Minister, NUST chair clash over disciplinary hearings

30 November 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo
Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) Council Chairperson, Advocate Esi Schimming-Chase, has ignored a directive from Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi to put on hold all disciplinary actions and suspensions until a new VC has been appointed.
The Windhoek Observer is informed that the appeal hearing for sacked Director for Marketing and Communication Kaitira Kandjii went ahead Tuesday despite Murangi’s directive.
In a letter dated 09 October addressed to Schimming-Chase, the minister directed that disciplinary actions and suspensions currently pending be put on hold.
The minister expressed her concern about developments around human resources issues at NUST.
“As a line ministry, we are concerned to see this kind of negative publicity around an institution such as NUST,” the letter said.
The minister advised that the strategic focus of NUST as it prepares for the exit of the Vice Chancellor, Tjama Tjivikua, should be on aspects that enhance performance of the university.
“…it is thus our view that the vice chancellor should prepare for his exit by identifying strategic issues that are still outstanding and make suggestions in terms of how he would have addressed these issues.
“You are therefore kindly requested to ensure that all disciplinary actions and suspensions that the vice chancellor is busy with are put on hold. Please note that the outgoing vice chancellor should enter into no new commitments on behalf of the institution,” the letter further read.
Schimming-Chase acknowledged receiving the letter from the minister, but said the university could not deviate from strict timelines in violation of its Human Resources code.
“As with any disciplinary hearings or any other HR matters, there are strict timelines which must be adhered to. All disciplinary hearings have set time periods for submission, notice periods, appeals, etc.
“…however, in saying this, the University has a robust HR code. All disciplinary hearings at NUST are undertaken in terms of the Disciplinary Code, and each employee has rights that he or she can exercise under the Code.
“In terms of the labour laws of Namibia, NUST must adhere to both internal and external law and regulations in relation to disciplinary hearings.  University operations continue as normal, and this includes all aspects of the Human Resource functions,” Schimming-Chase
Meanwhile, dismissed Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) Director for Marketing and Communication, Kaitira Kandjii, has been given a lifeline after an appeal hearing concluded last week that the disciplinary hearing that resulted in his axing was tainted.
Kandjii, who lost his job last month on allegations of gross negligence, neglect of duty and poor performance, went through an appeal hearing last week Tuesday, but the results were said to be inconclusive.
Esi Schimming-Chase, who also chaired the appeal hearing, ordered another disciplinary hearing.
Schimming-Chase was sitting together with council members, Markus Von Joney and Linda Ipinge.
“There was procedural and substantive unfairness and technical issues that were raised,” a NUST source who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity said.
The source further said that Kandjii’s dismissal was set aside, meaning that it was deemed null and void.
Another disciplinary hearing is now set to take place between 13 and 14 December and will be chaired by Samuel January, who is also a council member.
In an article carried by the weekly Patriot in October, there were reservations from staff members about the procedure followed leading to the disciplinary hearing carried out between October 3 and 4 which led to Kandjii’s firing.
NUST legal advisor, Joshua Kaumbi, is said to have had reservations about the procedure considering that Tjivikua was the complainant and initiator as well as the person appointing members of the disciplinary committee.
A source from NUST said this week that those overseeing the appeal hearing should have reinstated Kandjii once they had deemed the appeal process inconclusive.
The source accused Schimming-Chase of protecting Tjivikua by providing an opportunity to re-run a flawed disciplinary hearing.
“The chairperson of the council is still protecting Tjama. She is bent on protecting this man,” the source said.
When contacted for comment, Kandjii confirmed the hearing and the results, but said he doesn’t understand why he has to go through the process again.
“What is it that they are still trying to establish when it is clear that this is a witch hunt; I didn’t steal anything - I have not stolen a cent.
“There is an overall procurement policy for the country, but institutions are supposed to come up with their own policy which NUST does not have, so on what basis is this negligence?” Kandjii said.
According to the charge sheet drafted by Tjivikua, Kandjii violated the Public Procurement Act by unilaterally and irregularly committing N$247,000 or causing some amount or all of it to be paid to various companies on behalf of the university to provide equipment and services its participation at the Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair, thus bypassing procurement regulations.
The Act states that any amount above N$15,000 must be considered by the Procurement Committee.
Tjivikua also accused Kandjii of submitting an annual report of the institution late.
Kandjii was instructed by Tjivikua on 6 February 2018 to submit a complete draft of the annual report by 31 March 2018.
Tjivikua said the report was only submitted in May without any approval for late submission.
The last charge is related to speeches that were submitted late and of substandard work.
“The allegation against you is that your submissions of the NUST Brief were of a substandard nature. The submissions are riddled with errors and show that there was poor supervision or no due diligence exercised by yourself,” alleged Tjivikua.
He declined to comment on the status of Kandjii’s appeal hearing.
“Mr Kandjii’s case was heard and he has appealed his dismissal. Suffice it to say that an employee’s confidentiality is respected with regard to the tenure of his employment. Unless he himself chooses to reveal any facts relating to any disciplinary or other measures being currently undertaken,” Tjivikua stated.
He added that the conduct and management of employees is governed by the NUST Human Resources Code and the Disciplinary Code that was adopted in terms of the NUST Act.
 
 

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