Secretive defence company August 26 Holdings, which has strenuously and consistently refused to account for public funds, is once again in the red, this time over the alleged disappearance of around N$3 million. Although details around the embezzlement remain sketchy, New Era is reliably informed that public monies have indeed vanished into thin air at August 26 Logistics, one of the 11 subsidiaries.
In addition, the August 26 Logistics board yesterday announced that it had swiftly moved to suspend the company’s managing director and its chief financial officer, pending the outcome of an investigation.
However, it is understood the suspensions are being used as a decoy to detract the public from the bigger picture.
What is apparent though is that August 26 Holdings is also going after the Ministry of Defence’s deputy director Petrus Nathinge, who too serves as August 26 Logistics’s board chairperson, over his involvement in the irregularities.
“In the same vein, the board of August 26 Holdings Company, as the appointing authority of the chairperson of the board of August 26 Logistics, has invoked the relevant legal provisions to institute the necessary proceedings against the chairperson [Petrus Nathinge] of the board of August 26 Logistics (Pty) Ltd,” reads a statement from the company.
Yesterday, August 26 Holdings’ board chairperson, Brigadier Fillemon Shafashike, confirmed the incident, albeit noting that investigations were at the infant stages.
“I think you’re aware that I am the chairperson of August 26 Holdings, and where that issue has happened is at August 26 logistics, which is a subsidiary of the holding company,” said Shafashike.
He hastened to add that August 26 has an independent board of directors.
“The appropriate authority to speak on this issue is August 26 Logistics. But since it is a subsidiary of August 26 Holdings, yes, there is an issue that is going on there with regards to the alleged misconduct. This issue to do with the misconduct is currently under investigation,” Shafashike confirmed.
He buttressed: “I can confirm that there is an alleged misconduct. An incident has taken place. This is under investigation at the current stage.”
“A press release will be issued very soon, if not today [Thursday], that will now clarify all rumours that are surrounding this issue,” he added.
The holding company, he noted, has “an interest in the outcome of the investigation because it has been brought to our attention…We are very much aware as to what is going on there, and all legal processes are currently underway”.
At around 15h00 yesterday, August 26 Logistics issued a statement.
“An independent investigator has been appointed to, inter alia, verify if alleged facts can be substantiated, and to preserve and secure basic evidence, if any. It is just prudent and tactical in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of the unfolding process that we do not comment further on these allegations until investigations are finalised,” the board stated.
New Era has confirmed that the two suspended executives are CFO Kallie Nel and MD Salatiel Ntinda at the company that perpetually operates in a highly secretive space.
Meanwhile, via the issued statement, the company called for calm from its customers, suppliers and employees during this period, noting that the relevant acting appointments have been finalised in the interest of continuance of uninhibited business operations.
The information regarding irregularities first surfaced via a widely circulated post by Affirmative Repositioning movement head honcho Job Amupanda on Wednesday.
In the post, he alleges that “a very senior military man, a two-star general, caused the disappearance of public defence money, close to N$3 million, that was transferred into a bank account of an ordinary man – a civilian now dancing in Katutura”.
“The tendency of [the] corrupt military men is that once they get their full cup from the big milk container [seemingly August 26], they start licking the cup from the outside while the hungry masses look on asking when God is coming,” Amupanda said.
The presidential aspirant has also given defence executive director Wilhelmina Shivute until Friday at 12h00 to come clean on the financial fiasco, failure to which he said he will “be forced to intervene and more”.
Over the years, the defence ministry and August 26 Holdings have faced numerous allegations of rampant corruption. Worse still, August 26 and its subsidiaries have bluntly refused to open their books for public scrutiny, citing national security concerns. The ministry has in the past maintained that August 26 and its 11 subsidiaries were being audited, but these audited financial statements are not for public consumption.
Back in 2020, former Ombudsman John Walters recommended to the National Assembly and Cabinet that August 26 lays bare its financial statements for public scrutiny. Walters’s suggestions remains just that, a mere recommendation.
At the time, private lawyers argued that Namibians deserved to know how their money was being spent by the parastatal since 14 August 1998.
Over the years, opposition politicians have also called on August 26 to account to the public and report to parliament, just like all other state-owned enterprises. Many argue that the excuse about opening books and compromising State security always being flouted, must be dismissed in the name of transparency and accountability. Critics argue that national security has been used as a guise to conceal criminal activities taking place at the company. Allegations are also rife in defence circles that army generals have been using August 26 as their piggy bank, placing their proxies in critical positions to satisfy insatiable greed.
What is strange, however, is that even the country’s top auditor, Auditor General Junias Kandjeke has in the past been blocked from auditing the defence ministry, including August 26.
During the 2018/19 financial year, Kandjeke was blocked from inspecting N$506.4 million of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expenditure during that financial year. This is despite the law providing the AG or his delegates access to all books of a given Government entity.
However, former defence minister Peter Vilho at the time defended the ministry’s stance, saying the AG’s office approached the MoD’s books with prejudice to convince Namibians that corruption is rife within the force. Vilho served as MoD’s executive director between 2017 and 2020 before his appointment as minister.
“I realised that I was up against an institution that isn’t used to being questioned or talked back to. Just because they are a watchdog, they feel they are above the law and have powers over everyone and everything,” Vilho said in the National Assembly in July 2020.
Vilho availed information which showed how on several occasions his then office attempted to cooperate and sought the audience of Kandjeke to explain why they were unable to permit auditors to access defence facilities, but to no avail.
The ministry, eventually, was not granted an audience, and the AG went ahead to publish the report regardless of mistakes that were never rectified, he said at the time.
Moreover, Vilho said the AG’s office attempted to compromise national security under the guise of auditing, pointing to an incident where the chief auditor at Kandjeke’s office wrote to the MoD on 30 September 2019, requesting additional information on the fighting capabilities of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) fighter jets and other equipment.
In April 2021, however, Vilho was forced to prematurely resign from the defence portfolio with a dark cloud hovering over his head after claims he did not declare an offshore bank account in Hong Kong. Those allegations were first brought to light by Amupanda.