Friday 18 June 2021
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Research commission board and CEO appointments pending

The process to appoint a new board for the National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) is at an advanced stage pending Cabinet approval.
The situation has forced the parastatal to go for months without a board and a chief executive officer (CEO).  It is unusual for an SOE to operate without a board or substantive heads in the country. The situation has now occurred twice under the Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi-led ministry after Namibia Qualifications Authority also experienced a similar ordeal before Frans Gertze was eventually reappointed.
Last week, The Patriot reported extensively on the situation whereby terms of offices of boards and CEOs of parastatals under the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation (MHETI) are left to lapse without the immediate replacement thereof.
Responding to questions sent by this publication this week, permanent secretary (PS) in the higher education ministry Alfred van Kent said the process to recruit the NCRST board had been submitted to Cabinet.
“The process to recruit a Board for the NCRST has been submitted to Cabinet for endorsement. As soon as Cabinet has endorsed the nominations the Board will be appointed,” said the PS.
Van Kent confirmed that NCRST company secretary Enid Keramen occupies the CEO’s position for the interim after the departure of Dr Eino Mvula in May this year.
Asked who Keramen reports to hence the absence of a board, van Kent responded: “In the interim, the acting CEO[Keramen] accounts on the NCRST activities and programmes to the appointing authority which is the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation[Kandjii-Murangi].”
Critics have warned that if NCRST is left to continue without a substantive CEO and board it could hinder Namibia’s quest to become a research, science and innovation hub.
“We are aware of the important role an institution such as the NCRST is playing in our country, to promote research, science and technology for our country to achieve its industrialised status as enshrined in Vision 2030. The acting CEO runs the affairs of the NCRST, thus all operational activities should continue,” said the PS.
The reasons as to why the terms of office of the boards, who in turn have to appoint CEOs are left to lapse without the immediate appointment of new board members remains a mystery.
These developments have given credibility to speculations that, the minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi has plans to merge all State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in her ministry under one umbrella, something van Kent vehemently denies.
“While it is true that there are some overlapping functions between some SOEs under our Ministry, we have embarked on a process to investigate how best we could address such overlapping functions,” said van Kent.
He added: “The delay with the appointment of some of the Boards have nothing to do with the initiative to address the overlapping of functions of the SOEs.”
Van Kent has since denied the existence of a crisis in the ministry.
“We are not aware of any crisis amongst the SOEs resorting under our Ministry,” he said.
According to reports, van Kent led a crusade against former NCRST boss, Mvula who in the end was forced to quit his job in favour of a junior role at the Namibia Student Assistance Fund (NSFAF).
Officials familiar with the relationship between van Kent and Mvula say van Kent made sure that the NCRCT would not get sufficient funds to fully execute its mandate.
In a letter addressed to van Kent on 14 March 2017, Mvula demanded answers as to why the NCRST had been hardest hit by the Ministry’s budget cut. A worrying factor according to Mvula at the time was that, for the 2017/18 financial year, NCRST’s budget was slashed by 38%, while the overall budget for the Ministry stands at 25%.
Mvula wrote at the time: “The NCRST requires a minimum of N$183 648 060 to operate allocated only N$55 601 000. With current allocation of N$55 601 000, the NCRST will not be able to honour the funded projects that have already been awarded as it will only have N$1 347 940 to research projects against N$35 000 000 required to honour all the commitments”.
Sources in the know have also indicated that Mvula and van Kent have a bitter-sweet relationship mainly because the former had defeated the latter in the interview that saw him become the first CEO of the then newly formed Public Enterprise, NCRST in 2013.
To this, van Kent said: “As a Ministry, our responsibility is to oversee the operations of SOEs resorting under our Ministry and to ensure that they fulfil their mandates they were established for. The SOEs have boards to govern their operations and also to ensure that they fulfil their mandates. As a Ministry, we do not interfere in the operations of our SOEs and we expect the respective boards to address whatever challenges they are experiencing at their institutions. If we pick up issues affecting SOEs, we do consult with the respective institution’s board to understand what the issues on the ground are and to advise how possibly such issues could be resolved.”

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