Namfisa Affirms Massive Novanam Pension Scam

THE Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) has uncovered fraud regarding the handling of pension payouts at the scandal-hit NovaNam fishing company.

Namfisa has been investigating the pension scheme since last year after former workers complained that their pensions had been paid out even though they had not made any claims.

“They [Namfisa] have uncovered fraud regarding the handling of pension payouts,” a source told The Namibian last week.

The fishing firm suspended its human resources manager, David Pokolo, last year over allegations he was part of a syndicate involved in the scam involving millions of dollars, while others said the former manager was being used as the cat’s paw by the fishing company.

“What is [also] being investigated is why those dismissed workers were not paid their pensions or severance packages as per the pension fund’s rules,” said a source.

Namfisa has brought in a private audit firm to investigate the alleged pensions fraud at the fishing company to establish the number of years this has been happening.

“They have contracted an external audit firm to do the work. It will perhaps take longer since they are doing a retrospective investigation,” a source added.

Aggrieved pensioners pointed accusing fingers at Pokolo since the department involved was under his charge and it is where the claims were rubber stamped. Two officials, who worked closely with Pokolo, signed off the claim documents used.

The Namibian understands Namfisa is questioning why Pokolo was fired before the investigations by the supervisory authority were concluded.

“NovaNam chose to fire him, so they won’t be responsible for his legal costs. If the investigation finds anything untoward, the investigators can recommend Pokolo’s prosecution or repayment,” a source said.

Namfisa’s spokesperson Isack Hamata confirmed to The Namibian on Friday that the investigations are at an aanced stage and that they had contracted an audit firm to conduct the investigations.

“Unfortunately, Namfisa is not able to comment on any other matter regarding the Novanam investigation,” he said.

The financial institution watchdog said it will not share the findings with the public.

“Findings and recommendations of the report will be shared with relevant parties as prescribed by the Financial Institutions Act,” Hamata said.

The police have also been investigating the case, but it is unclear what progress has been made thus far.

Efforts to get comment from NovaNam and Pokolo were not successful.

Namfisa dominated news last year, from being accused of setting up a fake workers’ trust to roping in Pokolo to front for a company in order to avoid paying taxes amounting to billions of dollars over 14 years.

A Spanish newspaper, El Economista, also claimed in June last year that NovaNam was used by the mother company Pescanova to hide massive debts.

Pokolo, who was only known as a manager in Namibia but considered a NovaNam shareholder in Spain because he owned CuviMarket S.L, which had shares in NovaNam, was given the boot last year.

Audit reports by PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte indicated that Pokolo was used as a front and that he did not have control over his purported equity in the company.

Questions have also been raised about the operations and activities of the NovaNam Staff Trust, which was allegedly created to give government the impression that NovaNam qualifies to be registered as a Namibian company to benefit from fishing levy exemptions.

The NovaNam Staff Trust is a two percent shareholder in the fishing company but little else is known about its activities.

The Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), which is the main bargaining union for the NovaNam employees said they have no information regarding the trust and that they have been trying in vain to get the company’s management to allow the union to be the custodian of the trust’s share certificate.

Source : The Namibian