The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has written to Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta seeking clarity on the controversy swirling about the close to N$24 million in taxpayer funds paid to Benin-born businessman Ernest Adjovi to host the much-hyped Kora All Africa Music Awards.
Following Shifeta’s explanation to the ACC – which includes supporting documents – ACC director general Paulus Noa said the anti-graft
body would for now leave the matter to Shifeta to resolve and would only join the fray later if it proves necessary.
All attempts to recover the funds – which government said were availed in good faith – have so far failed. According to a statement by Minister Shifeta the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), the State-owned enterprise through which the money was channeled to Adjovi, has “started the process to institute legal action” against the controversial West African businessman over his failure to host the awards in Namibia or return the money paid to him.
The amount of N$24 million was paid to Adjovi to cover the costs of the supposed marketing of the country as a top African tourism destination. The businessman, who was in and out of Namibia as he negotiated a package for his purported services, has not returned to the country for months. In a previous interview with New Era, conducted while he was in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where he was to inform that country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, of Kora’s intention to bestow a lifetime award on him at the Windhoek awards, Adjovi denied he was in breach of contract with the NTB and the Namibian government. He insisted the money was used for its intended purpose. Nguema was to be awarded for his country’s eleventh-hour decision to host the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament after Morocco – which was initially awarded the right to host it – demanded postponement of the event, because of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa at the time.
New Era understands that Adjovi left equipment in Namibia during his last visit, but the value of the equipment is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the N$24 million he reportedly got away with. Last week Shifeta indicated that the ministry has instructed NTB “to recover every cent that was paid” and instituted legal action when the 60-day deadline given to Adjovi lapsed on May 20.
Noa said the ACC would keep an eagle’s eye on the legal proceedings, following which he would determine whether the commission’s involvement is necessary. “When we heard about this we took it upon ourselves to write to the minister to ask for an explanation of what happened and how the money was paid,” Noa said.
“He [Shifeta] provided information with supporting documents. I will not engage you further on the way forward or their next course of action. It is not my area and not my part to tell you what they said they will do next,” the ACC chief said.
Pressed for answers, Noa said: “Look, they said they will take legal action and recover the money and we will follow the developments that are happening, but we will allow that process to take place first.” Asked whether he would classify the Kora transaction as a corrupt deal, or misappropriation of State funds, Noa said the right procedures were followed and the money was not paid illegally to Adjovi.
Last week, Shifeta cleared the air around the Kora saga with a detailed press statement, stressing the fact that his ministry will under no circumstances be an accomplice in scams to defraud government. “We can assure the Namibian nation that immediately when the breach of contract became apparent, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism placed the NTB under instruction to recover every cent that was paid for the same,” Shifeta said.
“The ministry, as a government institution, upholds the principles of accountability and transparency as outlined in our laws and policies including the Harambee Prosperity Plan.” According to the minister the ministry at no time provided false information or tried to mislead the public. “The agreement was signed in good faith from the side of the NTB and in the interest of tourism promotion and development,” he wrote.