Over 16 SOEs without CEOs

Public enterprises minister's hands tied

24 October 2019 | Government

More than 16 state-owned enterprises are without CEOs, with no appointments in sight for the majority of them.

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste is unsettled by this state of affairs, but admits he has no legal means to force SOE boards to make substantive appointments. He made the comments in a recent interview.

Some of the public enterprises with acting CEOs include Namport, Meatco, Telecom, Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holding (NPTH), Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP), Namibia Civil Aviation Authority, the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa), the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust), the Roads Contractor Company (RCC), New Era Public Corporation (NEPC), the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), Air Namibia, Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (Nida), Zambezi Waterfront, the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa), the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority and MTC.

Some CEOs of these enterprises were fired, some are on suspension, while others' contracts had come full circle.

To circumvent his way past this hurdle, Jooste has been studying the finer details of the Labour Act to see if therein lies legal relief to the perpetual situation.

“We are looking at the labour law, I am waiting for an opinion,” said Jooste, who is hamstrung in forcing boards to appoint.

“I can simply plead and write to fellow ministers or chairpersons of a board and say 'can you please conclude this'. There is very little recourse left for me,” said Jooste.

Jooste however admitted that in law, only the boards are to manage the recruitment processes.

“Our principle is that we must always act in the interest of the public enterprise. I can literally give instruction. If I need to give instruction, then we have failed to appoint the right board because if we have a professional board I should not be writing letters,” said Jooste.

“It begins and ends with the quality of the board.”

Entities flying rudderless

A study done by this publication showed that 16 public enterprises are currently without CEOs, notwithstanding government's extra-budgetary funds.

The poster child of this unwanted situation is dormant RCC, which has been without a substantive CEO since 2014. Four acting CEOs were appointed, each with their own ideas on how to revive the defunct SOE.

Three acting managing directors have occupied the hot seat of Air Namibia since the departure of then head at Theo Namises in 2015.

The Zambezi Water Front is also yet to appoint a CEO since 2016.

MTC has had two acting MDs since the departure of Portuguese national Miguel Geraldes in 2017, while Meatco has not had a CEO since Ovaherero chief Vekuii Rukoro was ushered through the exit door the same year.

Bipa has also been flying rudderless since the suspension of then CEO Tileinge Andima in March 2018, so is NSFAF whose CEO Hiliya Nghiwete was suspended in April 2018.

NIP fired CEO Augustinus Katiti in June 2018.

NEPC did not appoint a substantive head since Audrin Mathe's extended contract ended in February 2019, while Zelna Hengari's contract was not extended after it ended in June this year.

Board chairs explain

Telecom Namibia board chairperson Fernando Somaeb explained that the search for the company's CEO was in full swing.

“We are busy sourcing a recruitment firm to assist and consulting the shareholder with regards to the appointment of the CEO,” he said when contacted.

MTC board chairperson Elvis Nashilongo said MTC too was actively engaged in the hunt for a substantive replacement for Geraldes.

“The process of recruiting the MTC CEO is ongoing and the board shall pronounce itself once all stages are concluded,” he said upon enquiry.

Namibia Press Agency board chairperson Rector Mutelo said internal deliberations were still ongoing.

“Once the acting CEO's tenure expires, the remuneration committee will make recommendations. Then we will have a board meeting to discuss before we go public as per the laws,” Mutelo said.

The board of Air Namibia had been instructed to halt the recruitment process for the search for an MD, Windhoek Observer reported recently.

NEPC board chair Esau Mbako said candidates had already been shortlisted, while his NWR counterpart, Ambassador Leonard Ipumbu, said the process to find a CEO was currently underway.