11 July 2018

Namibia: Cash Crisis Hits Mining Institute

SOME of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology staff face retrenchment after the management announced yesterday that there was a financial crisis.

The Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) that was established more than 20 years ago has campuses at Arandis, Keetmanshoop and Tsumeb.

The institute's management told the staff in an internal memorandum circulated to all campuses about Nimt's financial woes and imminent retrenchments, and Nimt executive director Eckhart Mueller confirmed the situation yesterday.

Mueller said the water at the institute was disconnected because of non-payment and that they had to suspend the medical aid.

He also said that the institute owes a service station and Erongo RED large sums.

Although sources told The Namibian that Nimt owes the Arandis Town Council more than N$2 million for water, Mueller could not confirm the figure.

"We are not the only ones in the country where this is happening," Mueller said, adding that the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) had reduced Nimt's budget by 25%.

Mueller said that the NTA was also receiving its funds in dribs and drabs and always late.

Nimt, Mueller said, also gets money from the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund that was also experiencing financial problems.

"We are in the boat together. Sometimes we have to wait long before our subsidy reaches us," Mueller said.

Mueller said Nimt has for many years requested a realistic annual budget for trainees, but instead of getting an increased subsidy, this was decreased.

"Nimt is the cheapest training provider - not by choice, but because of the funds allocated to us. We also have to cover all costs, including salaries, medical aid, pension, maintenance, textbooks and stationery," he said.

The Namibian learnt from sources that the institute, which employs 275 workers, announced internally that it has to cut costs and offer voluntary retrenchments.

Those applications will, however, first be considered and negotiated by the management before being approved.

Mueller denied allegations by some people that the financial woes at Nimt have to do with mismanagement and maladministration.

He also denied that whistle-blowers are allegedly being victimised, and non-white Namibians are also getting the short end of the stick when it comes to employment or promotion.

"This is all a lie, and a means to tarnish the good name of Nimt," Mueller said.

According to Mueller, proof of proper management was that over the past decade, Nimt had doubled in size, and the numbers of trainees and employees have increased correspondingly.

"If Nimt is accused of mismanagement, then the 'sources' are accusing our various national cadres who fund the vocational and educational trainees of our country too. For Nimt, the money follows the trainee," said Mueller.

BAD VIBES

Meanwhile, The Namibian understands that two senior employees of the institution have been suspended, one over claims of sexual harassment, and the other for allegedly accusing Mueller of nepotism and favouritism.

Last October, The Namibian published a story about the claims that about 30 employees at Nimt were related - which was not denied by Mueller.

He said Nimt tries to employ the best qualified and most experienced people, and suitable staff willing to travel every day, which "is not easy".

Even employment equity commissioner Vilbard Usiku said there is no law against an entity employing relatives.

The Namibian understands that the official who was suspended for allegedly telling the media about the alleged nepotism was suspended in October 2017. The suspended person, however, maintains he never leaked anything to the press.

There were also unverified claims of qualified, non-white job-seekers who were not given jobs, and had to endure racial discrimination, according to sources.

The other suspended employee was accused of allegedly 'proposing' to students - which brought the claim of sexual harassment against him.

This newspaper also understands that he considers the claims as false, and he was, in fact, a victim of prejudice as he intended to resolve a matter between students and another lecturer. He has been suspended for nearly three months now.

Both employees accuse Mueller of always postponing their disciplinary cases.

"I will combat racism and the harassing of our female trainees. The cases are sub judice, but the fact is that it takes long to finalise such cases," Mueller responded.

"One reason is that dates have to be found which suit both the presiding persons of the hearings, as well as the representatives. This frustrates me too, as we have to pay the salaries while each case is ongoing."

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