…as scramble for 13 000 hectare Sossusvlei concession continues
A senior official in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has been accused of a conflict of interest after it emerged that he forms part of a company that leads the pack to enter into a partnership with a community that holds a lucrative concession.
Shikongo, who works as MET’s Director for Tourism, is a 20% shareholder in a company called Ongwali Hunting Safaris that is in line to enter into a long-term joint venture with the Ada Khaibasen Community Trust which holds the much-sought after concession in the Namib Naukluft Park.
The Ada Khaibasen Community Tourism Trust Concession is situated within the Farm Sukses boundary in the Namib Naukluft Park with the exact site location as indicated in Map below. The Concession is situated east of Sesriem Camp along the C18 road at the old farm Sukses house and is approximately 44 hectares in size.
His partners in the company are Lovness Nghidimondjila Ndeiweda, Sofia Ndalila, Toivo Ottilie, Ndeshihafela Eliasel and Laban Shidute.
The company was registered in April 2017 and its offices are located in Greenwell Matongo in Windhoek.
Its principal business involves tourism activities, trophy hunting, conducting safari tour, tour operating in Namibia and all tour related activities.
MET is currently facilitating the process for the community trust to get a joint venture partner.
The other companies also vying to land a deal with ACKOTT are Sossus Horizon Campsite, Journeys Namibia and Natural Selection Safaris.
The Patriot understands ACKOTT has indicated that it wishes to enter into a JV with the company in which Shikongo is a partner.
ACKOTT chairperson Hiskia Auchab confirmed this week that the trust wishes to enter into a JV with Ongwali Hunting Safaris.
Shikongo denied any conflict when approached.
He said he does not deal with awarding concessions in the ministry and thus cannot influence decisions.
According to the financial plan, Ongwali Hunting Safaris trading as Ongwali Desert Lodge(ODL) is a start-up limited liability corporation wholly owned and managed by Bao Weihong, Lin Bo, Puye Haufiku, R. D. Jansen and Taimi Andreas (the last three being previously disadvantaged Namibian professionals).
Shikongo also indicated that he does not form part of Ongwali Desert Lodge which is the trading company in this regard.
MET minister Pohamba Shifeta did not comment on the alleged conflict of interest and in turn relayed the queries to the ministry’s spokesman.
MET spokesman Romeo Muyunda said the ministry is not aware that Shikongo is linked to the concession.
“MET will probe whether he has declared his interests because any civil servant who intends to do business with government must declare their interests.
If he declared his interest then there is no conflict, but if he did not, there is conflict,” said Muyunda.
Earlier this year, the four companies presented their bids and it seems Ongwali’s offer was favoured by ACKOTT.
ACKOTT’s chairperson however accused the ministry of preventing it from entering into a JV with a partner of its choice, however, “the ministry is trying to impose partners onto us”.
According to the four bids, Ongwali expects to generate revenue to the tune of N$1 billion and offered ACKOTT a concession fee of N$16.3 million during the partnership that will run for close to 30 years.
Sossus Horizon says it expects to generate at least N$104.4 million and promised a concession fee of N$3.7 million to the community.
Journeys Namibia on the other hand expects to rake in revenue to the tune of N$960 million and promised a concession fee of N$8 million.
Natural Selection Safaris projected revenue of N$89 million of which it expects to pay a concession fee of N$3.5 million.
The group signed the Head Concession Contract with the ministry in 2013, but five years later they continue to clash with the ministry because of issues hampering the signing of an operational agreement that will give the Trust the go-ahead to put up the campsite with its preferred investors.
Ongwali’s grand plan
ODL intends to build 30 luxury units that will have steel frames and will be approximately 30 square metres each and will be built on 1 metre high wooden decks that will ensure less impact on the environment.
According to the financial plan, the lodge will also have a reception area/foyer, restaurant, bar, laundry, employee residents, store rooms, water closets, swimming pool, back office, boardroom and a guard house.
The parking area will be gravel to keep in line with the environment surrounding the lodge.
The plan also indicates that the company will require an initial capital outlay of N$18,903,099 which will be used to acquire fixed assets worth N$16,4 million and meet working capital requirements N$2,4 million.
The capital requirements will be financed from an interest bearing loan of N$9,4 million (at an interest rate of 11.25% on a ten year tenure with a 12 month grace period) which is matched by a shareholders’ contribution of N$9,451,550.
Under its corporate social responsibility, Ongwali promised that 36 of the 53 staff members at the envisaged establishment will be employed from the community and other community members with the necessary experience in management level may also be employed if they meet the requirements.
Junior staff, according to the financial plan, will receive in-house training for positions that do not necessarily need experience.
“The operator will also promote qualifying lower rank staff as vacancies opens up at the camp.
Temporary or seasonal staff will also be appointed as the need may arise, especially during school holidays in the peak tourism season, especially students who are interested in studying in the field of tourism and hospitality.
ODL will also avail scholarships to deserving members of the community who will undergo training aimed at equipping them with skills necessary for them to be employed in managerial positions in ODL.”