• SONJA SMITH, TILENI MONGUDHI and SHINOVENE IMMANUEL
THE National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) board is investigating its managing director, Immanuel Mulunga, over his involvement in a payment of N$100 million for two Angolan oil blocks.
Namcor will co-own the oil blocks with Angola’s state-owned oil entity, Sonangol, and two other partners in a joint venture known as Sungara Energies.
The probe is said to be linked to an ongoing fierce power struggle between Namcor board chairperson Jennifer Comalie and the parastatal’s managing director, Immanuel Mulunga.
Namcor is currently the government’s vehicle in major oil discoveries off Nambia’s coast, including being part of three oil discoveries linked to Shell, Qatar Energy and Chevron.
But it’s a deal that Namcor got itself into in Angola that has attracted attention of the board.
Comalie confirmed to The Namibian on Monday that the board has started investigating an investment by Namcor in Angola which some see as a positive deal, but Namcor’s decision to pump additional money into it on behalf of third parties was not approved by the board.
“The board is dealing with this matter. And yes, there is an investigation which is being carried out internally together with two other partners, but it is not yet done. This is all I can say for now,” she said.
The transaction under investigation relates to oil-producing blocks in Angola which involve Namcor and Angola’s state-owned oil company, Sonangol.
Last April, Namcor, Sequa Petroleum from Britain, and Petrolog Group formed a group called Sungara Energies.
This joint venture agreed to pay N$8 billion (US$451 million) to Sonangol P&P for a 10% interest in block 15/06, 40% working interest in block 23, and 35% working interest in block 27.
The consortium was supposed to pay N$400 million (US$22,6 million) as a deposit fee to Sonangol Petroleum within five business days after receiving the conditions.
Namcor agreed to pay US$10 million (N$170 million) toward the deposit.
However, the partners only paid US$6 million (N$102 million), leaving a shortfall of US$6,7 million (N$100 million).
It is unknown which partner failed to pay.
Mulunga then took the transaction to Namcor’s board on 19 August 2022.
But the board allegedly rejected the proposal to pay the N$100 million.
It appears Mulunga went ahead to finalise the transaction without their blessing.
To him, the failure to pay would have resulted in losing the oil block that is apparently producing commercial oil.
Sources say Mulunga believes the board approved the transaction in 2021.
This transaction is one of many issues the board has allegedly clashed over.
Some board members are not against the transaction, but claim Mulunga’s failure to get board approval for the extra payment is of concern.
Comalie says the transaction was done without the board’s approval.
Documents show that the Namcor board discussed this transaction in six of eight meetings held between June and December last year.
A 20 January 2023 letter addressed to minister of finance and public enterprises Iipumbu Shiimi shows the transaction was discussed at Namcor’s board meeting.
“Consider a request for an additional US$6,7 million deposit to be paid on the Sonangol deal,” stated an agenda point of a Namcor board meeting on 19 August 2022.
IN DEFENCE OF THE DEAL
This year alone, Namcor expects to make over N$700 million in revenue from the deal, Mulunga told The Namibian on Monday.
He said the transaction was done to save the deal.
“It’s our partners who are to be blamed. They were supposed to pay their part of the deposit and couldn’t do it on time. So we deposited the extra funds into our account in Mauritius and went to the board for approval to pay it over to Sonangol,” Mulunga said.
“And while we were waiting for the approval our partners paid the money over to Sonangol. If the deposit was not paid on time we would’ve lost the transaction.”
Shiimi, who did not want to be drawn into the matter when contacted for comment, told The Namibian he is aware of the Sonangol transaction.
Comalie, who is gunning for the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) chief executive officer position, serves on the Namcor board alongside MTC spokesperson Tim Ekandjo, Namibia Statistics Agency’s executive of IT and data processing, Tersia //Gowases, Engelhardt Kongoro, and Onni-Ndangi Iithete.
They were appointed in August 2020.
Comalie has been accused of interfering in the operational matters of the national oil company and putting Namcor’s managing director under pressure.
Supporters aligned to Namcor’s management claim Comalie and her team are out to get Mulunga and the team he has assembled since 2015.
Comalie has been accused of directly dealing with operational matters that are supposed to be dealth with by management.
Her supporters believe Mulunga and some of his executives have been sidestepping company policies and making financial decisions which negatively impact Namcor’s financial stability.
Comalie has denied any wrongdoing.
“The board had to look into it, we have that duty, and that’s what we did. I don’t have vendettas against anyone, and as a board we are not targeting anyone. No witch-hunt or whatsoever,” she said yesterday.
The Namibian reported last year that the government blocked a proposal by Namcor to buy bulk fuel for storage at the Walvis Bay storage facility worth N$10 billion.
This was after the board intervened and branded that transaction as suspicious.
What transpired since then appears to be a continued power struggle.