By Sonja Smith | 20 October 2022
FORMER mines minister Obeth Kandjoze misled the Anti-Corruption Commission on how he appointed a company to evaluate Namdia diamonds – a deal that enriched three politically connected individuals with around N$130 million.
This is according to a confidential investigation report submitted to president Hage Geingob in February 2018.
The National Planning Commission director general has denied any wrongdoing and threatened to sue The Namibian.
Kandjoze, who is now campaigning for prime minister Saara-Kuugongelwa Amadhila’s Swapo’s vice presidency contest, had a controversial three-year stint as mines minister.
In 2016, he was involved in setting up the state-owned Namibia Desert Diamonds (Namdia) with former attorney general Sacky Shanghala.
That same year, Kandjoze hand-picked a politically connected company C Sixty Investments owned by Shanghala’s associate John Walenga and a nephew of former minister Helmut Angula, Tirronenn Kauluma, to evaluate Namdia diamonds.
Then, the ACC contacted Kandjoze on 21 November 2016 as part of its investigation into the Namdia saga as reported by The Namibian.
But the ACC cleared Kandjoze at the time.
“I requested him (Kandjoze) to provide clarity (on Namdia). The minister gave me all the answers I wanted. I am satisfied with the answers,” ACC director general Paulus Noa told The Namibian in 2017.
Geingob subsequently asked then public enterprise minister Leon Jooste to investigate concerns at Namdia, including the C Sixty contract awarded by Kandjoze.
Jooste’s report concluded that Kandjoze appeared to have misled the ACC.
“It also appears that the Namdia board of directors and the ACC were misled by the then minister of mines and energy [Kandjoze] with regard to the timing of the appointment and who actually did the appointment,” said the report which was submitted to Geingob three years ago.
“Due to the various findings pointing to serious shortcomings in the sourcing and appointment of C-Sixty, as well as other related processes and activities, we believe it appropriate to recommend the termination of this contract,” the report says.
The president is said to have failed to take action on the 2018 report that recommended the government to cut ties with a company co-owned by businessman Doron Cohen – a business partner and associate to the first lady Monica Geingos’ son Nino Kalondo and brother Salomon Kalondo.
Geingos has in the past rejected any links between her family and Namdia, saying: “I abhor corruption.”
Jooste’s report titled ‘Key Findings in Relation to the Underpricing Allegations and the C Sixty Appointment’, said Kandjoze told the ACC that C Sixty Investments was appointed by the Government Task Team (GTT).
That team, appointed to set up Namdia, consisted of government officials such as mines ministry executive director Simon Negumbo, chief legal adviser in the attorney general’s office Chris Nghaamwa, former executive director in the ministry of finance Ericah Shafudah, former legal officer in the attorney general’s office Festus Weyulu, director of diamond affairs in the ministry of mines and energy Miina Gahutu, Namdia’s executive manager Lelly Usiku and lawyer Yolanda Itamba.
Nghaamwa told The Namibian yesterday that they did not sign the C Sixty agreement.
“No, the Government Task Team cannot appoint C Sixty, he said.
The report says the C Sixty deal was already awarded by Kandjoze when the board took charge of Namdia in August 2016.
“This information is contrary to what the minister stated in his ACC submission, dated 26 January 2017, where he indicated that the advice he sought from Shanghala, time constraints and technological exclusivity were his reasons for the direct appointment of C Sixty,” the report read.
Negumbo said he only signed the agreement.
“The award was made by the minister (Kandjoze). Thereafter I, as permanent secretary, signed the agreement with C Sixty,” Negumbo told The Namibian yesterday.
Jooste’s report pointed to Kandjoze’s other inconsistencies, including claims that he relied on Shanghala’s legal opinion to appoint C Sixty Investment.
“The date of this opinion is well after C Sixty Investments has been appointed and could not have been one of the justifying reasons by the minister for the direct appointment of C Sixty,” it said.
The investigation also found that the company did their first valuation on 20 September, without a contract.
“According to a copy of the agreement between C Sixty and the ministry, it was signed on 20 October 2016 by the executive director of the ministry, and became effective on 9 September 2016 (date of minister’s offer of acceptance letter), which indicates that the effective date of the agreement was backdated,” the investigation found.
“This contradicts the statement by the minister to the ACC, in which he asserts that the GTT appointed C Sixty Investments as valuators,.” the report said.
NAMDIA BOARD IN DARK
Jooste’s report questioned why C Sixty Investments was appointed by Kandjoze rather than the Namdia board.
Kandjoze appointed the first Namdia board in 2016, led by the late lawyer Shakespeare Masiza, to take over from the GTT.
The investigation found that Kandjoze also misled the Namdia board into believing that C Sixty was already appointed by the GTT before they took over.
The report says, Kandjoze informed the board that C Sixty’s proposal was already accepted and that the agreement between the two parties was finalised.
This, the report said, appears to be incorrect. C Sixty’s expression of interest was accepted a month after the board’s appointment.
“Based on an analysis of activities and respective dates, it appears that the Namdia board only became aware in November 2016, when they were provided with a copy of the letter by the minister (Kandjoze) in which he accepted the offer as per the expression of interest from C Sixty Investments (dated 9 September 2016),” the report said.
Without mentioning figures, the investigation found that the first invoice by C Sixty Investments to Namdia “was not dated”.
WASTE OF PUBLIC FUNDS
The report said C Sixty’s services were not needed.
Namdia had just appointed diamond dealer Neil Haddock in July 2016 to maximise their profits.
“This is further demonstrated by the fact that one purchase and sale of diamonds in November 2016 was concluded by Namdia without an evaluation by C Sixty having been conducted,” the report said.
“C Sixty provided market-related services and not valuation services. This contradicts the company’s actual appointment, the report said.
The Namdia board, too, did not approve of C Sixty Investments.
The investigation report claims the board saw “there was no need for it (C Sixty or any similar organisation) to perform Namdia’s internal valuation functions”.
“The board was not satisfied with the sequence of events regarding the C Sixty Investment’s appointment,’’ the report added.
It continued: “There was no need for the minister [Kandjoze] to appoint [C Sixty] and it would be a violation of good governance for the minister to appoint on behalf of Namdia.”
The state-backed diamond deal enriched a few individuals, including businessmen Cohen (N$46 million), Walenga (N$33 million) and Kauluma (N$35 million).
Cohen has removed Walenga and Kauluma.
The company now wants to compel the government to obtain a N$135 million Namdia diamond-valuation deal, which is against the wishes of minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo.
KANDJOZE DODGES QUESTIONS
Kandjoze denied any wrongdoing yesterday.
“The subject matter of your query relates to an issue investigated some few years back and in respect of which I, in my previous capacity, unreservedly availed myself [sic] for clarifications and representations to my appointing authority as well as the ACC on all aspects where such was required,” Kandjoze told The Namibian.
The Namibian queried what role Kandjoze played in the appointment of C Sixty.
Instead, Kandjoze threatened legal action.
“I must point out further that I am not privy to any of the assumptions and conclusions alluded to in your mail. I must accordingly reserve my right to legally counter any undue or defamatory matter which may unjustly be ascribed to my person, as is evident from several patent misinterpretations of facts and conclusions in your email, which cast severe doubts on the credibility of your investigation and findings,” he said.
ACC director general Paulus Noa told The Namibian this week that he cannot comment on a report he has not seen.
“If the report and findings are availed [sic] to ACC, I shall be in a better position to assess its relevance to our initial investigation and answers given by the minister,” Noa said.
The ACC boss confirmed that the ACC approached Kandjoze when allegations surfaced.
“If the answers he gave to ACC were not correct, let the correct information be furnished to ACC. The ACC stands ready to obtain statements under oath from those who compiled the report and are prepared to testify that the minister furnished misleading information to ACC,” he said.
Jooste this week told The Namibian that he is no longer in public office and would not comment.
“I am no longer in public office and feel that it will be inappropriate for me to share information related to a confidential investigation that was conducted when I was in office,” he said.
A CONTROVERSIAL GEOLOGIST
The Namdia deal is not the only deal that could be viewed as cronyism linked to Kandjoze. A geologist by training, Kandjoze (56) also had a controversial tenure at the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor).
Kandjoze worked there as the exploration and production manager from 2007 to 2012, and later managing director, until he turned to politics in 2015. At Namcor, Kandjoze’s friend and wheeler-dealer Knowledge Katti benefited from selling oil exploration blocks off the coast of Namibia during that time.
Geingob told New Era in 2019 that he was unhappy with the allegations of corruption at three ministries, including at the mines ministry that was under Kandjoze.
Despite this questionable track record, Geingob has kept Kandjoze on as the National Planning Commission director general, a key position that plans and prioritises Namibia’s development goals.
*This article is produced by The Namibian Investigative Unit as part of a series of articles into the Namdia scandal.
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