Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Treasury’s oil storage hijack

The saga of the National Oil Storage Facility continues to rumble on to its inevitably messy conclusion after Treasury succeeded in its bid to wrestle from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
The Cabinet Committee on Treasury met on Wednesday to find a solution to the dilemma it finds itself in, with Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein continuing to push ahead with plans to appoint a foreign firm to operate the facility.
Sources privy to this week’s discussions have confirmed to this publication that the Finance Ministry has now taken control of this strategic project at the expense of the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
The Mines Ministry had previously established a widely represented Steering Committee to represent the interests of the state in this multi-billion dollar project, which the Minister of Finance sought to take over from the Minister of Mines & Energy as previously reported by this publication. It appears that Schlettwein, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Treasury is now in full control of the project.
However, the battle between the two Ministries appears far from over with Alweendo unclear as to the motives of the Finance Minister in the matter. Sources close to Alweendo are clear that, having experienced the terrible effects of the over-politicization of technical and administrative matters, the Mines Minister wants everything done by the book and without reproach.
It appears his best efforts are being undermined by his fellow cabinet members with respect to the National Oil Storage Project.
Schlettwein has quickly assumed his new role on the project and replaced the chairperson of the Steering committee Simeon Negumbo with the Technical Economic Advisor to the Finance Minister and Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Penda Ithindi.
Members of the National Oil Storage Steering Committee include members of all Government stakeholders in the Project, including the Navy and the Ministry of Defence.
The Steering Committee that has been tasked with making recommendations to Alweendo, will now have to report to Schlettwein.
The control of the facility was the subject of an intense battle between Schlettwein and Alweendo.
In anticipation of the urgent approvals required by the Cabinet Committee on Treasury for the Project to reach its conclusion, The Patriot understands the Steering Committee made some recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Treasury regarding the operations of the facility, principal of which was that Namcor and Namport, as state entities, would operate it.
Minutes from meetings held by the Steering Committee, seen by The Patriot, indicate that the Committee advised against leasing or handing over the facility to a private company.
“The committee never said the facility must be leased to private firms as purported by some senior government officials,” said a committee source.
In a surprising move at the meeting held this week, Ithindi as the newly installed chairperson of the Steering Committee informed the CCT that the Steering Committee had recommended a lease of the Facilities, when in fact no such recommendation had ever been made.
It is understood the information relayed by Ithindi to CCT left members of the Steering Committee utterly perplexed at how their recommendations had been altered in favour of private interests by the Finance Ministry without consultation.
As discussion went on, Alweendo, Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste and Attorney-General Albert Kawana allegedly also joined the chorus of those singing tunes not to lease the facility to private firms.
“They jointly proposed that Namcor and Namport should operate the facility and that any excess storage space, according to Namcor and the strategic needs of the nation, would be made available to the market at market-related terms,” said the source.
Schlettwein was apparently left fuming after his proposal was rejected.
Earlier this year, the Finance Minister brought an unsolicited proposal by global oil giant Vitol to the CCT.
Vitol is a multinational oil trader and controlling shareholder of Shell/Vivo in Namibia.
It wants to take control of the Oil Storage Facility on a lease basis for a lease sum of US$1 per year.
The proposal was vigorously opposed by then Mines Minister Obeth Kandjoze and then Attorney-General, Sakeus Shanghala as not being in the best interests of the State.
Within a week of each’s opposition to the deal being made known, they were both removed from their respective portfolios with Kandjoze (a geologist) being posted to the Economic Planning while the Alweendo (an economist) was moved to the Mines & Energy Ministry.
Shanghala was moved from Attorney-General to the Minister of Justice and Kawana went the opposite way.
The Vitol proposal, seen by this newspaper, was rejected by the Steering Committee despite the Finance Ministry’s efforts to have it approved.
With the oil storage facility now finally granted to Namcor and Namport for its operations, sources close to each parastatal indicate that the focus will now shift to each parastatal to demonstrate the necessary skills and capacity to execute the mandate now given to them.

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