New Era CEO divides board ….As minister is accused of favouring Mathe

29 June 2018 Author   Eliaser Ndeyanale

Information and Communication Technology Minister, Stanley Simataa, has been accused of influencing New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) board members to extend the out-of-favour Chief Executive Officer, Audrin Mathe’s contract by another five years.Information and Communication Technology Minister, Stanley Simataa, has been accused of influencing New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) board members to extend the out-of-favour Chief Executive Officer, Audrin Mathe’s contract by another five years.

The Windhoek Observer understands that undue influence by Simataa has resulted in the resignation of board vice chairperson, Ileni Gebhardt and another director, Cassius Moetie.
In her resignation letter dated 25 April, which the Windhoek Observer has seen, Gebhardt accused Simataa of belittling and making threats against the board, which wanted Mathe to leave.
“It is with regret that I tender my resignation from the NEPC board of directors, effective immediately. For avoidance of any doubt, my resignation is occasioned by your continued application of undue pressure on the board to provide Dr. Mathe with a new five-year contract of employment, after the expiry of his current contract. 
“Your approach is not conducive to good corporate governance and has serious implications on the independence of the board,” Gebhardt said in her resignation letter which was copied to President Hage Geingob, Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste and board chairperson Esau Mbako.
She said instead of engaging the board meaningfully, to appreciate the essence of its resolutions pertaining to the recruitment of the CEO, Simataa chose to accuse, belittle and threaten New Era board members with unspecified action, including relieving them of their duties.
“It is indeed regrettable that such a strategic aspect of our government (ICT) and consequently the public enterprises have been entrusted to you,” Gebhardt said. 
Another source told the Windhoek Observer that the two board members left because they did not agree with a ministerial directive that Mathe’s contract should be extended for a period of three months during which time his performance would be assessed.
The board members, the source claims, argued that interviews to select a new CEO had already been conducted and Mathe did not apply.
Sources further said Jooste also felt that Mathe should be given a second term to allow continuity unless there is proof that he did not perform his duties as expected.
Another source claimed that Simataa told board members that it was up them to make a decision on which CEO they would want to employ, but he did not agree with the way that some directors wanted Mathe to go without giving him a chance to prove his worth. 
“The board was divided. There was a heated argument; Moetie and Gebhardt felt that if the interviews were already conducted, why should the board conduct an assessment on the CEO?” 
Simataa confirmed the resignation of the board members, saying that “they left on their own accord and we are busy with the process to announce the new board members (to replace the resigned members)”. 
In a rather interesting turn of events, Moetie denied on Thursday that he had resigned. 
“I have not resigned. I am still a board member… let’s just end there,” he said.
The NEPC board, which was appointed on 1 December, 2016, consisted of Mbako, Gebhardt, France Kaundinge, Beatrice Kahunda and Moetie.
The Windhoek Observer previously reported that the NEPC board has since February been looking for a suitable candidate to take up the position of CEO, which became vacant  in April when Mathe’s five-year term came to an end.
Former Social Security Commission (SSC) Chief Executive, Kenandei Tjivikua, was said to have emerged as the favourite to replace Mathe after interviews conducted by an independent panel.
The Windhoek Observer further reported that the recruitment process could run into legal trouble as Mathe was said to be contemplating challenging the whole process after he was not shortlisted for the position he currently holds.
Mathe had asked the independent search committee chairman, Kaijata Kangueehi, why his name was not amongst the shortlisted candidates, to which Kangueehi explained that he had not received his job application.
Sources claim that Mathe has been out-of-favour with the board over his management style.
His management was dragged before the public accounts committee in November last year for a hearing to answer queries raised in the auditor-general’s report on the company’s finances.
In the report, the AG revealed there was no supporting documentation, bank reconciliations, credit balances and operational revenues of NEPC.
It is also alleged that some board members felt that Mathe should not be given a second term because he was on Jerry Ekandjo's campaign team in the run-up to the SWAPO Party elective congress last year.
Mbako refused to comment on the appointment of a new CEO this week, saying the board will make an announcement when the process is complete.

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