Namibia: Tug of War Over N$95m

Tjekero Tweya and Frans Kwala

THE board of the new state-owned Namibia Industrial Development Agency (Nida) wants the soon-to-be-closed Offshore Development Company (ODC) and the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) to transfer millions of dollars to them.

People familiar with the matter told The Namibian that the ODC had N$95 million in their bank account in the 2017/18 financial year. It was not immediately clear, however, how much the NDC has.

ODC officials are said to be reluctant to pass on the money because of governance issues

The Namibian understands that some officials at the two institutions are worried that the Nida board is breaking governance rules by being directly involved in operations and financial transactions of the two parastatals.

The sources also said the demands by the Nida board has triggered panic and uncertainty at the ODC and NDC over jobs and salary payments by the end of this month due to a dispute on who has bank signing powers.

Cabinet approved the formation of Nida in 2015 to replace the fraud-tainted state-owned firms ODC and NDC that run developmental projects across the country.

The two entities have a history of dubious transactions. The ODC lost N$100 million through questionable investments in the past, while the NDC failed to explain how it manages 80 of its properties across the country, which include farms and buildings.

Trade minister Tjekero Tweya appointed Nida’s board in August last year, which includes Frans Kwala, Marcelina !Gaoses, Diana van Schalkwyk, Anita /Naris, Job Muniaro, Hans Jochelson and Uparura Kuvare.

The Nida board has, in recent months, pulled strings to kick-start the new parastatal, but that came with allegations that they want to control millions of dollars without having the capacity.

The Namibian understands that Nida, the ODC and ministerial officials met yesterday to discuss, among others, the transfer of money from the ODC and NDC.

Nida chairperson Kwala wrote a letter to acting permanent secretary at the industrialisation ministry, Bernadette Menyah-Artivor, on 14 December 2018 about the transfer of all investments from the two entities.

“The board resolved to take over all funds under the ODC and NDC (whether government funds or not), which must be transferred to [the] Nida account,” Kwala said.

He continued: “Any government funds being held will be transferred to the government when and if so required”.

The Namibian understands that NDC employs more than 200 people, while the ODC employs around 22, and had N$95 million in the 2017/18 financial year, a person familiar with this matter said.

It’s unclear if the N$95 million is still there, but sources said the amount could be heading to the Nida secretariat, which mainly consists of part-time board members who are playing both the roles of footballers and the referee.

Indications so far show that ODC officials are concerned that passing on the millions to Nida now could be risky and a governance problem. This, to some on the Nida board, is seen as undermining and being rebellious towards the board.

Kwala explained in his letter that legally, the ODC does not exist anymore.

“All correspondence directed to the ODC must be addressed to the Nida chair, who will give instructions to both NDC and the ODC,” he stated.

Trade minister Tweya was copied in the email.

Kwala and the minister were unreachable for comment yesterday.

The ODC and NDC have a lot of properties under their name. The ODC owns business parks or warehouses at Katima Mulilo, Katwitwi, Oshikango, and is now also building the Omahenene Business Park in northern Namibia.

The Namibian understands that some board members are unhappy that several officials from the ODC are sabotaging the creation of the new parastatal by delaying decisions by the board.

The claims of sabotage are backed up by recent fears among managers at the ODC that they might not pay workers this month. A memo sent out to ODC officials last week reinforced the talk about the panic.

“I am just concerned how salaries will be paid end of January 2019 since Philip [Namundjebo] will only be back on 21 January 2019,” read the email sent from an ODC official to Namundjebo on 10 January 2018.

Namundjebo, who is the ODC’s acting chief executive, told The Namibian yesterday that he is back at work, but he is not authorised to speak to the media.

A source said the salary issue had been resolved – at least for now.

There is evidence that the trade ministry and their clique wanted to dip into NDC’s funds last year.

The Namibian reported last year on how the broke government wanted to buy a N$117 million property in Angola from businessman Titus Nakuumba without the finance ministry’s blessings.

Documents showed that the government, through the trade ministry and the soon-to-be-disbanded NDC have been in talks with Nakuumba’s company, Afrikuumba, to buy the property in Luanda.

According to the documents, the property in the Polo Industrial area of Viana consists of a plot measuring 14 000 square metres, and mini buildings on 20 000 square metres.

The government said it wants to create a business park consisting of offices, workshops, housing units and warehouses.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein, however, stepped in and ordered the trade and industrialisation ministry to abandon the N$117 million property deal in Angola.

Schlettwein issued a statement, saying the purchase of Luanda real estate from Namibian property developer Titus Nakuumba has not been approved by treasury, and should, therefore, be abandoned.

People familiar with president Hage Geingob’s thinking said the head of state agreed with Schlettwein to cancel the Luanda land deal.