By: Justicia Shipena
Lionel Matthews declined to confirm if he will be taking on the position of acting Managing Director of the troubled National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor).
The former Nedbank Managing Director, now advisor to the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises, met with the line Minister Iipumbu Shiimi and Namcor’s board and management this week with the view to discuss his appointment in an acting capacity, but Matthews says he has yet to sign a contract.
He was offered the position for six months following the suspension of Namcor’s Managing Director Immanuel Mulunga over the payment of N$100 million on an Angolan oil deal allegedly without Board approval.
He was supposed to start duty on 12 April 2023.
“I am consulting the Minister of Mines and Energy and the Board, and we will decide in the next couple of days. I have signed no contract with Namcor at all. I am not an acting MD. But as usual in Namibia, things have just gotten out of hand, so let us see what happens in the coming days,” he explained.
Quizzed on whether he is set to turn down the position, Matthews told The Villager, “I cannot tell you whether this is the case or not. This is a developing story. I am talking to the Chairperson, the Minister of Finance and Public Enterprise, and the Minister of Mines and Energy,” he said.
“I think there are people that are out to attack my credibility and integrity. I was at peace with myself working in Swakopmund. I was willing to come and help Namcor, but it is clear there are some people who do not want me to do this,” he told The Villager.
The State-owned entity wants to appointed an external acting MD in the person of Matthews to to allow for an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, in a statement released on Thursday, Namcor said Shiwana Ndeunyema remains the acting MD, while Board and Matthews are still locked in negotiations to sort out possible acting appointment.
This contradicts earlier reports in which Namcor had confirmed that Matthews had taken over from Ndeunyema, who was to be acting for a few days.
The company now claims those reports were mere rumors, adding that “there would be no withdrawal, as no formal offer was extended to him [Matthews] at this time”.
Paulo Coelho, Namcor’s Manager for Marketing, Communications and Public Relation said the appointment of an external acting Managing Director will allow for objective leadership and an independent investigation.
Last week Coelho cited that there was no power struggle at the parastatal.
In addition, last week the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) summoned Namcor’s Board members, including Board Chairprson Jeniffer Comalie.
ACC Director General Paulus Noa said the members were expected to be interviewed and to provide information to ACC after the Easter long weekend.
At the same time, the ACC summoned Namcor’s suspended Mulunga, to which Noa said he had obeyed the orders of the summons.
Noa also informed The Villager that the ACC is in the process of summoning possible witnesses.
The suspended Mulunga is accused of making an unauthorised N$100 million payment to an Angolan partner.
The transaction under investigation relates to oil-producing blocks in Angola, involving Namcor and Angola’s state-owned oil company, Sonangol.
The Namcor Chairperson Comalie is said to have clashed with the company Managing Director Mulunga.
A local newspaper had reported disagreements around a deal Namcor is pursuing in Angola, in addition to the acquisition of petroleum products domestically.
The newspaper reported that Mulunga and Namcor’s acting Executive for Supply and Logistics Cedric Willemse were facing imminent suspension. Willemse has worked off and on as a Namcor consultant.
In April 2022, Namcor was announced as part of a consortium buying into Angola’s Block 15/06 with 10% interest, 40% in block 23 and 35% interest for block 27.
The Sungara Energies consortium agreed to the N$400 million deal with Sonangol, which would see it gain equity production of around 10,000 barrels per day.
Thelocal newspaper also reported that Namcor had agreed to pay U$10 million (N$107 million) as its share of the deposit but that there had been a shortfall.
Mulunga called for Board support in making the deal but they allegedly rejected it.
The suspended Namcor MD went ahead with the deal despite this, the newspaper reported.
Mulunga said the company’s partners had failed to meet their share of the deposit and that this jeopardised the deal.
Namcor Chairperson Comalie was quoted saying there was an investigation underway into the Angola deal.
At the back of it a South African law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc., in a December 2022 report, found that the oil deal payment by Mulunga had to be authorised by the Board.