…NSFAF provides a glimpse of life on SOE boards
• Board paid N$2.2 million in board fees for 2015 • Chair gets N$10 580 per meeting
• Directors get N$5 983 per meeting • Chair claims as much as N$74 000 per month
• 2015 monthly board fees average N$189 000 • Board claims as much as N$317 000 in a month
It cost taxpayers N$2.2 million to fund the Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund’s board during its first year in office. Serving on boards in Namibia has become a lucrative way of making money, a trend used nowadays to fill the pockets instead of managing institutions.
NSFAF’s remuneration policy makes provision for the directors to receive an annual retainer fee of N$76 649 for the chairperson and N$62 613 for the other directors. The chairperson is entitled to claim N$10 580 for chairing a meeting while other board directors claim N$5 983. Several officials that The Patriot spoke to said board members at bigger public enterprises can earn up to N$20 000 just for attending a board meeting. PattyKaruaihe-Martin, Mbushaandje Ntinda, Frans Gertze, Timoteus Angala, Liezl Van Wyk and Albtertina Nanghela currently serve on the NSFAF board. For every meeting attended by a board member that is outside town of his/her ordinary residence, that member is entitled claim an additional sum of N$2450 for traveling time. During the course of last year, the NSFAF board fees averaged N$189 000 per month last year. The highest the board claimed during 2015 was in June when it claimed N$317 769 while the lowest amount claimed was in December where board fees amounted to N$60 589. The policy makes further provision for the fund to buy iPads for the directors if such undertaking would aid them to execute their mandate.
“The iPads shall belong to the Directors at the expiration of their term. However, should a Director resign or be removed before the expiration of his/her term, the iPads shall be returned to the Fund,” reads the policy. With the company’s board fees coming under scrutiny, it has also emerged that some board members are not content with the management style of the board chairperson. This comes less than two years after the board was inaugurated, and already signs of disunity are surfacing with some members expressing concerns over the chairperson accusing her of independently taking decisions and disregarding the views of other board members. Responding to questions emailed to her, Karuaihe-Martin maintained that the allegations are devoid of any truth
“These matters are always discussed and deliberated upon during Board meeting, every member has an equal opportunity to participate thereof,” she said. “Any Board meeting that got postponed has been done with the consensus of other members. Moreover, not all postponements have been at the instance of the Board chairperson as some have been at the request of other board members too, when their calendars elsewhere could not permit and the Board as a collective agrees to such postponements,” she said while responding to allegations that she unilaterally decides when to schedule board meetings.
It is utterly malicious for anyone to claim that board meeting at NSFAF are held or postponed at the realm and dictation of the Board chairperson, she said. “There is no record of meeting cancellation. However, where there has been a meeting postponement such has been done through consultation with other Board members. This is always done through the Company Secretary’s office,” she said while responding to questions that she cancels meetings at will. “Documents for discussion during board meetings are sent to the members in advance along with the meeting agenda, inorder to ensure that members do have sufficient time to apply their minds on the subject matters as may be contained in the documents for discussions,” she said. Karuaihe-Martin further brushed off allegations that she does not allow meetings to take place in her absence. “Be it as it may, there was a recent request for a meeting by one of the shareholder Ministry, and as a board chairperson indicated my unavailability on a specified date, hence requested for an alternative date for the meeting. A particular member of the Board objected to this, insisting the meeting can continue without a BoardChair and further that the Chairperson is not the Board. I had no objection to this, but the requesting Minister himself indicated that the Board Chair need to be present.” Asked what she makes of possible plans to reintegrate the entity into the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation or the finance ministry, Karuaihe-Martin said:
“I advise that you approach the on this question in order to establish the position on the strategic thinking regarding the Fund. The Board of NSFAF however, like any other Board remains an agent of the Shareholder.” “NSFAF Board remains determined and committed to the sound principles of corporate governance and will not be detracted from the real governance issues, by petty issues and non-agenda maters. As a Board Chairperson, I stand ready as before in providing the stewardship necessary to make NSFAF a best governed institution, amidst distractions that there may be,” she vowed. Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein yesterday revealed that his ministry requested the board to refrain from making any appointments and indicated that a submission will soon be made in Cabinet to integrate NSFAF into the finance ministry. “We discussed that[integration into the ministry] possibility in some of the Cabinet committees but we must still formally submit it to Cabinet. The intention is to bring all state enterprises in the financial sector under treasury, reason being that they are financial companies and they have an impact on the finance sector of the economy,” he said. Karuaihe-Martin said since the inception of the current board, several policies have been developed and approved, that will result in more streamlined bus process and ultimately more efficient services delivery to our students.