Ombudsman says August 26 must account for public funds

Ombudsman John Walters says August 26 must account for public funds that have been pumped into the institution since its inception.

From 1998 to this day, the Ministry of Defence parastatal has never accounted for public monies.

This forms parts of Walters’ findings in a report he availed to Nampa on Wednesday amid allegations that his office was treating August 26 with kid gloves.

The report comes after Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) lawmaker Nico Smit filed a complaint in 2018 to the Ombudsman over the continued lack of scrutiny into the finances of August 26, where corruption is alleged to be rife.

“On the specific complaint of [Smit], I find that consecutive boards of August 26 Holding Company (PTY) Ltd failed since its incorporation on 14 August 1998 to submit annual reports to the portfolio ministers. In the event they did, the portfolio ministers failed to submit these annual reports to the National Assembly,” Walters says in the damning report.

National security and protection of the country’s sovereignty have over the years been thrown around whenever opposition politicians demanded answers as to why the Namibian Defence Force-run company could not reveal its records for scrutiny.

Walters also is perplexed as to why this institution has continued not to account for over two decades, despite the laws being clear. The law governing public enterprises dictates that boards of public enterprises must not later than six months after the end of each financial year submit an annual report on the operation of the public enterprise to the portfolio minister.

The report must include audited financial statements, an auditor’s report on those financial statements and a statement on the extent to which it has met its objectives.

“This is despite the fact that August 26 or its subsidiaries have been recipients of multimillion-dollar Government contracts,” Walters says.

August 26 is a wholly-owned Government enterprise.

An August 26 Trust Account at Nedbank Namibia had a balance of N.dollars 80.1 million on 31 March 2015 – the closest Walters and his team of investigators could get as far as its finances were concerned.

He goes on: “August 26 has been immune to public scrutiny and internationally recognised accounting and reporting.”

The company has also never appeared before the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts.

The document further paints a picture of a lack of cooperation from authorities and respect for the Office of the Ombudsman.

For example, Walters states in his report that he wrote to former Defence minister Penda Ya Ndakolo on 16 August 2019, requesting annual reports of August 26.

“I did not receive a response and sent him a reminder on 24 September 2019,” he said.

Walters has now written to Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste: “I recommend that the Minister of Public Enterprises takes appropriate action or steps to remedy or correct these matters by directing a special investigation to be conducted in relation to the failings and other matters concerning the business, trade, dealings, affairs, assets or liabilities of the defaulting public enterprises and inform the Ombudsman and the public on the outcome of the investigation.”

Source: Namibia Press Agency