Thursday 15 April 2021
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Power or the students?

NSFAF infightings reach new heights

The boardroom fights at the Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund has once more underscored the zeal that goes into fights for power at parastatals while their mandates are parked on the side. While thousands of students continue to decry the state in which NSFAF administers public student funding-instead of working on ways to improve the system-the attention within the NSFAF corridors is squarely on the ongoing battle between CEO Hilya Nghiwete and company secretary Fillemon Immanuel. Leaked documents reveal that disciplinary proceedings instituted against Immanuel recommended that he should be dismissed because of gross negligence and using foul language. Gross negligence is normally dealt with as a dismissible offense in labour law due to the high operational risk to an enterprise for condoning such conduct. The Patriot understands the board during a meeting on Wednesday resolved not to endorse the recommendation.
According to sensitive documents pertaining Immanuel’s case titled “Hearing Sanctions

Recommendation”, today was supposed to be Immanuel’s last day as an employee of NSFAF. “In consideration of all the above, as well as taking into account what was said in aggravation, particularly the total lack of remorse, an taking all the charges together for the purpose of sanction, I am obliged to propose that the employee, Mr. Fillemon Wise Immanuel be dismissed from his employment with effect from 30 June 2017 with payment of one month salary in lieu of notice for humanitarian reasons,” said external labour consultant who chaired the disciplinary hearing, Johan Van Rooyen. The Patriot also understands that the board’s decision not to remove Immanuel comes after they[board members] were summoned to the office of the line minister Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi last week Thursday. An official, who is known but cannot be named, said the minister allegedly instructed the board not to dismiss Immanuel.
NSFAF has been thrust in the spotlight over board and management fights that have triggered multiple investigations at the agency. According to information at hand Nghiwete has instituted a grievance against the NSFAF chair Patty Karuaihe-Martin while Immanuel has also instituted a grievance against Nghiwete. In a surprise move Nghiwete returned the favor in December by instituting disciplinary proceedings against Immanuel. It is further alleged that middle management has also instituted a grievance against Nghiwete. Relations between Nghiwete and Immanuel are under immense strain and it is not known whether the board’s decision will be challenged. The probe into Immanuel’s conduct was necessitated after Nghiwete submitted a report in December 2016 of alleged misconduct of Immanuel. In the report, Nghiwete detailed how Immanuel allegedly failed to submit his performance review report within the stipulated timeframe, which according to Nghiwete, resulted in NSFAF’s six month health check review being delayed. She also accused him of failing to complete and submit minutes of the board’s engagement with Kandjii-Murangi in September 2016. “On 17 November 2016 at 22:19 an e-mail was sent to the Company Secretary from the CEO requesting that he kindly make two sets of documents required for the Ministry of Public Enterprises investigation.
The deadline attached to such request was 18 November 2016 at 10:00. Despite the reminder on the matter on 18 November 2016 at 14:55 Immanuel did not provide the information requested nor responded to the two e-mails. Consequently, because of his disregard of instruction of his superior the submission of such information was compromised and executed(on his behalf) at the last minute by his superior,” reads the report. Nghiwete further alleged that Immanuel makes use of foul language when talking to her; disregards official instructions and violates the Code of Ethics.
“The offenses committed are a combination of major and serious offences which in terms of the Employee Relations Policy warrant a charge of misconduct against any NSFAF employee, in this case, the company secretary,” she said in her submission. Following the submission of the report, NSFAF enlisted the services of Van Rooyen. Following hearings in February and March, van Rooyen reconvened the hearing on 24 May. A month later he released his findings into the matter. Van Rooyen found Immanuel guilty on two counts of gross negligence, using insulting language to the supervisor and disregarding official instruction from the supervisor. Immanuel was however not found guilty on a count of gross insubordination. Van Rooyen also indicated that Immanuel opted not to make any written arguments to defend himself while Nghiwete filed her arguments. In her arguments, Nghiwete said “Mr. Immanuel’s conduct seriously jeopardized the trust relationship between him and the CEO to such an extent that it is beyond repair.”
“I have to agree with the Initiator[Nghiwete] from what transpired during the disciplinary hering, that besides the gravity of the charges on which the Employee was found guilty, the relationship between the CEO, and Company Secretary has been fatally and probably permanently damaged,” said Van Rooyen adding that under the circumstances there can be no efficient working relationship between the two. Van Rooyen feels that while the reasons for the strained relationship between the two is “probably complex and difficult to establish objectively”, they did not justify Immanuel to misconduct himself.

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