NCCI dirty linen hangs in public … as Walvis Bay fights to retain control over source of income

14 Aug 2018 14:40pm

Serious allegations of mismanagement within the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) have landed in the public domain after the Walvis Bay Branch led by Johnny Doeseb cried out for help to the finance minister and the Anti-Corruption Commission to launch some investigations.  

A leaked document seen by The Villager and dated 10 August 2018 exposes allegations of financial and operational mismanagement, disruptive changes related to certificates of origin (COO), general maladministration as well as alienation of members and branches.

Doeseb and his leadership at Walvis Bay have descried that the institution has been riddled by a lack of transparency with regards to how funds i.e. grants from government and membership fees, are disbursed.

He alleges that over the past two years, efforts by the management and council have intensified to centralise all financial transactions and reserve these for their sole and exclusive use.

 They have also slammed both for failing to critically run the institution while they make major decisions in closed door meetings to the exclusion of members and branches across country.

“We have noted with concern that no operational support of any form is provided to the branches. This is despite the fact that resources are collected by the Head Office from national members, the government of the Republic of Namibia, the business community and the public at large leading to a reasonable expectation that these would benefit the entire country.”

“Public funds have been and are collected and spent by NCCI Head Office without providing any support to branches, while statutory tax obligations are ignored and mismanaged,” reads the letter.

Doeseb himself confirmed the authenticity of the document when called by this publication.

NCCI has been accused of owing the receiver of revenue more than N$1 million in Pay As You Earn (PAYE), more than N$370 000 in penalties on PAYE and about N$1 million in interest on PAYE.

Also, the institution is said to owe government about N$910 000 in Value Added Tax (VAT) with about N$449 000 penalties on PAYE, and about N$521 000 in interest on PAYE.

Schlettwein has been told that the annual statements for the year ended December 2015 to date have been tabled at several general meetings without approval due to several errors and omissions.

 NCCI has also been accused of failing to account for an allegation of fraud dating back to 2012 while no forensic audit report was ever presented to members or feedback given on measures taken to recover public funds.

The chamber’s former Chief Executive Officer, Taarah Shaanika has also been dragged in the mud in connection with some loans taken from the Walvis Bay branch said to have not been honored.

“NCCI Head Office has consistently failed to honour and disclose a loan of N$500 000 taken from the Walvis Bay branch with N$200 000 in July 2014 and N$300 000 in July 2015, repayable in full by December 2015,” reads the letter.

Shaanika is accused of claiming that the loan was repaid in full when, as the allegation stands, it was not.  

“We even noted with great concern that the auditors at one point requested us to provide supporting documentation, because the existence and validity of the loan was disputed.”

“Despite disclosing supporting documentation and following up with the NCCI and President, no substantial feedback has been received and we have not been engaged on this matter,” says Doeseb and team.

They allege that the branches are being forced to bail out the NCCI Head Office instead of the opposite as per their constitution.

“To make matters worse, the latest incident occurred in December 2017 when the NCCI president unsuccessfully tried to fraudulently transfer N$1 500 000 from the Walvis Bay branch to NCCI Head Office. Fortunately, our bankers, based on good corporate governance, stood firm against the fraudulent attempt,” they have said.

They further allege that without any contact or communication with their branch, the NCCI management set up a satellite office in a cargo container on the Hangana Fishing premises.

This was done without considering the conflict of interest this would create, “based on the fact that Hangana is an exporter of fish and makes use of export service providers”.

Hangana Fishing is said to be part of a group of companies owned by the NCCI president.

They have requested urgent intervention from Schlettwein as well as trade minister Tjekero Tweya and the ACC so that the issuing of COO be continued as has been the case for the past years from their branch office.

“As a branch, we will engage the ACC and seek all possible legal recourse on behalf of our membership on the matters raised herein, which have a disastrous effect on the business community of the Republic of Namibia,” said Doeseb and crew.

The finance ministry has in the meantime not confirmed receipt of the letter while Schlettwein’s assistant, Esau Mbako remarked that he is not the right minister to deal with this but Tweya.

“This is about trade activities and not finance, we deal with banks. I don’t know, I need to look at the correspondences and I don’t think that my minister would have seen that because of (the) SADC (summit),” said Mbako.

Noa confirmed not receiving the letter as well, saying, “Maybe if it was received and I was busy in the regions then it was not brought to my attention.”

However, Shaanika, the former NCCI boss said the main course of commotion is that the Walvis Branch has been irked by the NCCI Head Office which intends to take over the collection and administration of the certificate of origins income.

“The branch is basically finding ways of refusing to release that function,” he countered saying this is the major source of income for the NCCI.

“And we are saying that they cannot claim that they should be the only ones administering that income, it must be shared by other branches,” he said.

 Concerning the loans, Shaanika said they were meant to meet the financial obligations of the organisation as a whole and not just Head Office and they came about because of a “gentlemen agreement”.

On taxes owed government by the NCCI he said Doeseb and crew are misrepresenting facts saying for a long time the NCCI had not been owing the ministry of finance.

“Then last year we were told that the chamber owed some money dating back from 1996. That was the time when I was not there when the money accrued a lot of interest and we went to the ministry to see how we can resolve it.”

“By the time I left, the board was making arrangements to engage the ministry and see how that can be resolved. Between 1996 and when I took over there were two CEOs and that matter was being dealt with. I cannot tell you how it was dealt with,” he said.