12 February 2013

Namibia: NTA Board Suspends CEO

THE Namibian Training Authority (NTA) yesterday suspended its chief executive officer, Maria Nangolo-Rukoro.

This came shortly after the death and funeral of Education Minister Abraham Iyambo.

Shortly before the board meeting where Nangolo-Rukoro was given her marching orders, one board member reportedly remarked to Nangolo-Rukoro that "you don't have the minister to protect you anymore".

Sources close to the board told The Namibian that the late Iyambo, who in his ministerial

capacity presided over the institution, was responsible for approving all major decisions of the institution, such as the suspension of the CEO.

Nangolo-Rukoro's suspension was made public yesterday through a press release signed by NTA deputy chair Hilya Nghiwete.

Nangolo-Rukoro was suspended with full pay and benefits with immediate effect on charges that were apparently put to her, but were not mentioned in the press release. This is pending a disciplinary hearing to be chaired by an independent chairperson during the second week of March this year.

The press release states that the forensic audit that was being conducted by Ernst & Young at the NTA had been concluded and that the board had resolved that disciplinary action be taken against other NTA employees implicated in the forensic audit report.

The forensic audit was on alleged irregularities in some of the institution's tendering processes, administration of subsistence and travel allowances (S&T), credit cards, petty cash, as well as salary adjustments over the past two years.

The Namibian has not been able to establish the exact amount of money involved in the alleged irregular tenders, but has been reliably informed that it amounted to several million dollars.

"The NTA board has studied the report of the forensic audit and has decided to take action as applicable in the best interest of the NTA, and the education and training sector in Namibia at large," reads the press release.

The board has also stated that the disciplinary hearing is confidential and that the case was deemed sub judice. As such, "no further informration will be issued in this regard until the disciplinary process has been concluded and only if it is deemed prudent."

Sources reveal that after Nangolo-Rukoro was given the boot, she was told not to take any papers from the premises and that she must report to the board chairperson every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the disciplinary hearing.

Nangolo-Rukoro did not want to comment on the matter when approached yesterday.

There was speculation within the NTA last year that there was bad blood between board chairperson Otto Shikongo and Nangolo-Rukoro, which stemmed from the cancellation of a tender by Nangolo-Rukoro in which one of Shikongo's companies had interest. The said tender was worth more than N$50 million and it was for the expansion and renovations to the Valombola Vocational Training Centre in Ongwediva.

Nangolo-Rukoro's decision to put on hold the awarding of the said tender at the time was informed by a declaration by Shikongo at a board meeting in August last year, that he held interests in one of the companies that had tendered and was awarded the tender.

There is a rule within the organisation which states that where there is a perceived conflict of interest, management must be informed promptly, which was apparently not what happened in Shikongo's case.

The closing date for the Valombola tender was on March 20 last year and Shikongo only made his declaration of interest at a board meeting on August 29.

Investigations by The Namibian at the time unearthed that Shikongo had interests in about 18 companies but had declined to disclose the mystery firm that stood to gain from a NTA tender worth more than N$50 million.

The NTA board consists of Shikongo, Nghiwete, Nangolo-Rukoro, Tim Parkhouse, Gilbert Likando, Melissa Shanjengange, Kosmas Muyenga, Erastus Hoveka, Loide Shaanika, Franz Gertze, Florentina Amunje and Sacky Akweenda.

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