3 August 2012

Namibia: Nghimtina Sitting On Scathing NAC Report

THE Minister of Works and Transport is sitting on a report which recommended that he dismiss with immediate effect the board of the Namibia Airports Company amid allegations of massive mismanagement and fraud.

Minister Erkki Nghimtina received the report in May this year. It called on him to act against the NAC board after it reportedly failed to follow good corporate governance principles and did not act in the best interest of the company when dealing with suppliers and making irregular payments.

The report singled out NAC board chairperson Ndeuhala Katonyala and board member Frieda Aluteni for criticism.

Yesterday Nghimtina refused to say why he had not implemented the recommendation unless he was told who had provided the information.

"What kind of interest do you have in the airports company, you newspaper?" he fumed.

According to him, the recommendation was for his eyes only.

He further claimed that there was a conspiracy behind the NAC controversy.

Later, the minister said that the probe had not been finalised. "You wait until I finish. I'm not working for you. Wait until the minister is finished with his own work."

It is believed that the dispute between NAC and the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau) over the resignation of about 30 employees, after a restructuring process at the company was completed, still has to be resolved.

The investigation found that a much-talked-about Dubai trip undertaken by Katonyala and Aluteni was never approved by the board.

Initially the two were scheduled to attend a training workshop in South Africa but on February 23 this year Katonyala allegedly changed her mind and informed NAC's chief executive officer, Ben Biwa, that they rather wanted to attend a course in Dubai.

Nghimtina was informed that Katonyala and Aluteni's actions were one example of the direct interference by board members in the day-to-day administration of NAC which soured relations between the board and senior management.

"There is clear confusion of how to separate the roles and responsibilities of the board from that of the management," read the report submitted to Nghimtina.

The lack of clear lines between the two levels also contributed to chaos with restructuring.

The report said the restructuring process was approved in the absence of a strategic plan which should have guided the performance of the NAC.

In December last year Katonyala and Aluteni instructed Biwa to appoint Brian Nalisa as a consultant to take charge of the restructuring process, which almost ended in a mess. Nalisa gave a quote of N$1,2 million for the job and promised to finish the work in three months but asked for one month's extension to complete the job when the deadline arrived.

By then the N$1,2 million he quoted initially had already been paid into his account.

A submission for the extension of the contract was tabled at a board meeting, but the NAC was expected to pay an additional N$5,7 million for Nalisa to complete the restructuring process.

In the new quotation there were duplications of jobs that he had already done during the first three months and the cost of the company's new structure suddenly increased from about N$90 000 to N$3,1 million, it was found during the investigation.

In April the board rejected the submission. But two board members are said to have gone behind the backs of their colleagues and signed the submission and towards the end of that month an additional N$3,5 million was paid to Nalisa.

The investigation called on Nghimtina to order a detailed forensic audit to investigate the relationship between Nalisa, Katonyala and Aluteni and how it was possible that the consultant received about N$5 million for a job not completed and done without a contract. The role of Biwa in these dealings also has to be investigated, the report recommended.

The investigation found that the problems at the NAC were also caused by a vacuum created by senior management vacancies within the company, as well as a lack of experience at all levels.

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