THE mines and energy ministry says it is investigating allegations that an oil company bribed some senior officials to fast-track licence applications.
The senior officials are accused of allegedly accepting bribes from a company called Acer Petroleum to expedite the process of acquiring wholesale and retail licences.
Acer Petroleum is owned by the Mount Meru Group, an international company with a presence in 25 countries.
It started operations in Tanzania. It operates in the logistics and fuel industry, with a number of service stations in 10 countries.
The company’s chief executive officer, Mayank Gupta, has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that they were being extorted.
The investigation was enforced after a whistleblower wrote a letter to mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo on 1 October 2020.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Andreas Simon confirmed that the ministry received the letter.
He said they are investigating the serious allegations levelled against some of their officials and the company in question.
Simon added that allegations that the company is not adhering to Namibian laws, are very serious.
He also added the fact that the ministry’s officials have been accused of receiving bribes was a serious allegation.
The spokesperson further added that an investigation has been lodged, focusing on the allegations in their entirety and a report would be made available to minister Alweendo to properly guide him and senior officials on the way forward in terms of dealing with the matter.
“The Ministry of Mines and Energy would like to inform you that the alert letter was sent to the ministry and the ministry has since launched an internal enquiry/investigation regarding these serious allegations,” Simon told The Namibian last week Thursday.
Acer Petroleum buys and resells fuel in Namibia.
The whistleblower in the letter alleged that the petroleum company received inside information on new developments introduced by the mines and energy ministry.
It would then access confidential business plans approved by the ministry’s economists submitted by other companies.
“There has been a fixed amount decided on particular works to be done for Acer. Apart from this, there always have been personal parties and other remunerations (details of which can be shared with the investigating team),” the letter added.
The whistleblower further called on the ministry to immediately open an inquiry and take strict action against the petroleum company and officials who were allegedly bribed.
The ministry was further urged to cancel the accused company’s wholesale licence to stop it from operating in Namibia since it allegedly violated petroleum laws.
Acer Petroleum’s lawyer, Kadhila Amoomo, told The Namibian on Monday that the allegations reported to the mines and energy ministry and the Anti-Corruption Commission are “unfounded”, “false”, “baseless” and “vexatious”.
He added that they were made to tarnish Acer Petroleum’s reputation.
“Our client has never participated in any bribery activities and any person who makes such allegations will definitely be brought before a court of law in defamation proceedings,” Amoomo said.
According to him, Acer Petroleum is facing an onslaught of false allegations from unidentified people.
The company suspects that the latest attack on their company are similar to the aggression displayed by their former agent.
The lawyer claimed that the petroleum company has been subjected to various threats of extortion targeting the lives and property of its staff members as well as the integrity of the company’s properties.
He said criminal cases have since been instituted with the Namibian Police, and proceedings have also been instituted against the said agent in the High Court of Namibia.
Amoomo added: “Kindly take note that the allegations were wrongly presented and twisted to further extort money from our client. The company, to date, does not hold a single retail licence.”
Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Commission spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata confirmed receiving the report on alleged corruption at the petroleum company.
She said a preliminary evaluation found that some parts of the report involve tax evasion – hence it was referred to the Ministry of Finance.
“As for what seems to be a corruption aspect, the whistleblower was informed of what is required before a file is opened,” Nghituwamata said.