Fishing Sector Worries Esau

THE Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, says his ministry will investigate fishing companies for making false promises after members of parliament expressed concerns on how some of the firms are being run.

Statistics released by the fisheries ministry show that in 2011, the fishing sector earned N$5.1 billion, up from the N$4.4 billion made in 2010.

Some of the complaints made in parliament last week are about lack of control within the fishing industry, unethical behaviour and infighting among a few of the companies that were forced into partnerships by government.

The parliamentarians also raised issues with false promises some of the companies made towards social responsibilities, especially community trusts, to fund projects.

Currently, government carries out a ministerial investigation every three years but Esau says this will be looked into with a view to tighten the monitoring process to enforce adherence to ethical behaviour and the law.

“There are companies that are not being run according to the regulations such as holding meetings, being financially accountable and informing other [partners] of investments. We are sending a warning to them that we are watching them,” Esau said in the National Assembly when he motivated his ministry’s 201415 budget.

Esau said because of staff shortages in his ministry to monitor the fishing sector effectively, they will have to source personnel from other ministries or departments such as the Auditor General’s Office to check whether the promises made by the quota holders during applications for fishing rights are being fulfilled.

The Namibia Fishing Industries and Fisheries Workers Union president, Daniel Iimbili, echoed Esau’s worries, saying most quota holders are not fulfilling their promises, meeting responsibilities and operating ethically.

“There are a lot of these companies. They also do not comply with social responsibilities. Some just give money to a certain political party and that’s where it ends,” he said, adding that some quota holders are misleading the minister on what they are doing on the ground.

Imbili called on Esau to consult the unions in order to come up with a road map on how to hold these companies accountable, and that meetings such as wage negotiations can be used to track down contributions made by some of the fishing companies.

Swapo backbencher Kazenambo Kazenambo was one of the parliamentarians who raised a red flag over the operations of the fishing firms, accusing them of deception.

Kazenambo said there are “unscrupulous criminal par-excellence businessmen” who mislead communities into forming trusts for their personal gain.

He said the businesspeople “selectively sideline the so-called community members and they will just chop [spend] the money buying X5s and Range Rovers” after they receive fishing quotas.

Kazenambo also questioned government’s lack of regulation and monitoring of the fishing industry.

“None of these fishing companies that are floating around have annual general meetings where you can ask: where are the members of the trust that you included when you applied? It’s only directors and then they chop the money among themselves or divert the money to non-core projects,” he alleged.

Minister Esau agreed with Kazenambo that they need to put stringent monitoring mechanisms to curb those that are using communities for personal gain.

Esau said the strength of getting the quota by the right holder was partly influenced by their promises of job creation and social responsibility projects.

The Namibian has, reported about fishing companies that failed to fulfil promises. One such company is Oshana Marine Enterprises which was among many companies which received seven-year fishing rights in 2011.

The firm, which is owned by Oshana Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa his counterpart at Otjozondjupa, Governor Samuel Nuuyoma and other business associates applied for quotas after promising youth development but later proposed to the minister that they wanted to give shares to at least three Lutheran parishes.

Share certificates were promised, prepared and seemingly signed but not issued, even though the pastors from those churches said they were only approached once.

Meanwhile, Esau has said most of the joint ventures he fostered in 2011 are successful, despite the in-fighting.

Esau granted fishing rights to newcomers in the industry three years ago.

“The five [joint ventures] are successful – 99% successful. Success cannot only be measured by the tension but other factors such as their relationships with other partners in the industries and their contribution also matters. You can see that most of the joint ventures bought fishing vessels,” he added.

The minister also reiterated government’s stance that they are still waiting for the environmental assessment on marine phosphate mining.

He said this is necessary because they have other questions that need answers.

Source : The Namibian