NBC 'not immune to retrenchments'

10 October 2019 | Government

Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) board chairperson Sven Thieme has rubbished claims of favouritism at the state broadcaster and also made it clear that the broadcaster is “not immune to retrenchments”.

Thieme justified management trips and travelling, while emphasising the importance of having face-to-face interactions with stakeholders.

This was being done in order to “grow the business and make more money”.

In a letter to Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) general secretary Petrus Nevonga sent on Monday, Thieme responded to moves to initiate a no-confidence vote against top management.

Workers, through Napwu, and in a petition recently, also accused management of maladministration, favouritism, nepotism and regionalism.

“It is unfortunate that the petition chooses to target individuals for reasons known to the authors themselves. However, as a responsible institution, we will not turn a blind eye to any factual information which is within the domain of management to investigate and address, should these matters surface,” Thieme wrote.

He responded to concerns raised about the austerity measures, including possible retrenchments and failing to honour third-party payments for housing, pension and medical aid for its workers.

There have also been claims that management is raking in “large” subsistence and travel allowances.

Thieme wrote that “limited needs-based business-related travelling even in difficult times is indeed needed”.

“Given the fact that the NBC is 50% co-organiser of the NAMAs (Namibian Annual Music Awards), it goes without saying that our presence at such events is warranted.

“Similar arguments can also be presented and extended for Olufuko and the Ongwediva trade fair. These are events where we look for additional business, apart from us being a host or broadcast sponsor,” Thieme wrote.

He also explained that the NBC has for years been open and transparent about its financial affairs and about its unsuccessful efforts to convince government to revisit its funding model.

“That is why we took the austerity measures. That is why the board had to act. If you had to pay N$100 for food, N$50 for pension and N$50 for medical aid, but you only have N$100, which would you buy first? The mandate to inform the nation comes with expenses. If government does not want to pay, it must change the mandate.”

When called for comment, he said the “NBC is technically insolvent”.

He also denied that the NBC has excessively contracted consultants. He said they have made use of a limited number of consultants only where the state broadcaster lacks the necessary internal capacity.

Thieme also pointed out the NBC is not immune to retrenchments.

“If it is that NBC will go that route, then this process will be driven by law. It cannot happen arbitrarily and thus needs and demands proper consultations with stakeholders... Even if we are lucky to receive the appropriate funding for the NBC, what we must be aware of is government might dictate how the entity should be managed or structured,” he added.

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