Staff from the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) expressed outrage yesterday when the institution's board chairman Sam Shivute informed them of the reappointment of the beleaguered CEO, Gisbertus Mukulu. The reappointment and apparent vote of confidence from the NHE board of directors come after two petitions within a span of 10 days from NHE management and staff alluded to serious governance deficiencies with a request not to renew the CEO's contract.
In a video recording of Shivute's meeting with staff to inform them of the reappointment, staff can be heard heckling the chairman when he asked them to applaud Mukulu's reappointment. Shivute, who was appointed Namibia Revenue Agency Commissioner last year, reasoned that the board looked at NHE's financial position and in this regard said "there is no any other (sic) reason and in accordance with NHE law not to reappoint Mr Mukulu and that is legal.
There is no risk of your salary and there is no risk of NHE being liquidated." Shivute pulled out the financials when addressing the disgruntled staff, telling them that during the current board's tenure, NHE has been placed in a much better position. "Debt stood at N$533.8 million but have (sic) now been reduced to N$149.4 million to date. The overdraft facility is being reduced with N$2 million every month and currently stands at N$29 million," he explained.
At a media conference late yesterday afternoon, Shivute clarified that approval for Mukulu's reappointment was already sought from the urban and rural ministry on 08 March, with ministerial approval granted on 18 March 2021.
"The renewal was then duly made after the relevant approval was made. It is important to note that this appointment approval process was finalised way before we received the letter of concern from middle managers dated 1 April 2021," said Shivute. The NHE chairman also reportedly told staff to approach the appointing authority, namely the line ministry and even the President (Geingob) if they have any issues with top appointments. Apparently, he also told staff they "have no authority to discuss the CEO's performance" before leaving the meeting without taking any questions.
However, staff at the meeting were heard vehemently opposing the reappointment. "No! I don't think that is the correct way to address us. We are not children. We didn't have a say in it. This is rubbish," one irate NHE staff member was heard saying on the leaked video of the meeting with the chairman.
At yesterday's media briefing, Shivute also responded to numerous allegations made against the NHE board and CEO, including lack of governance, conflict of interest and a NHE absence in national objectives such as the Harambee Prosperity Plan II.
Reports also surfaced yesterday of NHE staff organising to down tools today to further protest the CEO's reappointment but this industrial action could not be independently verified by New Era.
Last week's NHE staff petition described Mukulu's performance as "dismal" as the institution failed to achieve two critical objectives of its strategic plan, namely growing its loan book and building 1 250 houses annually.
The petition read: "During Mr Gisbertus Mukulu's tenure, NHE has built less than 600 houses against an ever-widening gap of housing shortages in Namibia; Under the leadership of the CEO, NHE operational income has declined to the extent that it hardly meets its salary obligations. Income from the Mass Housing Development Programme is what keeps NHE afloat. The Mass Housing Development Programme is not an initiative of Mr Gisbertus Mukulu but of his predecessor; The CEO lacks the necessary leadership skills to articulate and promote a modern and robust vision for the NHE; In this regard, a capacity assessment was conducted and paid for by the NHE, which confirms the lack of leadership and strategic capacity in NHE; The CEO lacks experience in the strategic and operational management of the NHE and has no understanding of the functioning of, and the requirements placed on an institution such as NHE."