Saturday 15 May 2021
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Namandje pokes holes in NSFAF Act

An attempt by the board of Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund(NSFAF) to forcibly eject suspended chief executive officer Hilya Nghiwete from office was foiled when her legal team found some legal discrepancies that affect the legitimacy of board.
At Wednesday’s disciplinary hearing held at NIPAM, the board was ready to grill Nghiwete until lawyer Sisa Namandje hawks eye for legal glitches spotted that “upon our diligence search we have established that that Act is yet to come into operation as the date of commencement of that Act was never determined by notice in the Gazette by the Minister.”
That being the case, Namandje asserted that Jerome Mutumba “can never be a director of NSFAF and its Chairperson in the eyes of the law.
Consequently the charges are null and void. This issue will have to be determined as the outset of the hearing. If you have a contrary view please provide us with the Minister’s notice putting into operation the Act on the date determined by her,” said Namandje.
Namandje maintained that the entire NSFAF board were unlawfully appointed because they were purportedly appointed in terms of the NSFAF Amendment Act 7 of 2014.
Namandje also indicated at the start of the hearing that the process cannot continue unless NSFAF provides his client with the forensic report that was carried out.
Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee, Clement Daniels refused to comment on the matter saying “I will not discuss this matter with the media, please contact the two parties.”
NSFAF was represented by Advocate Andrew Corbett.
NSFAF insiders said if the board was indeed illegally appointed, it could have widespread ramifications on the company.
This could affect the suspension of the CEO, appointment of an acting CEO and all other operational decisions taken by the board.
The Patriot understands Wednesday’s hearing lasted less than 45 minutes.
NSFAF sources have indicated that the previous and current boards have spent close to N$5 million on legal fees and forensic report in a bid to get rid of Nghiwete.
Nghiwete’s rocky relationships with boards is nothing new.
In 2016, The Patriot reported details emerging about the badly-hidden feud between NSFAF board chair Patty Karuaihe-Martin and Nghiwete, but inside sources allege that plans to oust her(Nghiwete) are part of a bigger plot, which includes ministerial plans to introduce a quota system when it comes to allocating funds to universities. It is alleged that those who want Nghiwete out have been harassing and victimising her.
Nghiwete further alleged in 2016 that she noticed in meetings that the permanent secretary raises his voice when talking to her and points fingers at her, adding that: “At one point the honorable minister stopped him and told him that we cannot speak while pointing fingers to people.”
She said she approached Van Kent in 2015 to clear the air, but to her surprise, he said he had no issue with her but rather with former education minister, Dr David Namwandi.
“Why that had to affect our professional relationship was not made known to me,” she said at the time.
Although with little evidence, Van Kent has long been accused of leading a crusade to frustrate Nghiwete, who is known to have been close to Namwandi during his time as minister, after Namwandi allegedly refused to appoint Van Kent as the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) top job in the past. The PS laughed off the allegation on several occasions in the past. At a stakeholders workshop held at NIPAM earlier this year, NSFAF revealed that it needs at least N$12 billion during the next five years to cater for the funding needs of all qualifying students at university and technical and vocational education (TVET) colleges.
According to NSFAF’s five-year projections, its funding needs will almost double from N$1.5 billion next year to N$2.9 billion in 2023. Student numbers on the other hand will jump from 48 547 in 2019 to 64 011 in 2023, this includes both continuing and new intakes.
These expenditure needs on higher education come at a time when the government is struggling to balance its books and has pushed its borrowings to what many see as unsustainable levels.
Although NSFAF needs the billions to assist over 100 000 financially needy students for the next five years, treasury is currently reluctant to avail funds to NSFAF because the funding body has no ‘Student Financial Assistance Policy’.
This has resulted in thousands of students studying locally in abroad being left stranded as their studies for 2018 have yet to be paid.
At some stage NSFAF even informed students that it will only cater for tuition fees in 2018, while excluding non-tuition fees such as transport, meals and accommodation.
They have since reneged on that decision and have recently informed students after a meeting with Prime Minister Kuukongelwa-Amadhila, that they will cover 100% tuition fees for 2018.

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