Namibia: Storm Over MTC Board Choices

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(File photo).

A recruitment exercise that cost between N$1 million and N$3 million was ignored by NPTH, which appointed unvetted board members for the cash-rich communications parastatal MTC.

MTC Namibia ended up with board members who did not go through a strenuous vetting exercise, but who were given the green light last month by Cabinet after alleged gross manipulation.

Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) requested the services of PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to do a psychometric assessment, and compile panel scores and personal profile reports.

The assessment was done in September 2018, based on the interview facilitation process conducted by NPTH. Information minister Stanley Simataa late last year announced the new MTC board to be chaired by Theo Mberira, and deputised by Toini Muteka. Other members of the board are Steve Galloway, Elvis Nashilongo, Ruusa Shipiki, Taschiona !Gawaxab and Werner Schukmann.

A lengthy report by PwC, leaked to The Namibian on the interviews and assessment of candidates who applied for board positions, reveals that 30 candidates applied.

The report indicates that the only candidate who was among the top 10 is Nashilongo. He previously occupied the position of MTC chairperson since October 2016.

Concepcion Wasserfall came out tops with 66,24%, followed by Melanie Tjijenda with 64,87%. Berlindi van Eck came third with 64,24%, while in fourth position was Elvis Nashilongo with 63,84%. Ayesha Tjiueza came fifth with 63,09%.

Pieter Kruger scored 62,38% in sixth position, Augustinus Katiti scored 60,75% in seventh position, Nambata Angula with 60,51% in eighth spot, Willem Titus scored 60,25%, and Thaddius Maswahu took the 10th spot with 59,38%.

Titus was appointed to the NPTH board last year.

Sources said Angula was not the likeliest candidate on account that she supported the opposing side during the 2017 Swapo elective congress. She is the daughter of former prime minister Nahas Angula. The veteran politician vied for Swapo presidency during the congress against president Hage Geingob.

“I can confirm that I applied to be considered for directorship on the board of NPTH subsidiaries (MTC & Telecom) last year when the advertisements ran in several local newspapers. I was invited for an interview that took place on 24 August 2018, and was subsequently invited to take psychometric tests a few days later. However, I was never informed of the outcome of the interview,” Angula said.

Also speaking to The Namibian, Tjijenda said she was not notified about her scores in the interview.

“Obviously, anyone can be disappointed about these developments. But I do not know what the modus operandi is, so I cannot really say much. I am shocked to hear all these. It is the first time hearing about the scores that I came second. It will be interesting to see the scores,” Tjijenda said.

Shipiki, !Gawaxab, Galloway, Mberira and Muteka did not go through the recruitment process, making them hand-picked.

!Gawaxab is the daughter of the chairman of the high-level panel on the Namibian economy and former Namcor board chair, Johannes !Gawaxab.

Chartered accountant Schukmann, telecommunications expert Mberirua and human resources practitioner Muteka were the three additional members appointed in April this year for a period of six months.

In an interview with The Namibian, public enterprises minister Leon Jooste said the adjustment was made because Cabinet wanted gender balance.

"MTC is a unique case due to the pending listing of the company on the Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX). That's also why a number of the previous board members were retained. The other adjustment was made when Appolus Baisako was replaced with Lorna Mbwale when Cabinet requested better gender balance.

Asked whether he believed hand-picking candidates from nowhere to replace those who successfully went through the recruitment process was acceptable, Jooste said “No, I don't. The advertisement was only intended for the replacements, and not for those who were to be reappointed.

“The final adjustment is a Cabinet prerogative when they requested better gender balance. Some members of the previous board had to be retained. Final recommendation came from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, so the best is to get that from them,” Jooste explained.

Simataa said he will only comment after getting an idea of what the NPTH said on the matter.

“Please talk to the NPTH first before you approach me about this matter. Only after they have said something will I be able to comment on it,” Simataa said before he hung up the phone.

Simataa has been widely accused of using the NPTH board as his ally to do as he pleases. He was earlier accused of wanting to manipulate the Telecom board appointment, which Jooste rejected, and the process had to be repeated.

MTC Namibia started the process of listing on the NSX in June this year, and will be the first public enterprise to list on the local bourse.

MTC expects to submit the listing application to the NSX in February, and will announce the opening date for the public offer in March this year.

MTC was established as a joint venture between the Namibian government, Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH), and Telia and Swedfund.

Kristofine Itembu, the acting chief executive officer of NPTH, told The Namibian that the appointments were based on merit.

“The recent MTC board appointments were based on merit and the needs of the company on the diverse skills that will provide strategic leadership for a company that is about to list on the Namibian Stock Exchange,” she said.

Itembu refused to entertain questions regarding the spending, citing confidentiality. But two people familiar with the process told The Namibian that NPTH paid between N$1 million and N$3 million for the exercise.

“A non-disclosure agreement was signed between NPTH and PWC. Therefore, such confidential information shall not be disclosed to third parties.

“NPTH conducts a stringent due diligence exercise on all potential candidates before they are appointed on any of its subsidiaries,” Itembu explained.

NPTH owns 100% shares in MTC after acquiring a 49% stake held by Telia Overseas AB and Swedfund International AB.

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