…As NPTH Board loses connection
Events within the Namibia Post Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) board dating back to 2016 has lifted the lid on the acrimonious ties that existed amongst board members.
Following the resignation of board chair Ally Angula last week, in a massive leak of documents, information has now surfaced that she wanted to have fellow board member Leilanie Hochobeb removed from the NPTH Board in July 2017, just a month before then ICT minister Tjekero Tweya fired her(Angula) from the board.
Angula wrote a letter to Tweya under the subject “Recommendation for the Removal of a Director of NPTH” on 12 July 2017.
In the letter, Angula told Tweya: “In my capacity as chairperson of theNPTH, it has come to my attention that one of my board members, namely Ms. Leilanie Hochobeb, has failed to display the ethical leadership, attitude, mindset and behaviour that is expected of her with respect to a commercial transaction that NPTH is currently undertaking, which originated sometime during 2016.”
Angula revealed in the letter that she wanted Hochobeb chucked from the board in December 2016 already as it remained difficult to have a functional board. “These actions are now impacting our delivery in terms of the commercial transaction I alluded to earlier. In support of this assertion, I obtained proof of the members’ unethical behaviour, a clear violation of her fiduciary obligations towards NPTH,” said Angula who also forwarded email trails that are alleged to have been between Hochobeb and Helios officials to Tweya
Angula accused Hochobeb of acting unethically after the commercial transaction was tabled to the NPTH board soon after the notification for the transaction dated 21 June 2016.
“From this date, communications between the Member and members of the counterparty occurred, either soon after the conclusion of meetings of the NPTH board or whenever a significant development in the commercial transaction occurs,” she wrote.
She concluded: “In order to ensure that the Board does not continue to be compromised, I hereby recommend that Ms. Hochobeb be removed as a director from the NPTH board forthwith.”
No confidence vote
When Ally Angula resigned as a board member of the telecommunications holding entity last week due to alleged governance flaws and failures by the ICT ministry, it led to the unmasking of the strained relationship she had with her fellow board members.
The board last year instituted a vote of no confidence in-their-now departed board chair. Angula’s critics claim she jumped ship before she was pushed because she did not enjoy cordial relations with her board colleagues and the line minister at the time, Tjekero Tweya.
Angula refused to bow into Tweya’s demands to roll out the N$1.1 billion dollar 100% population coverage project because she believed it would set MTC on a value destruction path. She says she her firing last year was because she defied Tweya’s order.
Messages shared between Angula and Tweya indicates Tweya saying: “Please proceed I am under pressure here again with the pm[sic] and all delegates.”
Angula responded saying: “Honorable minister, I understand, financial prudence is also however required so that we do not end up with two unaffordable activities running at the same time, however kindly request your PA forward same[sic] signed statement for tabling to the NPTH board.”
Tweya wanted the equipment for the project to be ordered in order for the roll out to start in September or October 2017.
Angula responded saying the ICT permanent secretary was requested to through a written request to NPTH as well as the proposed dividend reductions as the funding modality for the 100% population coverage rollout. The dividend reductions related to MTC as it was recommended that MTC reduces its dividend and finance the Tower Project with the remainder. Internationally, the norm is that activities of this nature are usually funded by the Universal Fund rather than by one player.
“The NPTH board is in principle supportive however the time for the same must be done in such a way that we do not compromise on the funding principles for the acquisition of the 34% which takes into account projected dividends from MTC,” she said. Angula, in a resignation letter written to Minister of Information and Communication Technology Stanley Simataa last week said she had resigned due to continued governance flaws and failures by the Ministry of ICT in the running of NPTH group who has compromising performance as well as has led to decisions taken that have destroyed value in some of the NPTH subsidiaries.
Hochobeb in an interview with The Patriot questioned the validity and authenticity of a tranche of leaked emails dating back to 2016 accusing her of leaking confidential board information to a company that is flirting with the idea of launching a bid for the MTC shares.
NPTH is the holding company of MTC.
In the disputed trail of emails presented to this publication, she has allegedly been in contact with Helios Investments regarding the 34% shares and confirmed that she had approached Helios to fund a wind project in Namibia.
The co-Founding Partner and Managing Partner at Helios Investment Partners LLP who serves as its Managing Director is Babatunde Soyoya. Helios Investment is the largest equity firm in Africa and it owns Samba Luco which owned the 34% shareholding in MTC until CRAN finally granted approval recently.
Samba Luco is represented locally by BFS as transactional advisor with Managing Director Kauna Ndilula serving as a non-voting observer on behalf of Samba Luco on the MTC board. On legal matters, Samba Luco is represented by Engling, Stritter and Partners.
Although she vehemently denied any links to the UK-based equity outfit, she did admit that Helios was one of the “eight to 12 companies she approached in 2016 to finance a solar and wind energy project”.
“At that stage I had no idea that they[Helios] was one of the companies linked to the shares,” she said yesterday.
Hochobeb, in an email dated 21 June 2016 with the subject “Energy Project Investment profile”, which she validated wrote to Soyoye saying: “I am enquiring if your firm would be interested to finance a solar and wind energy project in Namibia. Attach[sic] kindly find overview. The value inclusive of costs are USD40 million.”
By the time I wrote that email, she said, as board members we did not know that company was linked to MTC. “We were only briefed later on.”
She said as soon as she discovered the connection of Helios to the MTC shares she cut all ties with them.
“Nothing happened in that deal, although they responded to my enquiry, I directed them to the relevant stakeholders,” she said.
She maintained that she holds corporate governance in high regards, hence her decision to discontinue any links to Helios.
“I do not want to put anyone in bad light over this matter, so I am speaking on my own behalf, not on behalf of anyone else,” she maintained.
The scramble for the lucrative MTC shares was in full swing since 2015 when it became public knowledge that the foreign based shareholder was facing financial trauma. Offers were made to NPTH for the acquisition of these shares by Namibian businessmen Knowledge Katti and Johannes Gawaxab amongst others. The Cabinet Committee on Treasury in 2015 refused to grant permission to enable NPTH to use their first right of refusal to acquire the shares and permission was only granted a year later when it became evident that the minority shareholder had filed for bankruptcy.
Although politicians have been accused of being ringleaders in the share saga, Hochobeb has allegedly been keeping Soyoye abreast with NPTH discussions pertaining to the MTC shares.
It is not clear why Hochobeb would take an interest in Helios’ perceived or real interest to acquire the shares. In one of the emails she allegedly told Soyoye that “you have something(MTC shares) many wanted, hence the anger outburst”.
In an e-mail dated 22 June 2016 and with the subject “Energy project Investment profile”, Ofuya told Hochobeb that “we indeed looking forward to working together on MTC.”
A day later, Hochobeb allegedly sent an email to Soyoye saying: “The session just finished now, to continue tomorrow with other stakeholders. My advice to you, do not share any of your plans with the people here, consider changing lawyers, as your current law firm do[sic] some work for the holding[NPTH] too, consider a law firm outside the borders, maybe SA.”
When asked by Soyoye what she does, Hochobeb responded: “I am an auditor, risk and forensic. Are[sic] appointed by government on some boards as well as advisory position. I have interest in companies, and my footprint is large in knowing the political game players and where the capital expenditure are with actual information.”
She warned Soyoye to “keep your asset by not disclosing your plans for now, an attack is on its way. Let’s meet from second week of July.”
“I am informed your company is now the 34% owner of MTC, looking forward to see you at shareholder meetings. I am a board member and chairperson of the Investment funds on the 66% holding that you share with MTC,” Hochobeb further said in another of the emails she now disputes.
Hochobeb maintains that there was a period in 2016 when her laptop was hacked and thus suspects that email accounts were created to discredit her.