7 February 2019

Namibia: Industrial Agency Takes Over ODC Millions

Industrialisation ministry acting executive director Bernadette Menyah-Artivor rejected calls by other state officials to transfer assets and investments worth N$120 million from the abolished state-owned Offshore Development Company (ODC).

The government created the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (Nida) last year to replace the ODC and the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC).

Documents show that Menyah-Artivor was concerned about transferring assets and funds from the two defunct state agencies to the new parastatal.

Senior government officials were, however, divided on how to handle the money in the bank accounts of the abolished companies.

Menyah-Artivor had concerns about transferring the funds, but her political boss, industrialisation and trade minister Tjekero Tweya, directed the Nida board to ensure that the money in the bank of the abolished state agencies is transferred to the new parastatal.

Menyah-Artivor's rejection is included in her letter to Nida board chairperson Frans Kwala on 19 December 2018.

"Mr Kwala, I have taken note of your expressed board resolution to take over all funds under ODC and NDC, whether government funds or not," she said.

Menyah-Artivor reminded Kwala that some of the ODC and NDC funds could not be transferred without the permission of the finance ministry.

"Nevertheless, for the funds appropriated for projects and programmes of this ministry that are currently managed by ODC and NDC, treasury guidance and directives are being sought," she added.

Menyah-Artivor warned that the "taking over of [the] Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development-appropriated funds by Nida is subject to a treasury directive".

It is unclear whether the finance ministry approved the transfer, but some Nida bosses believe that this was not needed.

Menyah-Artivor declined to comment when approached yesterday.

Kwala wrote to Menyah-Artivor on 14 December 2018 about the transfer of all investments from the two entities.

"Any government funds being held will be transferred to the government when and if so required," he said.

Tweya said he is yet to be briefed about the matter since he only came back from holiday on Monday this week. He denied directing the board to transfer the funds to the new Nida bank accounts.

"Those are operational matters, but I only hope that procedures will be followed," he told The Namibian yesterday.

Kwala confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that the new industrial agency has taken over all the assets and accounts owned by ODC and NDC.

"Nida has taken over the accounts of (ODC and NDC). What that means is the signatories on those accounts changed. All obligations are being honoured," he reiterated.

Menyah-Artivor rejected instructions to transfer investments [including the N$120 million] from the ODC to Nida.

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.

This, to some on the Nida board, is seen as undermining and being rebellious towards the board.

The board appointed fellow board member Uparura Kuvare to manage the new parastatal, which is expected to take off by April this year.

The Namibian also understands that the board was leaning towards retrenching more than 200 people who worked at the ODC and NDC to employ a new workforce at Nida.

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

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

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

The two entities have a history of dubious transactions. The ODC lost N$100 million through questionable investments in the past.

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