FORMER Namibia Training Authority (NTA) interim CEO Muvatera Ndjoze-Siririka has accused higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi of flouting procedures when she appointed the current board.
He also accused the NTA board, chaired by Jerome Mutumba, of bringing his professional standing into disrepute, and called them a “bunch of clowns”.
Mutumba, however refused to be drawn into a slanging match with Ndjoze-Siririka, saying he and the board were preoccupied with realizing the strategic objectives of NTA.
He added that when he pointed to a leadership void at NTA, he never made specific reference to Ndjoze-Siririka as an individual.
Mutumba pointed out to anyone questioning the credentials of the board that Cabinet and the line minister would have done due diligence before appointing the board.
“I’m too big to be reduced to such petty conversations… the board is bigger than individuals,” he said.
One of the anomalies Mutumba pointed out is that about 80% of NTA executives are holding positions in acting capacities.
“That is what I was talking about,” said Mutumba.
Ndjoze-Siririka’s outburst comes about two months after Mutumba questioned the leadership of the training authority, which has not had a substantive chief executive officer for almost half a decade.
It is Mutumba’s conviction that most NTA capital projects, including one at Okakarara, have struggled mainly due to the lack of a decisive, prudent leadership.
“If we had proper leadership, the people of Okakarara could not have been disadvantaged like they are now. The Okakarara story is a sad one that must never be allowed,” he stressed.
“We have an unemployment crisis in this country… you know the skills that young people could have gained from this institution [and] the role of leadership the NTA could provide in the bigger economy.
“Those are the things that keep me awake at night. That is where my passion comes from as the board chairperson. I want to change the NTA to be a more responsive and better organisation that responds to the needs of the young people of this country,” Mutumba said.
Ndjoze-Siririka, it appears, took Mutumba’s assessment with a bucket of salt.
“The NTA board chair was running away from the fact that a contractor abandoned the site of a project that was nearing completion without giving good reasons. The NTA management effectively dealt with the contractor’s appeal prior to the chairperson’s appointment. Indeed, the NTA Exco was seized with this Okakarara VTC hospitality centre project,” Ndjoze-Siririka said.
Ndjoze-Siririka, who had been seconded from the higher education ministry to head the NTA on an interim basis, has since returned to the ministry after his contract was abruptly terminated.
Mutumba said Ndjoze-Siririka had been axed because he had overstayed his welcome and the NTA board wants to build internal capacity, hence its decision to appoint from within the organization until a full-time CEO is recruited.
The recruitment process is currently underway.
Ndjoze-Siririka however contends that his decision not to flout procurement processes and laws ultimately cost him the job.
This is after the Central Procurement Board of Namibia and the NTA approved the termination of the contract for the construction of the Okakarara VTC, which is 90% complete.
“It is my contention that it was due to my decisive and prudent action that I was relieved of my duties. This contractor was behind schedule by two years, he abandoned the site out of own volition [and] shoddy workmanship,” he said.
Ndjoze-Siririka also denied accusations that he did not take the unemployment crisis in the country as seriously as it warrants.
“I come from a worker-proletarian background and am not awakened by the level of unemployment or a political assignment. I have lived in poverty. I know what it means when a father is not able to provide for his family for want of resources,” he said.
Ndjoze-Siririka said it would be remiss, if he spearheaded the collapse of the NTA, an institution he claims was his brainchild.
“I am not a conduit nor have I been a microphone. I have never been used. Even the racist South African regime, way-back in the 1970s, failed to use me when I was a youngster. What would make me a stooge of someone else at this stage of my life?”
According to him, technical, vocational education and training (TVET) is his calling.
“I would also hasten to add that the NTA is my intellectual property. It has its genesis in the background I alluded to earlier and is a simple product of my academic dissertation of my masters degree from the Victoria University of Manchester,” he said.
His dissertation was titled ‘Vocational Education and Training as Education for Development in Namibia’.
“I marvel at the fact that I had the opportunity to be the director of TVET in the 1990s and have been the proponent and leader of the diversified team of international consultants that established the NTA,” he continued.
He was not done.
“It is very unfortunate that the NTA at this stage of its development is led by persons who have nothing to do with TVET but with drama, figuratively speaking. More interestingly is the fact that these appointees did not compete with anyone other than with themselves. Thus, it is not surprising that they have to be dramatic in their actions by way of trying to please or to be seen to be busy,” he said.
According to Ndjoze-Siririka, when Kandjii-Murangi appointed the current NTA board, she did so in gross violation of provisions of the Public Enterprises Governance Act as well as the Vocational Education and Training Act.
“It has become common practice that since 2019, all board vacancies were advertised and interested Namibian professionals applied to render service to the nation. In total disregard of the enormous task that lay ahead of the NTA, these board members were headhunted for reasons best-known to the appointing authority,” he claimed.
“In that process, a critical element of tri-partism as contained in the establishing Act was ignored. That means the private sector, the unions and government representation were left out. However, the establishing Act, the Vocational Education and Training Act, emphasises the importance of the private sector in the area of skills development,” he added.
Ndjoze-Siririka was particularly annoyed by the fact that the private sector, the sole contributor to the technical, vocational education and training levy, does not have representation on the board.
“It must be admitted that the minister has committed a grave mistake. It is only honourable on her [Kandjii-Murangi] part to abolish this board of clowns and start the process anew. She must also remember in whatever she does, that the private sector must dominate the board membership and a credible chair from the private sector is appointed,” he said.
Kandjii-Murangi did not immediately respond to Ndjoze-Siririka’s claims.