ACC hunts former boxing board over missing millions

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Otniel Hembapu

Windhoek-The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has launched an investigation into the affairs of the Namibia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board (NPBWCB), with ACC investigators said to have embarked on a comprehensive search for all former NPBWCB board members.

According to multiple well-placed sources at the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Services and NPBWCB office, former board members of the NPBWCB are being investigated for a series of irregularities dating back to 2015, including more than N$2 million in public funds that went missing from the boxing office.

The former five NPBWCB board members were Kelly Nghixulifwa (chairman), Ellison Hijarunguru (vice chairman), Ambrosius Kandjii, Shitaleni Herman and prominent lawyer Slow Murorua.

According to a Sport Ministry source that refused to be named, the unaccounted millions and other irregularities, such as lack of credible minutes for meetings held during their tenure and a string of suspicious payments, were unearthed by the ministry’s internal auditors late last year, who then notified the permanent secretary (PS) via a comprehensive report.

The former board, which steered the ever-troubled NPBWCB ship for more than 20 years, stepped down in 2015 and was replaced by Ellison Hijarunguru (now the chairman after he was retained), Ronald Kurtz, Philip Mwandingi, Kenny Hepundjua and Victoria Hamunyela last year. Hepundjua has since resigned from the board.

“I can confirm that the ACC recently wrote to the new board members through their chairman Hijarunguru, asking them to explain the irregularities and the unaccounted N$2 million, but I understand that Hijarunguru referred them to Nghixulifwa, since he was the chairman of the old board, saying he will be in a better position to explain.

In fact, given that the ministry’s internal auditors submitted their report last year already it is surprising that the ACC is only following up now. It appears the whole office knew that the highly critical report was submitted to the PS by the auditors, but nobody bothered to rope in the ACC.

“It only came now to our attention that the ACC is investigating and hunting down the old board members. I think someone at the ministry was courageous enough to leak the report to the ACC since nobody wanted to do anything,” said the source.

New Era Sport has seen a series of documents and bank statements of NPBWCB, dating back to March 2015. The bank statements, running to 20 pages, show that a raft of payments were made to various prominent figures within local boxing circles (names withheld) and also to some referees.

On one of the pages, it shows that an amount of N$500,000 was deposited by the line ministry into the NPBWCB account on April 28, 2015 and just a few hours later more than N$112,000 was withdrawn from the account, followed by a string of withdrawals of close to N$200,000.

When one closely studies the cash flow of the NPBWCB, especially in 2015, it shows that whenever massive amounts of money were deposited, a spurt of withdrawals would follow – transferred to various board members, promoters and referees. All these transactions will now be under intense scrutiny.

Contacted for comment late yesterday, Nghixulifwa said was not aware of any missing millions, nor has the ACC contacted him, but he admitted that he has heard about the report by the ministry’s auditors on missing funds at the boxing board.

“I only heard about the missing millions on TV and that’s when I saw a picture of myself circulating around. The ACC and the ministry have not contacted me over missing millions at the boxing board, so I can’t really answer anything at the moment, because I haven’t even seen the report by the auditors. But if they contact me, I’m available and open to answer to anything,” he said, who is rumoured not to be on good terms with Hijarunguru. Efforts to get hold of ACC investigators for comment yesterday proved futile.

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