The suspensions of the four executives at Namibia Airports Company(NAC) last week is only a small fraction of the problem that has crippled the institution for years, a company source has indicated.
The awarding of tenders to proxies, according to a company insider, has been the order of the day at the company with some company officials allegedly amassing wealth through the backdoor by inflating prices during the goods and services procurement processes while the company’s financial situation was worsening.
NAC last week suspended four executives namely commercial services manager Toska Sem, human resources manager Josephine Soroses, finance and administration manager Verengai Ruswa, and human resources manager for resourcing and relations Albert Sibeya. Although NAC said the suspensions were prompted by disciplinary transgressions the officials may have committed, information coming from within the company suggest otherwise.
The company insider said some of the suspended officials have been found to be working in cohorts with suspended CEO Tamer EL-Kallawi on multiple occasions to the detriment of the company. Some of them who were left behind by El-Kallawi have allegedly also been in one or another way blocking internal investigations that could lead to the eventual prosecution of the embattled CEO and his henchmen.
Announcing the suspensions last week, NAC said: “This mainly serves to convey that the following have been suspended […] from their positions with immediate effect by the undersigned, pending investigations pertaining to disciplinary transgressions that they may have committed,” reads the circular.
The Board of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) in June suspended El-Kalawi, and Strategic Executive of Projects: IT and Engineering, Courage Silombela.
Maintaining fiscal discipline during the procurement process has been a nightmare for the company even after El-Kallawi’s suspension. The Namibian reported in September three days after leaving office as the Namibia Airports Company’s acting chief executive, Josephine Soroses had to explain to the board why she signed off five questionable tenders.
Soreses, who acted as CEO for two months, was appointed when the NAC suspended Tamer El-Kallawi, pending a corruption probe.
According to the report, the board asked Lot Haifidi, who succeeded Soroses, to ask her to explain how she had signed off five contracts – valued at a combined N$1,1 million – between 11 August 2017 and 18 August 2017.
The contracts included hiring an economist to inform staff members about the state of the Namibian economy; training the human resources team; a supervisory skills training course; Microsoft Excel training; and a training session on how to chair disciplinary hearings.
Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste this week dispelled claims that NAC CEO acted unilaterally without the board’s permission to suspend the officials.
He indicated that the Board was fully aware and the Acting CEO merely approached his office to explain the actual situation.
Fears are now rife that the company could be crippled from an operational point of view with so many executives under suspension. Jooste holds similar fears.
“We are deeply concerned as to how this will affect the company but I am convinced that this decision was based on substantive motivation and that this is in the best interest of the company. They have assured us that they have adequate back-up capacity to continue with their operations as usual,” he said in a written response to questions posed to him on the NAC matter this week.
Asked whether the latest spate of suspensions could impact good corporate governance at NAC in any way, Jooste responded: “One of the foundations upon which corporate governance principles is built, deals with integrity. When our due process is followed before we endorse a request for suspensions, these are always based on the conviction that the suspension will lead to dismissal (at the very least) or further more dramatic consequences. We also attach a timeline to the suspensions to ensure that the disciplinary processes are expedited.”
He also indicated that there are currently no pending requests on his desk from SOEs seeking permission to suspend officials.
Jooste warned that his ministry is not going to tolerate any form of malpractice, negligence or corruption in any SOE and “we will enhance our ability to eradicate this phenomenon to protect the interests of the State.”