The cash strapped Namibian Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has splashed close to N$3 million on a forensic audit aimed at securing evidence against its suspended Chief Executive Officer, Hilya Nghiwete, ahead of her hearing conducted this week.
The fund, which has been struggling to disburse student loans due to liquidity challenges, was billed over N$2,9 million by auditing firm KPMG which carried out the forensic audit.
The audit was commissioned by the Jerome Mutumba-led board after it suspended Nghiwete over allegations of mal-administration or administrative corruption among other misconduct charges.
Although details of the audit are still to be made public after KPMG completed its work and submitted a report, the fund’s expenditure in its efforts to rid itself of Nghiwete is projected to reach close to N$5 million when all is finalized.
The current KPMG bill excludes legal fees from lawyers Andrew Corbett and ESI Africa secured by the fund to offer legal advice and defend its position to dismiss the CEO.
This comes as the previous NSFAF board is said to have spent close to N$1 million in various investigations including one by auditing firm, Ernst & Young, on the same matter.
Contacted for comment on the outcome of the audit and bill, KPMG Namibia Partner, Valens Mugabo, declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement between the auditing firm and NSFAF.
“Unfortunately because of a confidentiality clause with the client, we are unable to comment,” he said.
No comment was secured from EY as partners were said not to be in office.
Higher Education, Training and Innovation Permanent Secretary, Alfred Adriaan van Kent, said he was unable to comment.
“The issues you are asking are of an administrative nature and I am not in a position to comment and I am also in a meeting now,” he said.
The decision to splash millions by the NSFAF board as part of investigations on its suspended CEO comes as treasury clashed with the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia after it was billed over N$1,7 million by auditing firm Deloitte for its investigation of Managing Director, Immanuel Mulunga, over a N$2,2 million tender he awarded to a Malaysian company, Hyrax Oil.
The NSFAF board’s push for Nghiwete’s exit was, however, dealt a major blow when the Wednesday hearing was adjourned to allow the fund to consult, after it emerged that the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi, had failed to gazette a date by which the amended NSFAF Act would become operational.
This could see Nghiwete’s return to her position through a technicality as it emerged that any decision taken by the fund post 2014 when its’ founding Act was amended, could be deemed non-binding and illegal.
Nghiwete’s lawyer, Sisa Namandje, dropped this legal bombshell during the hearing on Wednesday.
This also could mean that the appointment of the Jerome Mutumba-led board that pushed for Nghiwete’s suspension, documents submitted to the parent ministry on the integration of NSFAF and the appointment of Kennedy Kandume as Acting CEO, could also be rendered null and void if the claims are found to be true.
Another implication is that Tribesman, the company whose debt collection agreement with the fund was recently terminated, could likely retain its rights.
When contacted for comment, Mutumba refused to be drawn into the matter, saying it is an internal issue.
“I cannot comment on that, let due process take its course,” he said.
But a NSFAF board member, who refused to be named, questioned why Nghiwete would call herself the CEO of the fund if the principal Act of NSFAF does not have a provision for the position.
The board member also argued that the SOE Act supersedes the fund’s principal Act, and thus legally enforces the board’s appointments and its decisions thereafter.
Nghiwete was suspended in April 2018.