22 July 2024 | 03:52 AM

Turbulence hits Namibia high-flyer

Key Takeaways

Namibia Airports Company chief Tamer el-Kallawi left his previous job at the Namibia Training Authority under a cloud after allegedly handing out an R800 000 contract without authorisation or going out to competitive tender.

A senior insider told amaBhungane that the deal was reversed and el-Kallawi’s contract was not renewed when it expired in December 2012.

This is one of several new allegations against the 43-year-old Egyptian, currently the airports company’s acting chief executive.

He is also alleged to have:

• Abused his office by taking a woman friend on a “freebie” trip to China and Mozambique intended for airports company employees; and

• Victimised and intimidated four employees of the airports company, who have filed labour court cases against him.

Labour commissioner Bro-Mathew Shiguandja confirmed that the cases have been lodged.

AmaBhungane recently reported that el-Kallawi is a suspect in the Namibian Anticorruption Commission’s investigations into irregularities surrounding the award of a R15-million CCTV tender for four airports in February this year.

A senior source said the R800 000 training authority contract, awarded for a bridging programme for pupils who have failed grades 10 and 12, was annulled before payment took place or work was done.

It was apparently signed while the chief executive, Maria Nangolo-Rukoro, was away from the office and without the knowledge or approval of the executive management committee.

El-Kallawi, then the training authority’s acting general manager of finance, administration and information technology, allegedly handpicked the company, Cell Direct CC.

The deal was reversed on Nangolo-Rukoro’s return.

It is understood that senior management asked PwC’s forensic unit to investigate and that after a preliminary report by the auditing firm, the board resolved not to renew el-Kallawi’s 18-month contract when it expired in December 2012.

He left before the final report was submitted.

Officials mum on investigation

PwC would not confirm the investigation, saying it could not speak without a client’s permission. Training authority spokesperson Mornay Louw would neither confirm nor deny the claims.

However, a prominent source said the auditors’ preliminary report had found that el-Kallawi entered into an agreement with Cell Direct without the knowledge of the chief executive or the executive committee.

The allegations were put to el-Kallawi in emailed questions two weeks ago. He did not respond.

Airports company spokesperson Dan Kamati said, if given enough time, his boss might reply to the questions. Human resources manager Toska Sem did not answer emails or calls.

AmaBhungane has established that two airports company fire officers, Jerome Mouton and Raymond Isaak, have filed labour cases against el-Kallawi, claiming they were made scapegoats after the International Civil Aviation Organisation downgraded Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport in July on the grounds that its fire security measures were inadequate.

The officers have been suspended and are undergoing a disciplinary process. They allege that management, including el-Kallawi, had failed to act on their repeated email warnings since November last year that the airport did not meet international standards.

Airport manager Leonard Shipuata could not confirm receiving the emails and referred questions to Kamati, who was out of the country.

Romantic link

AmaBhungane was also told that in 2012, el-Kallawi took a trip to China and Mozambique at the expense of China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group in the company of Irene Simeon-Kurtz, founder of Be Marketed Namibia. Simeon-Kurtz is alleged to be his girlfriend.

The Namibian reported that Anhui was chosen to build a new international airport on the site of Hosea Kutako.

AmaBhungane was shown pictures that appear to be of the couple arm-in-arm at a stadium in Mozambique and at a function in China. Simeon-Kurtz is alleged to have gone on a shopping spree funded by Anhui.

El-Kallawi did not answer queries about the allegations. However, his lawyers, Shikongo Law Chambers, sent a letter to the Namibian last week threatening a defamation suit if the newspaper published “further malicious articles” about him.

Simeon-Kurtz said that she had gone on the trip as an independent businessperson. “I have been on many trips, sponsored or not. Why is this one of particular interest? My business associations are private. I fail to understand why I am linked to the airports company team.”

She added that her association with el-Kallawi was a private matter and asked: “Should I report all my other acquaintances as well?”

The minister of works and transport, Erkki Nghimtina, said: “If it [the allegation] is true, it is very unfortunate, but I cannot do anything about it.

“It is out of my hands. The board should attend to him.”

Impressive qualifications

El-Kallawi is a highly qualified auditor and accountant registered with both the South African and Namibian chartered accounting institutes and with Namibia’s Public Accountants’ and Auditors’ Board.

He has a degree in commerce and business administration from Egypt’s Helwan University, a bachelor’s degree in accounting science from Unisa, a BCom from the University of Namibia and a diploma in education.

El-Kallawi’s father, Sami el-Kallawi, served as an Egyptian diplomat in Namibia. His son, who is understood to have come to Namibia under a bilateral agreement with the finance ministry, has both Egyptian and Namibian citizenship.

Most of his jobs in Namibia have been in the state or semi-state sectors. He has also worked as a finance manager for the Government Institutions Pension Fund and in the finance ministry.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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