Nida engulfed by mudslinging

A tit-for-tat fight between management and employees of the parastatal is raging, with each camp alleging wrongdoing.

30 March 2020 | Labour

CATHERINE SASMAN

WINDHOEK



The board and interim executive director of the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (Nida) are denying a plethora of allegations levelled against them collectively and individually by staff at the recently formed parastatal.

Nida staff have anonymously written a letter to the office of President Hage Geingob calling for an “urgent intervention” at the institution.

Nida was recently formed as an amalgamation of the former Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) and the Offshore Development Corporation (ODC), with its new board under the chairpersonship of Frans Kwala appointed in August 2018.

One of the board members, Uparura Kuvare, was seconded as interim executive at Nida from January 2019.



Allegations and counterclaims

The anonymous letter from employees claims that Kuvare has since dissolved the management of the NDC and ODC, which they claim gave him “absolute autocratic power and authority” over all Nida operations.

Kwala denies this, saying that the acting CEO of the former ODC, Phillip Namundjebo, and former acting head of the NDC, Pieter de Wet, who had both served over 10 years in the positions, were “relieved” of their caretaker positions by the legal repeal of the two institutions.

Kwala says all substantive managers and senior managers remain in their positions, “despite some of the incumbents having no credentials, whilst some managers' appointments are being investigated by relevant authorities”.

Kuvare is also accused of “reporting to himself” and having run the parastatal like his own private firm with board approval over the last 17 months. The board again denied these charges, saying Kuvare, with the support of the board, had managed to set up administrative processes and necessary reforms that culminated in the financial stability of the organisation.

Kwala moreover denied allegations that the board had failed to set up a new organisational structure. He said a human resource committee of the board had developed a structure for the top management of the organisation, which was approved by the ministry.

Kwala said the NDC previously only had three policies in place. Now, he said, there were 32 draft policies, including a procurement plan “for the first time”, as well as an integrated strategic business plan and a comprehensive budgeting framework. Employees in their letter to President Geingob accused Kuvare of deliberately delaying the recruitment of a substantive Nida head and unilaterally extending his own secondment, which lapsed in November last year.

Kuvare and the rest of the board are also accused of claiming subsistence and travel allowances for unwarranted trips.

Kwala again denied these claims, saying Kuvare's allowances were lower than competitive remuneration, adding that the recruitment process would be handled transparently by the board. There were 22 applications for this position.

Kwala said the board members only travel when executing their fiduciary functions, and receive approved daily allowances.



Corruption, maladministration

The Nida board last year told a public hearing by the parliamentary steering committee on public accounts that it was in the process of cleaning up corruption and maladministration at the NDC and ODC.

Kwala said Nida was handling internal cases involving nine accused staff members, of whom five were suspended. Only one case has been concluded. He said over the last 12 months, millions paid out as “improper benefits to staff and outsiders” have been recovered, with another N$8.5 million pending redress. Staff have accused Kuvare of victimisation, claiming a “high degree” of corruption, nepotism, and negligence on the part of Kuvare, with full support from his fellow board members and even the former minister of industrialisation, trade and SME development, Tjekero Tweya. Tweya's former ministerial office did not respond to questions put to it, and Kwala denied all these allegations.

Kwala further denied allegations of cattle theft at the Kavango Cattle Ranch, the sale of Nida's immovable property without disclosure of amounts, deteriorating infrastructure and unaccounted operational spending and “looting” under the watch of the board and Kuvare.

“[The] usual legendary disappearance of cattle due to snakebites has been halted. There are no known sales of immovable properties,” Kwala responded.

Kwala added: “The promise to Namibians in growing sustained industries remains, whilst Nida will be pursuing illicit transactions, and swiftly continue to eliminate long-celebrated looting through subleasing of SME business park units and properties, unlawful engagement contracts, and the unending construction service agreements on the false premise of building Namibia.”

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