A record number of executives of parastatals and other State-owned institutions were suspended or dismissed from their positions this year amidst accusations of corruption, maladministration and gross misconduct.
An investigation by the Windhoek Observer has established that 22 public sector executives, including CEOs and directors, were either suspended or shown the door this year alone.
Those who were shown the door include four CEOs, nine top level managers and six board members, of which two were later reinstated.
Namcor Managing Director, Immanuel Mulunga, survived a spirited attempt by the petroleum company’s board to suspend him, thanks to ministers Tom Alweendo and Leon Jooste who both agreed that a suspension would not add value since the MD had already been investigated.
Among those who got suspended are six Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) executives including, Chief Executive Officer, Augustinus Katiti, who was later fired.
NIP provides public health sector testing and disease monitoring services through its 40 laboratories across the country.
Others NIP executives who were suspended are Chief Human Capital Officer, Monika Pendukeni and Chief Technology Officer, Valerie Garises.
NIP Chief Operations Officer, Harold Kaura, Chief Financial Officer, Cleophas Mbahijova and Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Jennifer Kauapirura, were also suspended for, among others, illegally transferring N$1.8 million to be used as start-up capital for ST Freight Services owned by Stanley Thomas.
Sources privy to the suspensions told the Windhoek Observer that Pendukeni was suspended for allegedly allowing three positions to be created in the company without the board's approval while Garises is accused of allowing a tender for the procurement of IT infrastructure to sail through without following proper procedures.
City of Windhoek was also rocked by the suspension of senior managers. First, the head of City Police, Abraham Kanime, was suspended following accusations of "serious wrongdoing".
Kanime, who led the formation of the City Police in 2001, and enforced its existence in 2004, faces three charges, including paying N$80,000 to prominent lawyer, Sisa Namandje, without authorization.
Kanime is also accused of appointing lawyer Henry Shimutwikeni to represent members of the City Police at the High Court in another case in which N$74,340 was paid without authorization from Windhoek Municipality CEO, Robert Kahimise.
Kanime is further charged with appointing 20 City Police officers in acting positions without the CEO’s approval.
His disciplinary hearing took place on 16 October for the first time. According to sources privy to the matter, Kanime faces another disciplinary hearing set for early next year.
Ironically, City CEO Kahimise was later suspended for by-passing procurement procedures when his study loan of €31,650 (N$534,203) was apparently un-procedurally approved by only the Chairperson of the Management Committee on 21 February without the knowledge of the other councillors.
He was suspended in October.
His study loan was only discussed in a management committee meeting on 11 September; six months after the first instalment of N$149,000 (€10,045) had already been paid.
Telecom Namibia suspended CEO, Theo Klein, in November after an investigation into how the telecommunications company had paid N$4 million from March 2016 to June 2017 for an allegedly fake N$12 million tender.
Telecom also suspended three senior executives - Ben van der Merwe, Jinah Buys and Robert Offner. Their suspension is linked to a N$12 million “fake” contract between Telecom and Canocopy Limited owned by Paratus Telecom.
The Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) Chief Executive Officer, Hilya Nghiwete, was suspended on 9 April over allegations of corruption.
She has since dragged her employer to court claiming that she has been subjected to continuous victimisation by the previous and current NSFAF board of directors on “spurious and unfounded allegations”.
Nghiwete is also arguing in court that there seems to be a determined effort to unfairly and unlawfully terminate her employment at NSFAF.
In court papers filed on behalf of the fund, Acting CEO of NSFAF, Kennedy Kandume, denied the claims of victimisation, saying the board is trying to resolve allegations of maladministration and misconduct levelled against Nghiwete.
Business Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) CEO, Tileinge Andima, was suspended over the purchase of a rundown building in Katutura for N$18 million.
Former Road Construction Company (RCC) board chair, Fritz Jacobs and fellow board member, Elsie Skrywer, resigned shortly after a decision by Cabinet to dismiss them over a N$570 million Chinese loan deal that Works and Transport Minister, John Mutorwa, said was signed without his approval.
The deal was signed on 09 April.
In May, TransNamib board suspended fellow director Jimmy-Melani, but the suspension was condemned by the line minister, Mutorwa, who said only him and Cabinet have the legal powers to appoint and suspend board members, and not board members themselves.
Mutorwa told Jimmy-Melani that she should continue with her work as a TransNamib board member.
Namibia Airports Company Deputy board Chairperson, Beverley Gawanas-Vugs, was unceremoniously removed from her position in October by Mutorwa, who at the time said “I just removed her. I have my reasons to remove her. After extensive consultations, my ultimate decision was to remove her”.
Mutorwa refused to disclose his reasons, but later reinstated her as an ordinary board member after a court challenge.
President Hage Geingob also reshuffled three cabinet ministers who faced allegations of corruption. They are Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, who was moved to the Justice Ministry and Alpheus !Naruseb, who was shifted from the works ministry to Agriculture.
Mines and Energy Minister, Obeth Kandjoze, was moved to the National Planning Commission.
Political commentator, Professor Henning Melber, said although it is too early to make a judgment on whether the suspensions or dismissals would improve corporate governance in the public sector, what is important is that interventions indicate that the self-service mentality in public institutions is no longer tolerated and that perpetrators face consequences beyond tokenism.
He added that for far too long there was only talk, but government has not been walking the talk.
“This applies to highest-ranking office bearers themselves, who could do more olive by example. As long as the auditor general has every year a litany of violations of procurement and accounting, we are far from good governance,” he said.
He further said that Cabinet needs to be transparent and investigations should be swift.
“Investigations into irregularities have to be done quickly and professionally. Culprits should not be recycled immediately, but must face some consequences of misbehavior.
“Government must take proper stock of SOEs and their management, oversee that the salary structures are followed and that benefits for board members and others are not inappropriately high.
“Reviews should also look into downsizing some of the agencies and measure their performance against the money spend on them. SOEs should not remain a safe haven for beneficiaries who get a lot of money for relatively little work at the expenses of the taxpayers.
“Until now, much of what has repeatedly been stated in terms of reforms has not shown any results,” Melber said.