Disgruntled NovaNam workers demonstrate

19 Sep 2013 08:00
LÜDERITZ, 19 SEP (NAMPA) – Six former NovaNam Fishing Company employees are so far thought to have fallen prey to the pension scam at the company, which allegedly involves more than N.dollars 200 000.
Some of the victims are amongst the 321 employees who were sacked from their jobs after accusations that they had stolen fish from the company during June 2012.
The scam came to light two weeks ago when former NovaNam workers Jairus Ivula, Charlene Cloete and Ndahafa Kashidulika discovered that their pension money invested with the Old Mutual Pension Fund had already been withdrawn when they tried to claim it.
They promptly alerted the police.
Speaking to Nampa during a peaceful demonstration by the NovaNam employees here on Wednesday, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Nafau) branch organiser at Lüderitz Jacob Penda said six people have confirmed that their money had been paid into unknown accounts without their consent.
He said the six victims lost payouts totalling more than N.dollars 200 000.
Penda said 18 forged claim forms were also stopped by Old Mutual last week after NovaNam management instructed the company to do so for the safety of the employees’ money, and for a forensic audit to be conducted into the scam.
NovaNam Human Resources’ Manager David Pokolo is thought to be at the centre of the scam.
He has been suspended from his job to allow smooth investigations into the matter.
This news agency has seen copies of a claim form for retirement funds to be withdrawn from the NovaNam Group Retirement Fund in Ivula’s name.
Ivula’s alleged claim form, which he himself said he had no knowledge of, appears to contain the details of Pokolo’s personal assistant Nicolene Nel in a section of the form to be completed by the withdrawing member of the fund.
What seems to be a forged signature appears where Ivula was supposed to sign, while another signature – that of Aron Iipinge, an Internal Relations’ Manager at NovaNam - also appears on the same claim form.
Iipinge confirmed to members of the media present at the demonstration that the signature on the claim form is his, but declined to answer further questions as to how it ended up on the form.
This news agency understands that other details provided on the claim form do not belong to Ivula, but were just used to make the form appear legit.
During Wednesday’s demonstration, about 800 employees demanded that Nel and Iipinge also be sacked as they are allegedly also part of the scam.
“They are rich now. They started their own businesses with our money, while we are still suffering,” one woman charged.
The employees also demanded that the company must give them assurances that their pension money is safe, and want Old Mutual to provide them with ‘correct’ statements so that they could have some form of assurance that their money is still safe.
They wanted to know how it is possible that Pokolo, Nel, Iipinge, Standard Bank (where the account is held where the money was deposited) and Old Mutual can complete, sign and authorise claim forms with clear irregularities.
Amongst other things, on Ivula’s form, the postal address differs on the two places where it was used, while the date which the form was purportedly completed and the date on which the bank received the form did not correspond at all.
The employees’ biggest concern now is how much money was lost, how many people had fallen prey to the scam, and whether the victims will get their money back.
In a petition read by group spokesperson Nelago Stephanus, the employees demanded answers from NovaNam and Old Mutual within six days from Thursday.
NovaNam Production Manger Manu Namukomba received the petition, and gave his assurance that he will forward it to the company’s senior staff.
Namukomba was asked about the progress of the forensic audit, but declined to comment.
“My duty today is to receive the petition. I can, therefore, not answer any questions at this stage as the matter is under investigation,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Namibia Financial Institutions’ Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) has also launched a probe into the scam.