Haaji Naat’áanii Corp.?
$2.5 million given to NDC, with little to show so far
In President Russell Begaye’s last state of the nation address, he boasted about what some might call “his baby,” or the crown jewel of his administration, the creation of the Naat’áanii Development Corporation.
He said he pushed for it, that it was “fully operational” with “current funding and an acting director,” and has already attracted the interest of major multinational corporations.
However, trying to find the source of that funding, or the director, has been like pulling teeth.
A brainchild of Begaye administration strategists COO Robert Joe and Staff Assistant Juan Massey, and the outgrowth of their sweeping “Economic Roadmap,” the formation of NDC, with the blessing of the Navajo Nation Council, was primarily put forth to find new ways of diversifying revenues, creating jobs, and simplifying doing business on the Navajo Nation.
NDC is wholly owned by the Navajo Nation, the sole shareholder of the company, but is also “distinct and separate” from the Navajo Nation. Part of the intent behind the structure of the corporation was to shield it from political influence.
All sounds good, right?
There’s only one problem. Robert Joe, who recently departed the OPVP and is now the CEO of NDC, is unreachable.
There is no NDC website, no phone number, and no physical address for the company.
The president’s office for weeks has refused to share information about NDC, including inquiries about the funding that Begaye referred to.
According to public information officer Mihio Manus, nobody in the OPVP even has Robert Joe’s current phone number.
There was a $2.5 million payment made to the company on Aug. 23 in the form of a “tribal grant” from the Navajo Nation to NDC.
It was approved through the legislature, and paid out of the Economic Development Sales Tax Fund through the controller’s office.
None of this was publicized.