An anti-poaching intelligence unit has denied misappropriating about N$2 million in donor funds meant to assist the non-profit organisation to combat wildlife crime in the country.
The Intelligence Support Against Poaching (ISAP) has been accused by a whistleblower of having been involved in massive irregularities and misappropriation of donor funds, which the organisation received in 2019 towards anti-poaching efforts.
ISAP works closely with Namibian authorities, including the environment ministry, the police, the farming sector, private reserves and various conservancies by, among others, creating awareness and utilising technology and gathering intelligence information to combat poaching around the country.
The whistleblower alleged ISAP received public donations of N$2.06 million during 2019, while management paid salaries totalling N$1.4 million to two individuals, while anti-poaching expenses were less than N$90 000.
"The rest goes to the maintenance of the aeroplane that has been more of a liability than an asset.
They have not been audited in three years, for good reason. How do you justify spending 90% of the donations on salaries and unnecessary expenses? Other than planting camelthorn trees and having birding weekends they have not done any anti-poaching activities, largely on the pretext of 'it is confidential information'," the whistleblower, who refused to be named, claimed. Another allegation is that ISAP received a N$350 000 donation from a private donor from Switzerland to help it start a drone project.
ISAP allegedly then bought two DJI drones and used the rest of the money for other expenses. "There is a long way to go in dealing with them and other NGOs who make money on the pretext of anti-poaching and saving wildlife," the source claimed further. Upon enquiry, ISAP CEO Fritz Kaufmann admitted they received N$2.06 million in public donations in 2019.
According to Kaufmann, the donations received were for the construction of the ISAP facility in the Otjozondjupa region. He explained donors who funded the construction endorsed the objective to have a facility for educational training and environmental awareness purposes.
"The facility is being constructed in stages and the first two have been completed as per the donors' requests. The facility is operating and is open to be visited at any time," Kaufmann added. On the alleged N$1.4 million paid in the form of salaries to two officials, he said, the expenses included staff costs for the financial year, which went towards the remuneration for the construction project manager. He added, the other expenses, were incurred for the ISAP head of operations who was responsible for all projects, fundraising, coordination, and planning of anti-poaching activities, including liaison with the authorities and reporting to donors. Regarding anti-poaching expenses of less than N$90 000, Kaufmann said the allegation fails to recognise ISAP as an organisation involved in activities that go beyond surveillance (aerial and general information surveillance). "Some of these costs such as rent, telephones, printing, insurance, courier and postage, internet and accounting fees cannot be directly linked to a specific anti-poaching activity but must be incurred for the organisation to function. ISAP is like any other organisation in this respect," he defended. He said the aeroplane is maintained at an average annual cost of approximately N$150 000, adding the plane has been instrumental in various wildlife searches during the period since it was donated to ISAP. Besides, he said, the plane has also been used in collaborative anti-poaching activities that are jointly done with the Namibian police. "The plane is an asset that has already proven it is worth and will continue to do so. Without the plane, no long-distance aerial surveillance activities would be possible which would severely hamper anti-poaching activities in the vast Namibian veld." On the drones, he defended such equipment were acquired and have been used in close range wildlife searches and short distance aerial surveillance. They have also been put at the disposal of the authorities for their surveillance purposes. On the issue of pending audited reports, Kaufmann said financial reporting for the respective periods has been concluded and the external audit arrangements are in progress. "Audited financial results will be made available once the audit assignments are completed," he said. Contacted for comment, environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda yesterday denied any link with ISAP. "We have nothing to do with ISAP. They must be accountable in terms of governing laws especially when you are an NGO. We are not in any way linked to them or have an operational contract with them," Muyunda stated.