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Calls for Namcor board, Mulunga to be fired

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member of parliament Nico Smit has called for the dismissal of the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) board members, as well as the company’s suspended managing director (MD) Immanuel Mulunga.

Smit accused the board members of acting unprofessionally and in bad faith and failing to uphold the principles of duty of care and prudence after it came to light that Mulunga authorised a payment of N$100 million for an oil block in Angola.

This makes them qualified candidates for dismissal, he said.

The parliamentarian also wants Mulunga sacked because he allegedly contravened his employment contract.

Smit said this yesterday while commenting on an Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) summary of investigation and findings released on Monday.

The ACC on Monday cleared Mulunga of charges of criminal intent when he authorised the payment.

The anti-graft agency went a step further and said Mulunga had acted in the best interest of the state-owned enterprise and the country.

Mulunga was suspended in April for allegedly leaking information to the media and filing court papers that defended the national oil company’s finance executive, Jennifer Hamukwaya.

He was also suspended for an unauthorised payment of N$100 million for an oil block in Angola.

According to the summary of investigation and findings, ACC director general Paulus Noa said there is no evidence to prove criminal intent against Mulunga.

“The MD was not given approval by the board (of directors) when he authorised the transfer of the money to Sungara Energies Ltd. He, however, did so in the interest of Namcor and the country, after the board was consulted and kept on deferring the discussions and decision on the matter,” Noa said.

The payment was a matter in which Mulunga had to make a decision to safeguard the contract and avoid financial loss to Namcor and the country.

Noa said during the ACC’s investigations, Namcor board chairperson Jennifer Comalie indicated in her own assessment that Mulunga’s action was a breach of delegation of authority.

He said Comalie highlighted that Mulunga did not act with criminal or malicious intent, and she also confirmed that the total deposit paid by Namcor was paid to Sonangol, and the minister of mines and energy was informed about the development of the oil block deal.

Smit said it is deeply concerning that the ACC finds nothing wrong with the unapproved transfer of U$6,7 million (N$118 million) to Sungara Energies, a London-based company which Namcor, Petrolog Energies and Sequa Petroleum UK jointly own.

The parliamentarian said public enterprises like Namcor play a decisive role in the Namibian economy.

He said the public sector in Namibia suffers from corruption, insufficient accountability and integrity, and Namcor is one such example.

“I, therefore, urge the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises to take immediate action against the entire Namcor board and for the board to dismiss the MD for this serious transgression against his employment contract,” he said.

Asked what immediate action he wants the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises should take, Smit responded “fire the board”.

He said the ACC should have castigated the board for putting the transaction in jeopardy due to their failure to take a timeous decision, one way or the other, and also for the obviously trumped-up witch-hunt against the MD.

“The board should have been dismissed for acting unprofessionally, in bad faith, and not ensuring that Namcor’s policies are up to a standard where important provisions such as special leave are made,” he said.

According to Smit, the board should have been required to explain how it sanctioned such an obviously high-risk transaction, where Namcor stood to lose a large amount of money if it did not step into the breach for the other partners.

He said the ACC summary of investigation and findings gives leeway to other high-ranking officials at public enterprises to perform international high-level transactions without the approval of the board of directors.

“This is a dangerous predicament [sic] from an anti-graft body entrusted to curb corruption in Namibia,” he said.

Noa alleged that deputy Namcor board chairperson Tim Ekandjo also confirmed that the board approved the initial US$10 million (N$177 million) equity contribution to Sonangol through Sungara.

According to Noa, Ekandjo said Mulunga approached the Namcor board to approve the additional US$6,7 million (N$118m) to carry the other partners in the joint venture in August 2022.

“The board declined to discuss the matter on a round robin platform and eventually convened meetings after the due date set for a full deposit payment to Sonangol,” Noa said.

Mulunga had already instructed the finance and administration executive to pay the additional money to Sungara Energies Ltd, while waiting for the board’s approval, Noa said.

Despite several meetings, the board could not approve the additional payment. The board was equally not in a legal position to demand the money back from Sonangol, because Namcor deals with the joint venture, but not with Sonangol, he said.

“The deputy chairperson also expressed his opinion that the MD acted in the interest of Namcor because he made efforts to seek board approval for the extra payment and demonstrated its importance in terms of saving the deal, and how the failure to pay could damage Namcor’s reputation and that of Namibia, had Sungara breached the contract.

Mulunga told The Namibian yesterday the report by ACC is “balanced and truthful”.

“It’s a very lucrative transaction for Namcor and the country, and it’s good that it’s still alive and moving towards completion.”

Namcor chairperson Comalie and finance and public enterprises minister Iipumbu Shiimi did not respond to text messages sent to them yesterday.

Alweendo, however, said: “The relevant minister to inquire from is that of public enterprises”.

Landless People’s Movement youth leader Duminga Ndala said her party believes that the ACC document is inconclusive and empty. She added that the ACC has not addressed Mulunga’s shortcomings in terms of adhering to good corporate governance and company policies. “As expected, the ACC seems to be compromised in addressing corruption, especially when it involves those who are politically connected,” she said.

Ndala added that if both Mulunga and the board disregard the principles of good governance, there is a need for them to be sacked.

“What is important to us is to avoid state-owned enterprises becoming playgrounds for money siphoning and self-enrichment. Thus, it is crucial that the minister implements mechanisms to avoid power tussles and discontentment [sic] between the board and management,” she said.

Finance deputy minister Maureen Hinda-Mbuende said the report in the ACC document is good, because Namcor’s name has been cleared. She added that the document is positive and helpful, because, according to her, although there was transgression on Mulunga’s part, it was justifiable.

“I think they need to put up mechanisms on how to deal with urgency … it was a catch-22 situation, but we are happy with the outcome,” Hinda-Mbuende said.