MPs to grill asset-rich NIDA

It appears that millions were not accounted for and the committee wants to know why.

19 August 2019 | Local News

This afternoon the spotlight falls on the finances of the massive new Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA), which controls assets of about N$2 billion.

In particular, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts wants answers about two bank accounts containing N$13.4 million and about N$19 million, respectively, for which no bank reconciliations were done in 2016 and 2017.

The MPs also want to know about receipts of almost N$4 million in 2015, more than N$11.6 million in 2016, and N$11 million in 2017, which were not reconciled. A bank reconciliation is the process of matching the balances in an entity's accounting records to the corresponding information on a bank statement.

Following the adoption of the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA) Act in 2016, the agency took control of the contentious Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) and the Offshore Development Company (ODC) last year.

The two companies were amalgamated to create NIDA, which now controls assets of about N$2 billion.

On the agricultural front NIDA owns 280 000 hectares of farmland spread across six commercial farms situated in the Kunene, Kavango East and //Karas regions. The agency also manages 148 industrial and SME business parks. These facilities currently house about 1 080 businesses, according to NIDA.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts will today review the auditor-general's findings on shortcomings in the agency's books from 2015, 2016 and 2017. The public hearing is scheduled to start at 14:30 at the National Council building.

Board member and executive director Uparura Kuvare will have to support chairman Frans Kwala in convincing the MPs that the agency's books are being brought to order.

Other NIDA board members are Erna Motinga (vice-chairperson), Anita /Narib, Diana van Schalkwyk, Jacobus van Staden and Job Muniaro.

Motinga replaced Marcelina !Gaoses, who resigned from the board at the start of the year.

In March, industrialisation minister Tjekero Tweya told the board to meet frequently to put the agency's operational structure in place.

“Do not expect to have four board meetings per year,” he said, despite public enterprises minister Leon Jooste's directive that state enterprise boards limit their sittings.

“NIDA must still put up its structure,” he told Namibian Sun at the time.

Even before that, the NIDA board had been remarkably active.

Between 23 August 2018 and 15 November 2018 Kwala presided over eight board meetings.

Sitting fees for those meetings and two sessions of the technical transition subcommittee saw him earning N$126 000 for the period. Union boss Muniaro earned more than N$122 000 for the meetings he attended.

Kuvare raked in just under N$110 000 for the period, while only attending seven board meetings and four subcommittee gatherings. Kwala received a retainer of almost N$23 500 for chairing board meetings, while !Goases, Kuvare, Muniaro, Naris and Van Schalkwyk each received about N$19 000 as retainer for their attendance. In total more than N$660 000 was spent on the board for the period.

This year the pace has picked up, with two meetings a month in April, May and June. Over this period eight subcommittee meetings were also scheduled. Apart from fees for participating in most of these meetings Kuvare earns a salary of N$72 500 a month, tax free, as provided for in his six-month employment contract signed on 17 January 2019.

His salary, the board sitting fees and the board's travel and subsistence expenses were paid out of a new business account opened at Standard Bank on 3 October 2018.

Kuvare says there is good reason for the frequency of the board meetings.

“We mean it when we say we are growing sustained industries and we do what is best for Namibia. Are you proposing we should not meet as a board?” he replied, when asked for comment.

NIDA is responsible for the development of new opportunities in value-addition, developing key industrial and business infrastructure and the promotion and facilitation of trade and investment.

The agency is also responsible for agricultural production operations, the sourcing of loan financing through development financing institutions and the co-investment in key projects by other public or private sector partners.

Augetto Graig

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