Agribusdev sweats as Calle buys time

The minister had earlier listed poor management and a “restrictive” management model as parastatal’s biggest challenges.

09 July 2021 | Agriculture

MATHIAS HAUFIKU







WINDHOEK

A delay in the agriculture ministry’s plans to shut the cash-strapped Agrisbusdev due to alleged poor performance has left the company’s workers in the dark about their future.

Two months after Cabinet ordered the agriculture ministry to redirect its submission in which it sought approval to shut down Agribusdev to the Cabinet Committee on Treasury (CCT), this has yet to take place.

Several workers - who spoke to this newspaper in confidence - called on government to decide whether the company will be dissolved or not.

In May, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein made a 10-page submission to his colleagues in Cabinet outlining the reasons why the company tasked to manage the country’s green scheme projects should cease to exist – less than a decade after it was created.

He listed poor management of the operations, assets and finances of the green schemes as well as a “restrictive” management model as the biggest challenges.

The process to wind down the company has since stalled because the matter has yet to be taken to the CCT.

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste said “no further development has taken place”.

“Cabinet instructed the agriculture ministry to submit it to the CCT for discussion and this still has to take place,” he said.

It is understood the ministry is considering backtracking on its decision to pull the plug on the cash-strapped entity, hence the delay.

Restructure talks

A senior official in the ministry told Namibian Sun this week that “there are considerations to restructure the company instead of dissolving it”.

“There is a personal agenda to dissolve the company so that the projects can land in the hands of private people. There is no real reason to dissolve the company. The previous board is the main cause of the Agribusdev mess because the board was always dominated by officials from the ministry,” the official said.

Schlettwein did not respond to queries sent to him on the matter.

Acting Agribusdev managing director Berfine Antindi, who last month broke the news to employees about the plan to close the company, this week said “we are still waiting to hear from the ministry about the way forward”.

The previous board of directors, according to workers, have allegedly been taking decisions that resulted in the challenges faced by green scheme projects.

Several senior officials from the agriculture ministry, such as deputy executive director Sophia Kasheeta and Mildred Kambinda, served on the Agribusdev board. Kambinda is the agricultural production and engineering services director and reports directly to Kasheeta.

Agribusdev employees also allege that the ministry is reluctant to publicly release the forensic audit report conducted by Deloitte because it incriminates the ministry.

Damning findings

“They will never release that report because the findings are damning, especially over issues of poor financing and oversight provided by the board over the years,” an employee who spoke to this publication said.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila last month, Agribusdev workers accused the agriculture ministry of not being honest about the motive behind the decision to initiate the process to close the company.

“It will not suffice for one to conclude that the failure of the green schemes is entirely on the shoulders of Agribusdev management. One needs to interrogate the success of the green schemes in light of their existence before and after the formation of Agribusdev to get a clearer picture of what really transpired.

“So far, the agriculture ministry’s story and involvement as far as the green schemes are concerned is not told. It appears as if the ministry is a holy grail without sin; the prosecutor, jury and judge all in one,” an excerpt from the letter read.

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