Former chief executive officer for the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Tarah Shaanika has accused the chamber’s Walvis Bay branch of spreading lies to the minister of finance that it is being mismanaged, among other things.
A leaked letter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the finance minister calling for investigations into purported maladministration and allegations of the chamber owing millions of dollars in taxes to the receiver of revenue has attracted the sharp edge of Shaanika’s tongue.
He has lashed back at the branch’s leader, Johnny Doeseb and his team for bringing in-house issues such as the squabbles between the branch Executive Committee and Joshua Mbako to the attention of Schlettwein and the media.
The Walvis Bay branch has accused the NCCI of resorting to secret meetings to the exclusion of other branches, owing monies amounting to a total of N$4 498 435.12 to the government in taxes and failing to honor thousands of dollars of loans taken from them.
They also held the NCCI Head Office at gunpoint for failing to conduct investigations into an allegation of fraud unearthed from as far back as 2012.
Said Shaanika in a detailed response to The Villager on the accusations, “The Chamber has constitutional structures which they can use to address such issues. I have personally attended all National Council meetings since 2001 and even after I left the Chamber but there was never a National Council meeting which took place without the representation of the Walvis Bay Branch.”
“All decisions of the National Council were therefore taken with their full participation and inputs. It baffles me to hear them raising issues with the Ministers of Finance and of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development. I fail to understand the logic.”
He has come out to say if there are suspicions of corruption, they are free, like all Namibian citizens, to take them to the ACC and present evidence which they might have.
“If there are fraudulent activities becoming the norm, such must be addressed within the NCCI structure and criminal cases should be opened instead of just making vague statements,” said Shaanika.
On the issue of the chamber’s tax liability, he said this was always disclosed in audited financial records which were always tabled at National Council meetings for adoption.
“It is also something that came from a long time ago, actually from 1996. None of the current directors or the then CEO were aware of this long-standing debt until the Receiver came up with a liability figure.”
“But what is important is that following the 2016 AGM, specific steps were taken by the Board to resolve this. It is a task that was addressed with the active participation of branches, especially Walvis Bay at the National Council. There are no tax forms which have not been filed with the Receiver during my time,” he countered.”
Shaanika defended his tenure of office saying there was never a year in which books were unaudited or not presented to the National Council for adoption.
“There were, however a number of years when the Walvis Bay branch completely failed and in most cases refused to hand over their books to auditors for auditing purposes. The major cause of the friction between Head Office and the Walvis Branch was caused by the latter enforcing financial accountability on the former by handing books over for auditing.”
He, however said there were years when the audited financial statements of NCCI were qualified on the basis that auditors were refused access to financial records of the Walvis Bay branch.
“As CEO then, I addressed the National Council of 2015 on this matter and specifically named the branch in the presence of its representatives and the National Council took a resolution on this matter following my condemnation of the branch leadership behaviors. It is therefore ironic that the same branch is accusing others of lack of transparency and accountability,” he said.
He went on to slam Doeseb and his camp for keeping quiet and adopting audited financial reports at National Council meetings “but later write letters full of lies to the Minister of Finance, for what reason, I don't know”.
The letter to the minister of finance is irrelevant, Shaanika said and questioned why the branch side-stepped the chamber’s formal structures, or rather raise these issues at an upcoming meeting of the National Council.
Shaanika said he understands why he is being blamed.
“I was able to stand up and point out the wrongs they were doing. Some of them consider themselves to be "Kings" who should never be questioned. They still can’t stomach that I could stand up and tell them things had to be done correctly.”
“They will forever have grudges but I don't care about them for I stood up for fairness and justice within the organisation. NCCI and its branches cannot belong to individuals or be run like a private property. That's why I stood up then and since that time, they have always tried to tarnish my name and that of NCCI Head Office,” he said.
When contacted for a comment by The Villager, Walvis Bay branch’s Doeseb simply acknowledged that he and his colleagues had indeed penned the letter.
“When you are entrusted with public funds there are certain things that need to be done. That’s why we notified the minister. We are entrusted by our people who happen to be the business people and we need to be transparent in whatever dealings. We must account for every penny because it’s public funds,” he said.