Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund’s(NSFAF) board stands accused of allegedly flouting basic corporate governance rules after appointing Kennedy Kandume-who does not sit on the company’s executive- to act as company head following the suspension of the substantive CEO Hilya Nghiwete.
Kandume is NSFAF’s Senior Manager for Operations. He reports to Chief Operations Officer, Dr. Eino Mvula. This means Mvula now reports to his subordinate.
Critics have warned that the move poses a great risk to the stability of the institution.
Board chairman Jerome Mutumba yesterday explained why the board opted to settle with Kandume, saying the fact that Kandume does not serve in management does not make him incapable to occupy the position.
He also said the decision to appoint Kandume should not be seen as a vote of no confidence in the rest of the Exco members.
“As the board we feel he meets the requirements because he has extensive knowledge in that area. Most of the Exco members are fairly new on the job, we thus felt that in order to appreciate institutional and to ensure that operations are not delayed, Kandume was the best option,” explained Mutumba.
He also added that the board did not want to appoint an outsider to act as CEO.
Mutumba said the board will remain transparent at all times.
“We know all our decisions will be questioned, therefore we cannot be reckless.
I assure you that our board champions transparency, but of course we cannot discuss everything in the public space,” he said.
NSFAF currently finds itself in a precarious financial situation, mainly due to weak controls and a blatant disregard for systems which are said to be at the centre of the collapse of governance.
The entity has been leaping from one controversy to another, as allegations of corruption, bribery and financial misconduct swirl.
Instability at board and senior management level has exacerbated the institution’s woes.
Key executives do not see eye to eye and they are all pointing fingers at each other while students’ education future hangs in the balance. Nghiwete and the company’s legal guru Immanuel Wise are also not on good terms.
The corruption and governance problems at NSFAF have been in the spotlight since the time of the previous board.
The Patriot understands Nghiwete lost control over affairs at NSFAF after employees started approaching board members directly to air their complaints. There are also claims that some senior officials have direct access to Minister of Higher Education, Training Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi’s office.
It appears that the instability at the top echelons of NSFAF has seemingly paralysed the organisation. The paralysis has allowed, if not fuelled, the lack of accountability.
As the skeletons tumble out of the NSFAF closet, it is difficult to neglect the role of the previous NSFAF board.
Both the previous and the current board have been accused of shielding some of the senior officials by instead targeting the CEO.
For instance, in the face of mounting evidence of failure to keep a proper database on loans awarded, the company continues to fail to answer adequately.
Although Nghiwete is getting most of the blame for the database mess, company sources states Kandume is responsible for the recovery of funds, hence the two should share the blame. Kandjii-Murangi has since last year received numerous calls to take decisive action to save the institution from crumbling.
For instance, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila wrote to her to get rid of the NSFAF board, this was not done.
The Patriot understands that there were instructions to get rid of the board first, and then the CEO.
“It was supposed to happen in this way to prevent the CEO from claiming victimisation because of her history with the board,” said a source close to the matter.
Nghiwete’s legal team
“You have in recent days instigated junior officials reporting to our client to disregard and disobey our client’s instructions and authority. You have further in particular instigated a Company Secretary to disobey any instructions. Our client as a matter of law and to preserve the rule of law is entitled to approach Court for appropriate relief not only to protect her interest but also to ensure the Fund is run and administered in terms of the law,” wrote Namandje.
He added “we hope that such drastic litigation action on the part of our client will not be necessary and that you will need the heed the above demand.”
Namandje said: “On the basis of instruction given to us, despite a confirmed case of victimisation of our client by the Board, and despite the office of the Attorney General in the past having furnished an opinion finding that the previous Board of Directors was wrong inter alia in overturning a disciplinary conviction of the company Secretary without any valid reason, it is now clear that the new Board of Directors appears to continue perpetrating victimisation of our client, and in particular disempowering our client.”
Through her lawyers, Nghiwete said Mutumba has started involving himself in the day-to-day duties of the secretariat and of the Chief Executive Officer.
“We did not find any provision in the act in terms of whereof you were given any additional power as the Chairperson, independent and separate from your function as Chairperson of the board.
He added: “This is despite the fact that to your knowledge the Company Secretary was properly convicted in the past but was unlawfully and irregularly saved by the previous Board of Directors.
Further despite our clients as an ex officio member of the Board of Directors and being entitled to Board reports the Company Secretary with your tacit support refused to furnish our client with the previous Board handover report. This must be immediately rectified.
In view of the fact that the victimization of our clients continues and that you appear to be determined to frustrate our client probably in the hope that your action will force our client out of her position, we have advised our client that both the previous Board of Directors and new Board of Directors and their respective Chairpersons are acting unlawfully in several respects.
According to Namandje, there has been several instances recently of unlawfully interference in function of the Secretariat in general and the power and functions of Nghiwete as provided in the Constitutive statute of Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund.
“May we point out that you as the chairperson has no power independent from you acting as chairperson of the Board of Directors and at the Board of Directors meetings with the other Board Members.”