A Namibia Wildlife Resorts(NWR) board member on Wednesday during a meeting between the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the company’s top leadership detailed how NWR’s managing director Zelna Hengari went behind the board’s back to sign a glamping deal with a private firm.
Two highly placed sources, one in NWR and a board member confirmed this, saying board member Bernd Schneider, was unrepentant when he told minister Pohamba Shifeta that Hengari did not get board approval to seal the glamping deal.
Schneider, according to one of the sources, narrated how the board was side lined when the controversial agreement was penned and said the board does not support the agreement.
Schneider, who serves as the chairperson of the Competitive Advisory Council, is said to have told Shifeta that the deal in its current format “is bad for NWR and Namibia”.
He did however indicate that the concept has the potential to generate revenue for the company if it is well executed. He also accused Hengari of keeping information from the board.
According to the source: “Schneider said the board conditionally approved the glamping concept subject that the board receives a business and construction plan and all related details.
There was a clear resolution taken that until that is done, this board will not approve the glamping concept.”
Hengari is said to have kept information regarding the project from the board despite repeated requests for information to be provided.
Much to the surprise of Shifeta, Schneider said board members would normally only learn about what is happening in the company when the NWR leadership meets the minister.
“I like coming to meetings here because we get information here about the company which we must run that has been circumvented by management,” Schneider allegedly said.
He also narrated how Hengari wrote to the deputy permanent secretary in the MET “in which she was trying to get a retrospective confirmation of the glamping project” without involving the board.
The setup of Namibia’s public enterprises, makes it compulsory for SOE heads to communicate with their line ministries through the boards only.
The source further indicated that Schneider told the minister that the board sent a new version to the deputy PS.
Schneider also revealed how Hengari failed to substantiate her claims that the previous board endorsed the glamping deal. It is said that the embattled MD could not provide the necessary documentation to back up her claims.
A senior MET official told The Patriot that the rest of the company’s management should also be held accountable.
“After the revelation of this damning information, the entire management must share the blame because the buck stops with them.
The managers should have picked up these governance irregularities because they are supposed to be part of the decision-making processes in the company,” the official said.
“They clearly failed to remedy the situation and failed to ask the necessary questions and therefore, by keeping quiet one could say that they were complicit to the situation.”
In August. NWR was at pains to explain the glamping deal during a heated meeting between Ministers Leon Jooste (Public Enterprises), Calle Schlettwein (Finance) and Shifeta. Sources privy to that meeting said the ministers questioned the company about the recent joint ventures it has entered into, especially those related to its Glamping projects.
The finance minister is said to have accused NWR of trying to “alienate state assets” by entering into deals which it can execute itself. Jooste is said to be concerned with the process that led to the signing of the joint ventures.
Shifeta on the other hand, allegedly accused NWR of striking deals on properties it does not own.
These properties are Von Bach Dam and Mile 14, among others as NWR does not have ownership of the documents such as title deeds of the properties.
An NWR source however disputed that assertion, saying the company’s founding Articles make provision for NWR to use all state-owned tourism resources.
NWR has always maintained that the JVs for Glamping is part of the company’s intent to turn around the financial performance of the company as well as to establish Namibia as the leading tourist destination on the continent.
The Patriot in the past reported that MET is in the process of seeking legal advice in order to nullify several joint venture agreements that NWR has entered into.