19 September 2012

Namibia: Union Millions 'Unaccounted For'

ALL is not well in the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) family.

Some of the unions under the Swapo-affiliated umbrella body are being torn asunder by demands for financial accountability. The latest to come under fire from their members is the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) whose Rössing branch is demanding answers about the N$2,2 million a year it pays in membership fees to the mother body.

This demand comes short on the heels of last week's Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) congress where workers and their delegates claimed that they were not presented with proper financial statements of the union's business.

Napwu's membership is estimated at around 22 600.

With each member paying one per cent of their monthly earnings to the union, some members have estimated that the union earns around N$1,8 million a year in membership dues.

The union also owns a guesthouse in Suiderhof and a business entity called Effort Holding.

Disgruntled members of Napwu said general secretary Petrus Nevonga is single-handedly managing these two business ventures on behalf of the union.

"He is the sole decision-maker in the union; this is very disturbing," a member said.

Delegates who expressed their dissatisfaction at the way the Napwu congress was held charged that reports from the secretariat and on the finances of the union were made available on the last day of the controversial congress, leaving delegates with no time to study and question the documents.

Without divulging the details, some members yesterday claimed that the financial statements presented to them appeared to be "full of discrepancies".

Members of other trade unions affiliated to NUNW have also questioned how they benefit from various commercial investments by their unions.

They feel that they are kept in the dark about the investments made with their membership dues and they do not see how they benefit from these investments.

It is not only union members who have been crying foul about not being informed how their membership contributions are spent by their leaders.

Recently the Office of the Labour Commissioner threatened to deregister unions who are not submitting their financial statements to the office as required by the Labour Act.

The  Rössing branch of MUN, in a letter last week to union president John Ndeutepo, demanded that the union's financial statements be made available, saying that these have not been "published at all". Branch executive chairperson Ismael Kasuto wrote that a 2010 national congress decision was taken to publish the financial results. This decision was never honoured, he wrote.

Also, he wrote, they are concerned about a recently published legal notice stating that two MUN vehicles would be auctioned to honour an alleged debt.

"When will the national executive committee (NEC) take stock of the union investments and publish them for the workers' knowledge?" Kasuto asked.

The  Rössing branch bombshell demanding accountability is seen as a first step toward union members wanting to take charge of their organisation.

The move may unlock a chain reaction from others in the NUNW family as there has been simmering discontent among members over how union leaders have been conducting the business of the workers' organisations.

The  Rössing branch, apart from demanding for accountability from the president, also did not spare MUN general secretary Jonas Lumbu for allegedly taking out an investment policy at Old Mutual without following directives of the NEC.

Lumbu is also accused of unconstitutionally changing his reporting duties to the members from monthly to quarterly reports.

Also, Lumbu allegedly changed the signing rights of bank withdrawals to exclude the national treasurer, Paul Rooi, from signing.

Kasuto further demanded answers why Lumbu and Eben Zarondo, the assistant general secretary, still use union vehicles despite receiving car allowances from the union.

Ndeutepo yesterday charged that Kasuto's letter was confidential. But, he said, most of the concerns were the result of a lack of communication - regional leaders not communicating the message from head office to the members in their constituencies.

"He (Kasuto) is seeking clarity on decisions he may have heard about through the grapevine."

He said he was in the process of responding to Kasuto's letter. "Some of the information is not correct," he said.

Ndeutepo also said that he could not discuss the union's finances. "MUN financial statements are not public information. Only the members know what happens to their funds. It's not a secret."

Controversy also surrounds the business arm of the NUNW, Labour Investment Holdings (LIH), after a questionable purchase of Mobicash Payment Solutions (MobiPay) which reportedly has not earned any returns on an investment of N$8 million.

Earlier this year, LIH requested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate arbitrary transfers amounting to N$1 630 000 from a bank account of one of its subsidiary companies, Gazania 128.

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