Instead of fighting for the well-being of students who cannot afford to pay for their tertiary education, the board and management of Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund(NSFAF) has directed its energy towards pounding on each other.
An explosive cache of emails and documents from inside the NSFAF empire has provided evidence of how the board and the company head and some management members were fighting while student funding lagged behind.
This is the story about one of their most important conquests: Money and control of the institution which has the lives of thousands of students in its hands.
As Patty Karuaihe-Martin and her board arrived at NSFAF three years ago, the company’s troubles began which also led to students demonstrating over the modus operandi of the institution.
To understand how the new board asserted its powers, one needs to go back to March 2017, when a company called Lex Technologies pushed for a payment due to them. On 6 March 2017 the board resolved to negotiate settlement up to N$6 million. At the same meeting, a committee was appointed to handle the matter.
Details from that meeting, to which The Patriot is privy, emerged with some of the board members expressing reservation at settling the matter for N$6 million, suggesting that N$3 million is more reasonable. This was declined by LEX, it turns out.
Despite the consternations, the board eventually resolved to live by the N$6 million settlement offer, subject to the return of NSFAFs domain name, accessible data and without costs.
LEX and NSFAF also agreed that each would pay their own legal fees.
On 17 March 2017 the company secretary Fillemon Wise Immanuel and and one of the board members(Leezel Van Wyk) met with NSFAF’s lawyer on the matter, Karin Klazen.
According to Klazen, the duo informed her that the board would like to settle the dispute with LEX before its term comes to an end.
“My hand written notes of that meeting record that the mandate for settlement at that stage was N$5 million, and that settlement had to include return of the data and that the domain name was to be retained by NSFAF. I recall I asked whether, and it was confirmed that, the settlement amount was to be paid by NSFAF. In addition, confirmation was needed from the Minister on the mandate of settlement,” said Klazen during an email correspondence with Nghiwete.
The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation sanctioned the settlement on 27 September 2017. Subsequently, on 4 October Nghiwete wrote to Klazen informing her that the N$6 million offer is “final and no further negotiation as we do not have any justifiable basis to go to that level.”
The problems over the payment then started when the board made a U-turn on the decision to settle for N$6 million. Nghiwete, having then communicated the offer in her capacity as NSFAF head, was placed on the chopping block and accused of taking decisions without board approval. This seemingly irked Nghiwete who indicated that, as CEO, she was under instruction from the board to communicate the proposed settlement.
On 18 October she wrote to the board saying: “Dear board members, as indicated in my previous email I have indeed informed Karin that if LEX refused the N$5 million offer then the N$6 million which was the maximum decided by the board[should be offered]. I am puzzled by the issue of enquiring who communicated the offer to the lawyer as if this is the first time the lawyer is hearing about the board’s decision to settle. Even at the board meeting of 28 September it is on record the board’s maximum settlement is N$6 million.”
She added: “I therefore implore the NSFAF board to focus on key risks associated with your act of making a U-turn on your decision rather than using me as a scapegoat. At your meeting of Joy[restaurant in Klein Windhoek] when the board chair insisted that the maximum settlement be set at N$6 million I requested not to be part of the negotiation team but the board chair insisted that I should be part of it. The board should be honest to each other about this matter and find solutions in the interest of the organisation as I am fed up of being sacrificed and victimised.”
The Patriot understands from sources familiar with the negotiations that some of the board members wanted to implicate Nghiwete by making it seem like she unanimously and independently took the decision to settle.
Nghiwete has since written to higher education minister Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi this week informing her how the board is allegedly mistreating and victimising her. She claims that the board tried to suspend her on several occasions. “It has come to a point where the relationship is not working as the current board(especially the chairperson and Ms Van Wyk) are always looking for excuses to suspend me for any slight disagreement,” she said.
In her letter to the minister, the CEO also makes damning claims that the outgoing board is planning to write a report to the incoming board that will advise the new board to deal with Nghiwete.
Nghiwete wants Kandjii-Murangi to block any attempts for such a report.
“[The outgoing board] They must desist from writing a damaging report to the incoming board, as this has not only the potential to spoil the professional relationship between me and the incoming board but also to influence the subjectivity of the new board and one wonders as to what agenda the two board members[Karuaihe-Martins and Van Wyk] have which they did not compete in the three years they spent with NSFAF,” pleaded the under fire Nghiwete