Ombudsman blames Jooste for SOE, August 26 mess

Maria Hamutenya

Ombudsman, John Walters, is partly blaming Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, for the current problems the country’s State Owned Enterprises are facing, in particular August 26.

The Minister allegedly has not cooperated during an investigation by the Ombudsman into August 26, while also covering compliance of all public enterprises (PEs) with regards to submitting annual financial statements.

The long serving Ombudsman said the Minister even ignored his recommendations, including those which called for August 26 to be audited.

“He failed to do more, that’s the reason he did not implement my recommendations. In fact he did not even respond to my report. I had to send the report to the National Assembly,” said Walters.

This comes amid allegations of misappropriating of public funds and corruption at August 26 under the guise of national security.

August 26 Holding Company, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs, on behalf of government, hasn’t submitted annual financial reports since its incorporation in August 1998.

According to Walters, he is planning on taking the Minister to court to ensure that he acts on his recommendations.

In a report compiled on the investigation, Walters recommended that Jooste “takes appropriate actions or steps to remedy or correct these matters by directing a special investigation into the above failings, and other matters concerning the business, trade, dealings, affairs, assets or liabilities of the defaulting public enterprises and thus inform the Ombudsman and the public on the outcome of the investigation.”

Walter said the failure by the Minister to acknowledge the report had forced him in September to directly submit it to Parliament.

“We have been trying to get information about the financial affairs of August 26 since May 2018, following a complaint by the official opposition party, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM).”

Walters stated that apart from Jooste, many more ministers have not taken his recommendations seriously.

“I do not fear them, and I will continue to take them to court if they do not want to implement my recommendations. I will continue making more and if they fail, the matter will go to court,” said Walters.

This comes after he recently announced that he will be retiring from office this July , adding that he will decline the offer if President Hage Geingob offers to extend his contract until he is 70 years.

“I have already stated that I do not want my contract to be renewed .I want to spend more time with my wife and children,” said Walters. He pointed out that his decision to retire is not because of pressure from the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, but that he was already planning on retiring.

“Nobody can pressurise me. It has always been a plan of mine to retire. I lived my life like a good gambler and so I know when to start and when to stop,” said Walters

With regards to his replacement, he said the general public should be given the right to know the candidates and they should be put through a public interview process for more transparency.

“I believe in transparency. The public is entitled to know the candidates,” Walters added.

On whether the budget allocation for his office over the years has been enough for him to carry out his duties, Walters said , “ the budget is controlled and it has frustrated me for almost 17 years ,but the little we received, we made sure we did our best ,but we would have done better with a couple of dollars more.”

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