Controversy surrounding NHE Executives’ Cape Town trip

Niel Terblanche

In an effort to raise funds to finance the execution of its mandate, the National Housing Enterprise is considering a range of options as well as a host of potential financiers. However, the NHE’s dire financial position has left the state-owned company in a vulnerable position.

Besides having to attend to a housing backlog of more than 300 000 living units for Namibians, the staff of the beleaguered SOE is repeatedly threatening to strike because of issues with their salaries. At the same time, staff accuse top management of raking in exorbitant fees for attending board meetings and others claim travel an sustenance grants for trips to meet with possible investors in what they describe as exotic locations around the globe.

This all happens while opportunistic venture capitalists are circling the struggling entity like vultures to attain extremely favorable terms with loans.

The SOE recently announced that it has received an offer for a N$5 billion loan facility from a financing consortium. According to the NHE, the loan will be repayable at the interest rate of half a percent over a period of 20 years and is said to have the full backing of the Government of Namibia.

The announcement of the loan facility was made on the strength of a term sheet that was provided by the potential financier after the meeting in South Africa.

A term sheet is a non-binding agreement that only lays out the basic terms and conditions of the proposed investment.

At the beginning of July 2022, the four managers of the NHE were invited to Cape Town to attend a funding and technical information and sharing meeting. The financing entity undertook to pay for the flight and accommodation of the four delegates.

In a correspondence seen by the Windhoek Observer, the SOE’s Audit Manager, Chief Financial Officer, the Manager: Projects as well as the Manager of Corporate Communication and Marketing travelled to Cape town to attend the meeting.

The Chief executive Officer of the NHE, Gisbertus Mukulu, did not go on the trip because of family commitments.

Despite having some of their costs covered, all four of the delegates claimed S&T allowances from the company that is already struggling to keep its head above water financially.

According to a letter from the Deputy Secretary-General of the Public Service Union of Namibia, Ujama Kaahangoro, the S&T claims of the management staff borders on fraud and corruption.

Kaahangoro demanded that Mukuku investigates the matter with urgency.

In response, Mukulu informed Kaahangoro that the conduct of the management delegation was above board and that the travel costs of the Corporate Communications and Marketing Manager will be fully reimbursed to the NHE by the Italian company.

“In short, aside from some confusion about which costs would be covered, there is nothing suspicious or underhand about the Cape Town official trip,” Mukulu stated in his letter to Kaahangoro dated 20 July 2022.

The Acting Manager of Corporate Communications and Marketing, Tuafi Shafombabi, in an interview with the Windhoek Observer said that three of the management staff that travelled to Cape town claimed S&T on Rate 1 which also includes accommodation while the fourth delegate claimed on Rate 2.

“This inconsistency was due to an uncertainty about what exactly the prospective financier would cover,” Shafombabi said.

She clarified that in the end, the prospective financier covered the accommodation and flights only without S&T and the three delegates that claimed on Rate 1 have signed and completed the relevant forms and refunded the accommodation money upon their return from Cape Town.

“This is normal practice and thus these allegations are devoid of any truth,” Shafombabi stated.

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