NSFAF grilled over Zim finance guru

30 November 2018 | Local News

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts has dug in its heels with regard to its continued probe into the inner workings of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), as it relentlessly pursues hundreds of millions in unaccounted for funds.

Questions raised in yesterday's hearing centred largely on the circumstances surrounding Zimbabwe national James Nyandoro's appointment as NSFAF chief financial officer (CFO).

This is one of the matters which is being probed in suspended CEO Hilya Nghiwete's disciplinary hearing. The former NSFAF board had on 28 June 2017 decided to headhunt Nyandoro for the position, while a “parallel” recruitment process subjected Namibian candidates to interviews on 10 July that year.

Because Nyandoro was “headhunted” he was not subjected to an interview process.

Nyandoro was reportedly headhunted when none of the other Namibian candidates met the stringent requirements set out by the previous board, even when the standards were lowered.

According to NSFAF chief of human capital and corporate affairs, Olavi Hamwele, the requirement was for a chartered accountant with ten years' experience, because the company was in dire need of someone who could construct a loan book and a sustainable model for funding going forward.



The kicker

At the time Nyandoro was approached by NSFAF, he was working for a company called Sashi Investments (Pty) Ltd, owned by diamond sight-holder Sadike Nepela.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration had issued a 12-month non-renewable work permit to Nyandoro on 18 July 2017, with the “unequivocal condition” that he works for Sashi Investments.

However, Nyandoro was “availed” to NSFAF for an initial period of six months, which was later extended until the end of this year.

His work permit, which expired by the middle of this year, was extended for a further six months after Sashi Investments applied for an extension, an application that was supported by NSFAF.





Sashi Investments had also “authorised” NSFAF to directly pay Nyandoro, who in the meantime has been treated, not as a consultant to the NSFAF, but rather as a “normal employee”.

Despite this, NSFAF acting CEO Kennedy Kandume said he could not find any evidence of a formal agreement between NSFAF and Sashi Investments.

However, Kandume acknowledged that Nyandoro's position at NSFAF has “all the characteristics of a consultant”.

Parliamentary committee chairperson Mike Kavekotora said Nyandoro's recruitment to NSFAF is riddled with contraventions of the country's laws, saying there were a number of “missing links” in the explanations the NSFAF team could provide.

He said the continued employment of Nyandoro is in breach of the work permit stipulations and is “demeaning” to Namibians who have been denied the opportunity to be employed at NSFAF.



The financials

NSFAF is still to fully account for N$1.7 billion. The fund, however, now maintains that it can in fact account for N$1.5 billion of this amount.

Earlier admissions were that the fund's financials were sloppily managed after it was transferred from the education ministry in 2013 and transformed into an autonomous entity.

Since its inception in 1997 to 2003 NSFAF did not have its own banking account because it was located within the ministry. During that time, N$1.7 billion was issued to the fund. NSFAF, however, said it cannot account for this money because the fund must have been part of a state account.

It said efforts to obtain information from the Bank of Namibia did not yield any results.

Since it opened its own bank account in 2003 to 2013, coincidentally, a similar amount, about N$1.702 billion, was disbursed to NSFAF.

Of this, N$465 million was paid to the University of Namibia (Unam), N$325 million to the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) and N$124 million to the International University of Management (IUM).

The NSFAF management acknowledged that N$297 million was disbursed through cheques, but it cannot be established who the beneficiaries of these cheques were, and it was assumed that this went to “students”.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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