WALVIS BAY – A war of words has erupted between the interim board of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) and its Walvis Bay-based Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) over the controversial partnership, which also resulted in a recent court challenge.
The chairperson of the interim Fishcor board Mihe Gaomab II has distanced the state-owned entity from agreements signed with SPP, adding they were pursuing legal options to severe ties and terminate non-beneficial agreements.
Gaomab yesterday told New Era the fact that they cannot trace government’s return on investment in terms of the 50 000 metric tons SPP benefited from Fishcor is one of the reasons why they are looking at ending the agreement.
“There were no dividends paid to Fishcor...not to our knowledge. We don’t have any recollection and evidence as to what benefit these agreements accrued to Fishcor. So, I cannot confirm nor deny whether dividends were paid to Fishcor,” Gaomab said yesterday during a telephonic interview.
Fishcor is currently implicated in the Fishrot scandal, which has led to the arrest and incarceration of former CEO Mike Nghipunya, former board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, former Cabinet ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau as well as his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo.
Another person implicated in the scandal is former senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia Ricardo Gustavo. Esau, Shanghala, Mwatelulo, Tamson, James and Nghipunya are charged with corruption and fraud involving N$75.6 million allegedly diverted from Fishcor for their benefit.
In fact, the current scandal resulted in government opting to auction to the highest bidder its 83 392-government objective quota that Fishcor usually disposed of. Gaomab said the board was busy looking into the affairs of Fishcor as well as the various agreements it has with SPP. Gaomab also said in a statement issued on Monday they were putting matters into context for the benefit of all stakeholders following the verdict delivered after SPP tried to stop the fisheries ministry from auctioning the 83 392 metric tons of fish late last month.
“Having acknowledged the judgement outcome, we wish to state that while the judgment provides Fishcor with room to best serve its rightful purpose as mandated under its Act, it also paints a concerning picture on the agreements that were signed in 2016 as well as the usage quota agreements between Fishcor and SPP,” Gaomab explained. He added that the judgement made it clear that the agreements are symbiotic of a corrupt relationship and give rise to a cosy and parasitic relationship. He said this was consistent with their decision not to proceed with SPP on the prevailing incestuous kind of arrangement.
“Thus, we as Fishcor distance ourselves from these so-called agreements. It is clear that these agreements were against public policy interests, usurping the discretionary power of the ministry to allocate quotas in terms of the provisions of the Marine Resources Act,” he said.
Gaomab also said the board was concerned that these agreements have ceded and transferred Fishcor’s rights, obligations and title deeds to SPP through third party agreements.
“As the designated right holder, we are putting it on record that we have secured quotas for SPP to safeguard employment at the facility only to be met with a threatening attitude by shareholders to use the bait of firing workers to get more quotas without even justifying what happened to the total 25 666 metric tons of quotas granted so far for 2020,” he added.
SPP hits back
Meanwhile, SPP hit back at the interim Fishcor board, saying they never received their full quota from the entity since 2018.
“In fact, we never received the 50 000 metric tons as per our agreement in 2018. In 2019, we only received 30 000 of the 50 000 metric tons and this year we only received 29 000 metric tons,” managing director of SPP Adolf Burger said yesterday. Burger added SPP, as a result, lost millions of dollars due to the relationship with Fishcor.
“How do we pay dividends if about 70 000 metric tons that were meant for us never reached us?” Burger further questioned.
Burger’s claims are backed up by a preliminary forensic report by ProNam Forensic Services that was done this year in June. The report shows 70 000 metric tons of fish are unaccounted for between 2018 and 2019, nor could it be established who benefited from the quota.
According to the report, fish worth over N$175 million were diverted from SPP to unknown beneficiaries allegedly by Fishcor, thereby contravening the agreement.
“Between 2018 and 2019 fishing seasons, 70 000 metric tons of horse mackerel quota was diverted from SPP,” the report obtained by New Era reads.
SPP was established in 2017, as a joint venture between Fishcor and the Namibian business entity African Selection Fishing.