WINDHOEK, JULY 29 – Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) has issued a statement in which it claimed that there had been harmful and misleading reports in some local print media.
According to a statement issued by NWR’s Mufaro Nesongano, NWR had “taken note with great concern the harmful and misleading press reports in some local print media aimed at casting aspersions and doubt about corporate governance at the organisation. Allegations made in one local weekly newspaper cannot be left unchallenged and therefore, NWR sees the need to set the record straight.”
Below are excerpts from the media statement issued:
1. A recent article that purported that the NWR board chairman, Ambassador Leonard N. Iipumbu, was unaware of a proposal to pay out the leave days of NWR managing director Mrs Zelna Hengari, needs to be put into context. Upon a telephonic query regarding the matter from a reporter to the NWR board chairman, the reporter was advised to check the sources and veracity of the information for which comment was being sought. The reporter was also advised to send his queries in writing to NWR. This was not done and resulted in the NWR board chairman being misrepresented, and an impression being created of a breakdown in corporate governance at NWR which, of course, is devoid of any truth.
2. The facts are that the managing director, Mrs Hengari, worked at NWR for close to a decade as a company secretary. When she was appointed as managing director in 2014, she had to resign from her previous position as a company secretary and sign a new five-year performance-based contract with the board as managing director (this applies to all affected staff members whose contract of employment comes to an end). The board, therefore, and in accordance with legal advice received, paid her outstanding leave days which accrued and were due to her in terms of her old permanent employment contract as company secretary. In any case, it would not have been sound corporate governance for the new board to appoint someone as a substantive managing director and then send her on extended leave as a result of days accrued in her previous role as company secretary. Further, and in response to the claims regarding minutes, suffice it to point out that Mrs Hengari became acting managing director in February 2013. From that time onwards, she had nothing to do with board minutes (Ms Hilma lita was the board acting secretary). Furthermore, at the point of the current board takeover, there were no signed minutes nor a handover report to date.
3. The current NWR Board has provided decisive and professional leadership to NWR thus far.
For instance, the board has, upon assumption of office, done the following:
Appointed a substantive managing director with whom the board continues to have an excellent professional relationship, mutual trust and support. She, in turn, has strengthened her management team considerably.
Completed a Strategic Audit carried out by PWC which resulted in an Integrated Strategic Business Plan which the board approved and submitted to the shareholder at its Annual General Meeting held on 7 June 2017.
Brought the company in compliance concerning statutory requirements such as annual financial statements that at that stage, were in backlog. All financial years that are due for statutory external auditing have been audited and financial statements are ready for submission at the forthcoming AGM planned for the end of August 2018.
Supported management in measures that brought operational and financial stability to the company to the extent that during the tenure of the current board, NWR has not sought, nor received, any money/bailouts from the shareholder.
Concluded long-delayed joint venture (JV) agreements to set the company on a path towards financial sustainability. This was done within the remit of the law and policy, and NWR’s view is that having secured financial stability, it needs to seek financial sustainability as a key strategic goal.
4. The board also continues to maintain a relationship of mutual trust and support with the shareholder with whom it regularly consults in the course of its work. This relationship of mutual trust was recently reaffirmed when the shareholder decided to transfer the dormant Zambezi Waterfront & Tourism Park to NWR to operationalise with or without a public-private partnership (PPP)/joint venture. NWR regards this as a vote of confidence in the board, management and staff of NWR and an acknowledgement of its hard work.
5. Finally, the suggestion that its partner, Sun Karros, is such because of political connections or purported links with the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Honourable Pohamba Shifeta, is devoid of truth:
NWR has many partners as shareholders that do not have any political connections. NWR only insists on BEE partnerships as a requirement because it has to, amongst others, comply with the requirements of the Public Procurement Act 2015 (Act No 15 of 2015), and not political affiliation.
The partnership between Sun Karros and NWR precedes the tenure of the current Minister of Environment and Tourism. In fact it was during the tenure of previous Ministers of Environment and Tourism (i.e. Honourable Reverend Willem Konjore deputised by Honourable Leon Jooste and Dr Malan Lindeque as the permanent secretary and an NWR board member by virtue of his position) when the NWR Turnaround Strategy was submitted to Cabinet for consideration and resulted in the Cabinet decision that affirmed NWR’s need (given resource constraints) and right (as provided for in its Act) to partner with the private sector.
Sun Karros has been a trusted partner of NWR since 2006. Daan Viljoen and Windpomp 14 at Mile 14 stand as testimonies to their capacity to deliver time-tested services and products. Daan Viljoen stands today as an example of a PPP that is successful compared to other PPPs that were previously awarded by NWR. NWR shall seek out many more such partners to grow the tourism sector, and it shall also actively seek the involvement of the youth, women and marginalised communities.
We note the fact that we are tasked with the responsibility of managing public institutions, but fair, balanced and ethical reporting is required and expected. – Mufaro Nesongano