By Megameno Shikwambi
Tempers have flared over the appointment of board member Fernando Somaeb to the position of chairperson of Telecom Namibia. The change was made at an Annual General Meeting held last week Monday where the entire Telecom board’s tenure was renewed. However a decision to demote acting board chairperson, Irene Simeon-Kurtz, was taken which simultaneously which saw the elevation of Somaeb.
The Patriot has previously reported that Simeon-Kurtz dragged government to court over her demotion but without success as her application for urgency was ruled out.
Allegations are that the ICT minister Stanley Simataa imposed Somaeb on the Telecom board in contravention of the company’s Articles of Association. Former board vice-chairperson, Leilanie Hochobeb wrote a scathing letter to public enterprises minister Leon Jooste trashing the appointment as an illegality.
“During my tenure as NPTH vice-chairperson which is the holding company of Telecom Namibia, no such decisions were made as it seems the current temporary board of NPTH is informing rank and file,” she said in the letter dated July the 1st 2019.
She told Jooste that the NPTH board has never agreed to appoint Somaeb as it does not have such powers.
She claims that the Articles of Association of Telecom Namibia are clear on who appoints the chairperson, which according to her, is the Telecom Namibia board itself.
The Patriot is reliably informed that Telecom’s Articles of Association have now been amended to sanitize the condemned appointment of Somaeb.
This was done, allegedly, at the instigation of NPTH’s board.
The following article is said to have been deleted: That “the directors shall appoint one of their numbers as chairperson of the board who shall preside at all meetings of the board…”
The above is said to have been replaced with the following: That “the shareholder shall appoint the board chairperson and the deputy board chairperson who will preside over meetings of the board…”
An instruction to effect the changes on the BIPA papers has been made; however, The Patriot is informed that Telecom has stood its ground in objection.
Hochobeb criticized the move, in her letter to Jooste.
“NPTH has never in my tenure informed Telecom Namibia to change its Articles of Association with regard to the chairperson matter.
There is no board audio or Telecom Namibia board audio supporting such (an) alleged decision by NPTH.
There exists no NPTH board meeting where it was recorded as a board resolution. I have highlighted the above in NPTH board meetings and such discussions are recorded,” she says.
Heads must roll
She has told Jooste that Somaeb has to be removed from the board for taking part in an illegality knowingly.
She also advised the minister to kick out Willem Titus from the Telecom board for also taking part in the same alleged illegality.
Hochobeb notified Jooste that she would be registering a complaint with the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB) of which Somaeb is alleged to be a member.
She also notified that she will report him to his employer, Namwater, due to “the critical element of his job of upholding policies and procedures, corporate governance and the rule of law.
If Mr. Fernando Somaeb has presided at a Telecom Namibia board meeting in the last seven days and going forward as chairperson, such board meetings (are) deemed illegal.
If Mr. Fernando has received board fees to this illegality, such board fees would have been received fraudulently,” she informed Jooste.
Hochobeb has put it on record why she left the NPTH board where she served as vice-chairperson from 2010 until March 2019.
“It came to an end and I was not interested in renewing due to professional differences with me and the minister,” she exclusively revealed.
Simataa hits back
Simataa has scoffed at Hochobeb for peddling misleading information citing that she is aware that chairpersons have, as of late, been appointed by the minister (shareholder).
“People are appointed as boards of directors in the right way. What do you mean imposed? Who was the previous chair before Mr. Somaeb came in there? It’s individuals who are just peddling these things.
The same way Somaeb was appointed is the same way that the former chairperson was appointed by the same authority (the shareholder).
And the same way all the previous boards were appointed. Don’t be used by people peddling their own agenda.
That colleague (Hochobeb) has no authority, she is just crying her own things, she has got no legal basis, she is no longer a board member, she left, and she needs to move on,” said the minister.
The minister also criticized people at Telecom for harboring a spirit of entitlement.
“It’s (chairperson’s position) not an exclusive domain of given individuals, never has and never shall be.
It’s a privilege even for them to be appointed to the position. It’s not a God-given entitlement so you can’t complain to say why were you appointed. The question is, why not?,” he said.