N$2.7m for reinstated NSFAF CEO

Fund digs deep for skipping procedures

19 July 2021 | Local News

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

Embattled Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) must - by no later than 31 August - cough up about N$2.7 million in payments to its CEO Hilya Nghiwete, who was found to have been unfairly dismissed.

Nghiwete, who earned N$2 million annually, or just above N$160 000 per month, was dismissed in February 2020 after a drawn-out battle.

She was fired after being on suspension with full pay for 21 months, with her lawyer Sisa Namandje saying at the time that the fund would “pay dearly” for firing his client without a hearing.

“There is no law in this country authorising anyone to fire a person without first finding them guilty through a disciplinary hearing. Maybe NSFAF has a lot of money to waste, but they’ll pay dearly for this unlawful act,” he remarked at the time.

NSFAF defended its decision, saying Nghiwete, who was initially placed on suspension in April 2018 for alleged maladministration, had used every trick in the book to avoid appearing before a disciplinary hearing on several occasions.

However, an arbitration hearing at the Office of the Labour Commissioner last week found that Nghiwete was unfairly dismissed and must be reinstated into her job with all benefits before 1 September, and be compensated for the income she lost during the 16 months of her dismissal.

Unfair

Arbitrator Memory Sinfwa concluded that Nghiwete’s dismissal from the fund was both substantially and procedurally unfair.

Sinfwa, however, dismissed her call to order costs and opted to not punish any party but rather to solve the matter amicably and to promote industrial peace.

According to Sinfwa, Nghiwete was not charged with any misconduct, meaning the allegations against her were not put to test to determine whether she acted wrongfully.

She also disagreed with NSFAF management that they did not see a need to charge Nghiwete nor afford her an opportunity as she had already frustrated the process, and due process would not have made a difference.

“NSFAF in this case wore the hat of both judge, complainant and prosecutor, which in all fairness does not stand the test of audi alteram partem [Latin for “listen to the other side”] rule of natural justice. The respondents’ employee relations policy states that ‘no employee may be dismissed without being granted a formal hearing or enquiry, unless circumstances such as the employee either absconded from work or being unwilling to return to work render this impossible’ – which is not the case in this matter,” she said.

Serious allegations

When Nghiwete was suspended in 2018, the board told her in a letter: “This is on account of serious allegations that have come to the attention of the board.

“The concerned allegations border on the centrality of maladministration and/or administrative corruption, amongst other misconducts, which upon preliminary review by the board presented prima facie reasons justifying that in the interest of the institution and the public at large, certain disciplinary actions be considered against her”.

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