1 April 2019

Namibia: Tjombe Advises Nac to Dismiss Executive

THE Namibia Airports Company (NAC) has been advised to dismiss its commercial services manager Toska Sem after she was found guilty on four charges last month.

A commission of inquiry chaired by lawyer Norman Tjombe found Sem guilty of dishonesty, leaking confidential information, and failing to discharge her functions.

In addition to the recommendation that Sem must be dismissed, the inquiry also asked that NAC refer Sem's conduct to the Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigations.

Tjombe said the internal disciplinary code of the Namibia Airports Company authorises the dismissal of an employee found guilty of a serious transgression.

"As I stated above, the misconduct as set out in my findings are serious, and are tantamount to criminal conduct," he said.

Tjombe also advised the company to refer Sem's conduct and of all those implicated to the Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigations.

Sem, Josephine Soroses (human resources manager), Verengai Ruswa (finance and administration manager) and Albert Sibiya (manager for resourcing and relations) were suspended in October 2017.

Sem, Ruswa and Soroses were charged over a consultancy services tender to develop a five-year strategic plan, while Sibiya faced different charges. Ruswa and Soroses were cleared of all charges, while Sibiya resigned.

Deloitte & Touche carried out a forensic audit on the conduct of the four executives on behalf of NAC.

The Namibian reported last Monday that a 12-page judgement dated 27 February 2019 delivered by Tjombe said Sem communicated with Corlen Masunda, who owns Excel Consult, one of the companies that tendered for the N$2 million job to draft NAC's five-year strategic plan.

The inquiry relied mostly on information extracted by Deloitte & Touche from Sem's mobile phone and email in which she communicated with Masunda over the tender.

Leon Knoetze from Deloitte & Touche told the inquiry that they had established that Masunda and/or his company had dealt with NAC before. Masunda told Knoetze that he had shared an office with Sem at NAC.

The report also said that Sem recommended that Excel Consult and Lufthansa Consulting should be awarded another consultancy job, but the tender and technical committee refused.

Instead, the tender and technical committee in February 2017 recommended to then chief executive officer Tamer el-Kallawi that Bigenkuumba Infrastructure (Pty) Ltd should be awarded the tenders.

The tender was never awarded because El-Kallawi did not approach the tender board and technical committee with his submissions.

In his ruling, Tjombe agreed with Knoetze that there was a "strong will by Ms Toska Sem to promote Excel Consult of Mr Corlen Masunda as the preferred bidder".

Sem's lawyers, Metcalfe Attorneys, wrote to acting chief executive officer Lot Haifidi on 27 February, requesting for another disciplinary hearing after accusing Tjombe of bias.

Metcalfe also charged that Tjombe refused to postpone the matter on 18 February to allow Sem access to her lawyer, and that no Notice of Set Down was sent to her legal representative.

Sem, the lawyers said, requested Tjombe to recuse himself, but he "refused to consider and/or give a ruling on Mrs Sem's application for recusal".

"As a result, Ms Sem refused to participate in a kangaroo disciplinary hearing where the basic principle of administrative justice was simply ignored," Metcalfe said.

The lawyers also said El-Kallawi brought in Masunda to the NAC, that he even attended board meetings as an executive, and had full use of Sem's IT system.

Tjombe, the lawyers further claimed, was "inexplicably absent for three scheduled disciplinary hearing dates on the grounds of ill-health" and Sisa Namandje, NAC's initiator, was absent on one occasion.

Metcalfe accused the airports' company of illegal procurement of Deloitte & Touche's services, and for spending more than N$1,5 million on the forensic audit.

"Up to 30 November 2018, this sorry saga of abuse of our client and three other employees had cost the Namibia Airports Company a staggering N$7 million," Metcalfe claimed in his letter dated 27 February.

Haifidi told Metcalfe in a letter dated 27 February that NAC can neither interfere with the disciplinary hearing nor set aside the ruling.

Tjombe said last week it would be inappropriate for him to comment publicly on an internal disciplinary inquiry.

"You should contact the initiator of the hearing, Mr Ntinda at Sisa Namandje and Company, and/or the management of the Namibia Airports Company," Tjombe said.

Namandje last week said he saw Metcalfe's letter, and read two paragraphs before realising that it is devoid of any sense.

Metcalfe insisted yesterday that his client was denied her very fundamental right to legal representation in very dubious and suspicious circumstances.

"One of the co-accused employees had his disciplinary hearing withdrawn on condition that he resigns. This happened on the very day the kangaroo disciplinary hearing commenced," Metcalfe said, adding that it was high time Namandje heed the simple truism that "you can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time".

Metcalfe said a so-called forensic audit report was presented where his client was not allowed to state her version of events. The lawyer said since the forensic report did not comply with the requirements of The Public Procurement Act, it was an inadmissible item of evidence.

"Any fees paid to the audit firm are simply illegal and so are fees paid to it for the disciplinary hearing and preparation for such," Metcalfe said.

According to Metcalfe, the exorbitant amount of close to N$9 million spent on this veritable farce needed to be explained to the public.

"A properly qualified and experienced CEO who assumes his position at this crippled SoE will pull it up from its present hopeless state of corporate corruption into which it has been cast by the petit agenda of the inept and incompetent," he said.

Metclafe said his client was not afraid of the ACC and will cooperate fully.


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