16 January 2013

Namibia: Transnamib CEO Job Raises Eyebrows

THE appointment of TransNamib's deputy board chairperson, Sara Naanda, as its new chief executive officer (CEO) has raised eyebrows.

Naanda was part of a board meeting where it was decided to sack former CEO Titus Haimbili.

Sources are asking whether that decision was taken to pave the way for Naanda's takeover.

It is understood that towards the end of last year, candidates were approached to make presentations to the board in an attempt to fill the hot seat as TransNamib was looking for a CEO urgently.

Should this have been a smokescreen to legitimise Naanda's appointment, it is "highly unethical", a well-placed source said yesterday.

A candidate who was interviewed for the job yesterday described Naanda's appointment as "a conflict of interest". According to the candidate, "I have never heard of something like that. In Namibia, we do things wrongly - that's why we are in trouble. TransNamib is a patient in the ICU [intensive care unit]."

It is understood that Naanda was part of the interviewing panel of this candidate.

Naanda, currently the senior manager: strategic finance at NamPower, starts on February 7, an advertisement in today's newspapers state.

She will replace Haimbili, who was dismissed on April 5 last year.

When approached for comment, Naanda yesterday maintained that her hands were clean. "I was not part of the [appointing] process. Speak to the board chairperson."

Various attempts to get hold of board chairperson Festus Lameck proved futile yesterday. Yesterday morning, he said that he was meeting with investors and would be available for comment in the afternoon. When called in the afternoon, a woman answered his phone and said he was in a meeting.

Later, both his cellphones went unanswered.

Naanda said she had applied for the position.

In the advertisement published today, it is stated: "The board is confident that Ms Naanda will competently and efficiently lead the corporate renewal process of TransNamib to the next level."

Written questions were also sent to the acting CEO Eugenia Tjaronda about the selection process. Specifically, The Namibian wanted to know who was on the selection panel and how many candidates were shortlisted for interviews.

She said: "Kindly be advised that TransNamib reserved space in your newspaper for an announcement tomorrow [today]. Could you kindly bear with us until the official announcement is made?"

According to one of the shortlisted candidates, they were asked to make a presentation on a turnaround strategy to save the parastatal from its financial mess.

TransNamib suffered a loss of N$73,5 million during its last audited financial year, according to financial statements filed with the Labour Court in Windhoek last year during Haimbili's labour case.

When asked what she planned to make the organisation more profitable, Naanda laughed. "Allow me some time to start and then I will communicate it accordingly. No comments at this stage."

A labour arbitrator ordered TransNamib in December to pay Haimbili N$900 000 after it was found that he had been dismissed without proper disciplinary procedures having been followed. The labour arbitrator ordered TransNamib to pay Haimbili N$100 000 for each of the nine months remaining on his employment contract when he was fired.

Haimbili was appointed as CEO at an annual salary of N$1,2 million for a five-year period from mid-January 2008 to mid-January 2013.

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