New year, same old auction mistakes

The National Fishing Corporation is desperately trying to auction some of its hake quota in order to pay staff salaries.

25 January 2021 | Fishing

MATHIAS HAUFIKU

WINDHOEK

Troubled state-owned fishing company Fishcor hoped to have secured N$33 million in an auction of fishing quotas whose bids closed on Friday, in part to help pay overdue salaries.

The parastatal is on a growing list of public entities that are finding it tough to pay workers’ salaries – with portions of December salaries still pending.

While Fishcor has been facing financial trouble since the Fishrot saga erupted in November 2019, workers are now in panic mode as they wait to see if their salaries will be paid on time today.

An auction notice was sent out by the company’s manager for finance, Paulus Ngalangi, last week informing fishing industry players that Fishcor is auctioning a 3 000-tonne hake freezer quota to the highest bidder.

The auction was announced on Thursday and bidding closed on Friday.

Ngalangi said the minimum price that would be accepted was N$11 000 per tonne.

Calculations by Namibian Sun indicate that Fishcor aims to earn at least N$33 million from the auction.

But industry players who spoke to this publication claimed that the target is “over-ambitious”.

Namibian Sun understands the going rate per tonne in the market is currently N$6 500.

“These guys clearly do not understand the market and they are so desperate to make money they are setting an unrealistic target,” said an industry player who chose to remain anonymous.

Fishcor’s decision to auction its quota comes months after the government conducted a failed fishing quota auction.

The September 2020 auction, which was meant to pay for the country’s Covid-19 response, flopped after only five bidders settled their bids of N$8.4 million, representing 1.3% of the N$628 million expected.

The auction offered 11 000 tonnes of hake, 72 000 tonnes of horse mackerel and 392 tonnes of monk. But only 100 tonnes of hake, 1 517 tonnes of horse mackerel and 300 tonnes of monk were taken up.

Questions sent to Ngalangi went unanswered yesterday.

Salary dilemma

While Fishcor workers were out and about carrying out their weekend activities on Saturday, an internal memorandum was circulated by board chairman Mihe Gaomab II, titled ‘Message of appreciation to staff and management’.

The message went on at length on topics such as the appointment of a Fishcor CEO and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gaomab had little to say about the outstanding salaries and whether the January salaries would be paid on time, though.

Fishcor employees receive their salaries on the 25th of each month. Workers are still owed a portion of their December salaries.

It is not the first time that Fishcor finds itself having to pay only a portion of workers’ salaries, despite it being spoon-fed by government and receiving preferential treatment in the allocation of fishing quotas.

Gaomab told workers the board was trying to secure necessary and critical funds for the company.

“In view of our role as indicated in the Fishcor Act of 1991 to ensure financial subsistence an accord and attend to our employment obligation as employer to our employees in terms of payment to workers of which we treat it as a priority with a view to ensure outstanding wages due from December 2020 and for the month of January 2021 (sic),” he wrote.

Gaomab did not respond to questions sent to him on whether workers would be paid on time.

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