Defence grilled over unapproved weapons purchase

01 December 2021 | Ministries

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

The defence ministry has bought, without Treasury approval, weapons worth N$5 million from its own ammunition manufacturing company, Ndilimani Pyrotechnics Industries (NPI), which has since been deregistered.

Before its deregistration, the company had been served by the same board of directors as August 26 Holdings.

During a public hearing yesterday, the ministry’s executive director Wilhelmine Shivute could not confirm nor deny whether this company has ties with the North Korean arms and ammunition factory built in Namibia a few years ago.

Members of Parliament on the Public Standing Committee asked Shivute why it appears as if she is in the dark about the company’s operations, while she, in fact, worked for the ministry for years before her promotion to executive director.

She responded that she did not have the financial documents with her because she did not expect this line of questioning in the hearing.

“I cannot speak with confidence when I don’t have an audited financial document. At the moment, we still have NPI as part of the budget. Money was appropriated by finance and if it is needed, we can give the budget, which is stated in the budget book,” she said.

She added that the company will, however, remain a project of the ministry until it can be sold to outside clients.

According to her, NPI is wholly owned by government, with a certain individual assigned as proxy.

“I cannot answer why the Business and Intellectual Property Authority registered two companies with the same name, but this company was under the ministry, which is now deregistered. It is producing classified equipment that we bought from them, but it also belongs to us. The money that was used, the N$5 million, was actually appropriated in the name of that company by the finance minister so there was no reason for us to ask for approval. “At the moment, I do not have any audited statement of the company. I cannot tell you if the company was making a profit or not,” she said.

‘Nothing wrong’

Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Movement’s (PDM) Pieter Mostert wanted to know why the ministry saw the need to establish a new arms company when August 26 Holdings - which the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) uses for most of its enterprises, including Machinenfabrik -produces similar equipment.

According to Shivute, there is nothing wrong if they see the need to establish a new company which provides the function the existing structure does not provide.

Furthermore, the defence ministry failed to explain how an amount of N$278 720 was paid into a bank account in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for spousal allowance while there was no defence attaché in that country at the time.

This follows revelations last month that the ministry forked out N$250 000 for a defence attaché, while none was appointed to the mission at the time.

Shivute told the parliamentary committee that she cannot explain how this took place, however, some of this money is believed to gone towards rent and transport fees.

According to her, the mission remains obliged to pay the rent for the official residence usually occupied by the defence attaché, the vehicles and insurance they use as well as the driver of such an official.

Technicalities

Shivute also vehemently denied that the ministry has withdrawn the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) staff’s access to military equipment and operational military bases, saying they simply followed the Defence Act.

“The OAG was denied access on the grounds that they are not authorised to perform an investigation, examination and audit into the military capabilities and readiness of NDF.

“The OAG is,” however, “authorised to access military equipment and assets for the purpose of conducting an investigation in relation to an account, account book, register or statement of the ministry,” she clarified.

The ministry has failed to follow up on its promise to investigate these payments, claiming that the Covid-19 pandemic has made it impossible.

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