15 August 2018

Namibia: Kauta Quits Nac After Failure to Reinstate Aochamub

LAWYER Rodgers Kauta has resigned as a director of the Namibia Airports Company board, a few days after he failed to bring back former acting chief executive Albertus Aochamub.

Kauta informed transport minister John Mutorwa yesterday that he will step down as a board member of the parastatal tasked with managing eight national airports across the country.

"I am writing to inform you that I am resigning as a member of NAC's board of directors. My resignation is effective immediately," he said.

Kauta added that he appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to serve as chairperson of the NAC since he was appointed in September 2016. The term of the current board ends next month.

"I am proud of our collective achievements and significant progress made since our appointment in 2016. I consider constant engagement and consultation with the line ministry (transport) and the Ministry of Public Enterprises essential before initiating and/or taking major board programmes, initiatives and/or decisions, but this view is grievously not a dominant NAC board view," he said.

Although Kauta was unreachable for comment, three people briefed about this matter confirmed yesterday that Kauta resigned after fellow board members blocked him from bringing back Aochamub as the company's acting chief executive.

A person familiar with the matter said Kauta wanted to bring back Aochamub because he felt that it was a wrong decision to fire him in the first place.

"There was an argument from some board members that they will look weak if they brought him back," a source said.

Kauta allegedly has tried to bring back Aochamub since last week, but his attempts were blocked.

His decision to throw in the towel adds another twist to the institution that was rocked with serial corruption by its former bosses.

Kauta and his deputy, Beverly Gawanas-Vugs, formed a dream team over the years, to the extent that they were lauded by President Hage Geingob last year for fighting corruption.

The Namibian reported last week that Aochamub's removal was linked to tenders, including the N$145 million renovation of the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

There are two versions of this.

One is that some board members had been angered that Aochamub had met private companies without their knowledge, a claim Aochamub rejected.

The other is that Aochamub's supporters said he was seen as an obstruction by people who wanted to benefit from tenders worth billions of dollars.

Mutorwa said last week that the NAC board had not consulted him before booting out Aochamub.

He and public enterprises minister Leon Jooste subsequently demanded that the board should explain why they had fired the former presidential spokesperson.

Mutorwa had then asked Kauta to explain why no chief executive officer has been appointed yet, even though the NAC had advertised the position some time ago.

"When is the substantive chief executive officer of the NAC going to be appointed? What is currently happening?" he asked, adding that he would like to be officially briefed in writing about progress in that regard.

Kauta told Mutorwa last week through a letter that current NAC acting chief executive Lot Haifidi was best in light of preparations for the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)'s aviation security audit, to take place in November this year.

Kauta further told the minister that it would be fruitless for the board to enter into a performance agreement contract with a CEO who will be leaving the institution in less than two months in light of "his imminent assumption" of other national duties.

Citing Haifidi's legal background and institutional memory since he joined the NAC back in 2014, Kauta motivated why he was perfect for the position of acting chief executive.

"The board and the current acting CEO, Mr Haifidi, have already embarked on specific, measurable deliverables that are designed to ensure that the NAC excels in the upcoming ICAO audit," said Kauta.

According to him, part of the reason why they chose to remove Aochamub was that stakeholders felt uncomfortable dealing with an outgoing chief executive.

Kauta's exit could open up opportunities for certain cliques of senior government officials who want to benefit from airport deals. He has claimed in the past that there was a campaign to get rid of him because he was fighting corruption.

Mutorwa said he had not seen the resignation letter yet.

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