Deafening silence on Fishcor audits

Namibian Sun has been sent from pillar to post in its search for the role auditors might have played in the looting of the SOE's money.

08 May 2020 | Crime

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



Stier Vente Associates, external auditors for beleaguered state fishing company Fishcor, yesterday said they would not divulge information related to their client's financials, as questions trickle in about how the alleged grand thievery at the company went undetected for years.

Over N$75 million left Fishcor's coffers between August 2014 and December 2019 to entities linked to the so-called Fishrot Six, who are currently behind bars over the fishing quota bribery scandal.

The Fishcor board, whose term ended in March but remain in charge at the company, continues to deny complicity in the matter, or any knowledge of what was going on. Acting board chairperson Bennet Kangumu yesterday said “you are disturbing me” when Namibian Sun attempted to ask him whether external audits occurred at the company and how they missed the alleged looting.



Confidentiality

“We cannot tell you anything, we are not allowed to give information to any person. You must get hold of one of the board members, they can give you more information,” the auditing firm's partner, Bernard Vente, said.

Auditor-general Junius Kandjeke said his office has no mandate to audit Fishcor. “Our mandate is specific,” he said when asked if his office had been tasked to go over Fishcor's books in the past. According to him, a clear distinction was made about who the auditor-general audits, depending on whether the public entity was established in terms of the Companies Act or an Act of Parliament.





“The audit is based on the establishing law. Some institutions will appoint auditors with our consent.”



In Jooste's hands

Fishcor was recently placed firmly in the hands of public enterprises minister, Leon Jooste.

The minister is now investigating the complicity of the outgoing Fishcor board over the scandal that has already landed two ex-ministers, the entity's suspended CEO and its former board chairperson behind bars.

Fisheries minister Albert Kawana confirmed this week that new Fishcor board candidates had been interviewed and shortlisted. The final decision would be left to Cabinet.

Under the Public Enterprises Governance Act, which came into operation on 16 December 2019, commercial public enterprises such as Fishcor, Air Namibia, Meatco and the Namibia Airports Company now fall under Jooste's responsibility.







Fishrot



Former fisheries and justice ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhardt Esau, who resigned last year amid the Fishrot scandal, stand accused of using Fishcor, with the help of its former board chairperson James Hatuikulipi and suspended CEO Mike Nghipunya, to enrich themselves through bribes paid by Icelandic seafood company Samherji for access to Namibia's fishing quota gold mine.



The former ministers, Hatuikulipi, Esau's son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and a sixth accused, Pius Mwatelulo, appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on a total of four charges in February.



Esau, Nghipunya, Shanghala and James are being charged with corruptly using an office or position in a public body to obtain gratification, while Tamson and Mwatelulo are charged with conspiring to corruptly use an office or position to obtain gratification.



According the charges read out to the six men, the state is alleging that Esau used his former position as fisheries minister, Shanghala used his position as attorney general and later minister of justice, James used his position as Fishcor board chairperson and Nghipunya used his post as CEO of Fishcor between August 2014 and December 2019 to obtain N$75,6 million, paid to them or entities of their choice.



The money is alleged to have been paid through the company Celax Investment Number One via the law firm De Klerk, Horn & Coetzee Incorporated.







Fraud, money laundering



In the fraud charge, the State is alleging that the six men defrauded the government and Fishcor from August 2014 to December 2019 by channelling payments totalling N$75.6 million to themselves or entities of their choice.



All six are also charged with money laundering.

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