were also positive developments during his tenure as Procurement Manager, such as the creation of Telecom's procurement policy. Vermeulen continued to pressure Ganes on this issue, though, eventually telling him: "You were the chief architect of the complete corruption of your department." Ganes answered that he accepted that. "Because you were completely corrupt," Vermeulen added. "I accept it," Ganes answered again.
Ganes admitted that having started off at Telecom Namibia holding the moral high ground, the way that the company's top management failed to act on claims about a corrupt tender allocation that he had brought to their attention represented a turning point in his career at the company.
"I took the approach that if you can't beat them, you have to join them," Ganes said. "So you started taking bribes yourself?" Vermeulen asked. "Yes, my Lord," Ganes answered.
Ganes said he started receiving "commissions" from a number of suppliers doing business with Telecom Namibia in the second year of his employment with the company.
In return, he would support these companies in their business with Telecom Namibia, for instance making recommendations in their favour to the company's tender committee, of which he was a member.
Once the suppliers in whose pay he was had started paying him, they could not stop, Ganes testified.
"It becomes an addiction," he said. In fact, though, he had kept on squeezing these companies for more money, Ganes acknowledged when Vermeulen pressed him on that score as well.
He admitted that he received bribes totalling N$1,2 million from three companies, Energy Procurement Services, Rousant International and Aquick International, between July 15 1996 and November 6 2000.
From another company, Global Telecom, he received about N$742 000, and from another, TEMSA, he pocketed about N$446 000, Ganes admitted further. Except for these payments, for which a paper trail could be found, he also received further payments in cash, Ganes said. He insisted that he could not remember how much in total he had received by way of bribes while he was working for Telecom Namibia.
In the indictment against Dresselhaus, Weakley and Camm, it is alleged that Dresselhaus and Weakley had made cheque payments totalling N$315 550,90 to Ganes between October 1998 and December 2000.
It is also alleged that Dresselhaus, Weakley, Camm and Ganes had shared in "commissions" totalling N$984 698,60 from the scrap copper sales arrangement with Telecom Namibia. In a plea explanation handed to the court at the start of the trial, Weakley admitted having made payments totalling N$356 550,90 to Ganes from October 1998 to December 2000.
Some of these payments were made with personal cheques of Weakley, while some were made with cheques of Dresselhaus Scrap, Weakley has admitted, while stopping short of giving an explanation of the purpose of these payments.
Ganes told Judge Parker on Wednesday that these payments were part of his share of proceeds from the scrap copper sales arrangement with Telecom Namibia that he said he, Camm, Weakley and Dresselhaus had worked out. He also received further payments in cash, and estimates that in total he received around N$700 000 from that scheme, Ganes said.
According to Ganes, he spent the bribes he had received on cars, properties and on himself.
About US$500 000 was also channelled into an overseas bank account in Guernsey, but with his estate having been sequestrated in South Africa, all his assets have been taken away and Telecom Namibia has recovered all its losses, Ganes claimed.