01 Sep 2016 09:20am
OTJIWARONGO, 01 SEP (NAMPA) - The 15 health officials linked to fraud involving N.dollars 8.2 million at the Ministry of Health and Social Services in the Otjozondjupa Region, appeared in the Otjiwarongo Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The suspects are Lucresia Matsuis, Namboa Jenneveva, Dr Esther Namwandi, Andrew Neidel, Frieda Fillemon, Engine Sawas, Josephine Lifumbela, Berreldine Narib, Christine Ndeutapo, Laurentia Narubes, Temos Mutewa, Sana Dauses, Magdalena Horases, Victoria Hases and Selma Hindulua.
The suspects include nurses, cleaners, ambulance drivers, accountants and a State dentist. They are aged between 41 and 59.
They were all arrested Wednesday morning after the polices serious crime unit completed intensive investigations in a fraud case that was opened in May 2014 by the office of the Otjozondjupa regional health director.
They appeared before Otjiwarongo Magistrate, Helvi Shilemba, who explained their legal right to engage a lawyer of their own choice; apply for State funded lawyer through the Ministry of Justices Legal Aid Directorate or defend themselves in court.
Thirteen of the accused indicated that they will engage their own private lawyers, while two opted to apply for State funded lawyers.
Public Prosecutor Johannes Nunuheb strongly opposed the granting of bail to the suspects, saying they might interfere with police investigations.
Nunuheb added it will not be in the interest of the public if the suspects are released. He noted that the suspects might abscond attending court due to the seriousness of the case they are faced with.
Bail was as a result denied to the suspects and their case was postponed to 13 October 2016 to give them time to acquire legal representation and for further police investigations.
For those suspects who wish to be released on bail before 13 October,
The court advised the suspects to submit formal bail applications if they wish to be released from custody before the next court date.
They are being held at the Okakarara Police Holding cells.
According to acting Otjozondjupa Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner Gerhard Uataurua Mavenjono, most of the suspects are long-serving staff members of the Ministry of Health and Social Services in the Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo and Okahandja health districts.
It is alleged the suspects on numerous occasions submitted false travel and overtime claims for trips they never took.
These claims were processed successfully and money paid into their bank accounts.
Preliminary police investigations indicate that some suspects deposited money into the bank accounts of the two accountants based at the regional office at Otjiwarongo.
The syndicate is suspected to have operated between June 2006 and January 2014.
In February 2014, the two accountants were relocated from their offices at the Otjozondjupa health regional office to the Otjiwarongo District Hospital, where they are temporarily operating from.
The relocation was meant to allow for investigations into the fraud suspicions.