While acknowledging that the Namibia Press Agency finds itself between a rock and a hard place, a board member says they cannot fire the company’s CEO Linus Chata like the employees want, as this would be in breach of his employment contract.
This follows increasing demands by Nampa employees to have the embattled executive axed.
The employees, who commenced lunchtime picketing on Monday, cited Chata’s purported poor leadership style, intimidatory tactics, and Nampa’s general lack of direction under his stewardship as some of the reasons.
In their petition that was handed over to deputy Nampa board chairperson Kingsley Guiseb on Monday, the employees vented frustration over their working conditions, alleged intimidatory tactics by the agency’s management, as well as unfair promotions.
“Employe e s expe r ienc e victimisation and threats from the CEO and management. Employees are not allowed to express any feelings of unhappiness or dissatisfaction experienced in the workplace. Management takes issues of labour-related matters personally and then victimises employees. Employees are now very afraid to speak up and air their concerns,” the employees say in their petition.
They also have concerns about the wanton disregard of company policies.
“Nampa policies are disregarded and only applied when it favours management… Nampa policies do not speak to fostering an organisational culture. We, therefore, demand that policies be reviewed in consultation with workplace representatives,” the employees charged.
Chata, according to inside information reached retirement age (60) in June 2023.
But there is a catch.
“The CEO was supposed to go into retirement in June 2023. But the previous board made sure they create a CEO contract with the following clause: ‘This fixed-term employment agreement (“the agreement”) will commence on 01 July 2020 and shall remain in force for a period of five years until 30 June 2025,” said a board member who preferred anonymity.
“In terms of the contract and the Nampa policies, the board cannot terminate the CEO’s contract due to age because he is employed on a fixed-term contract and thus categorised as an employee in a different category. If we terminate it, the board will be in breach of contract and liable to pay out the CEO for the remaining period of the contract,” the board member explained their dilemma.
It does not end there, as people with intricate knowledge about Chata’s modus operandi say he runs the organisation with an iron fist.
“It is either his way or the high way. Anyone who challenges or questions his decision is either intimidated or pushed out of the organisation,” a concerned employee said.
“Even last month, the CEO and the IT manager went to Russia to attend the Russia-Africa Summit. For a news organisation, it is embarrassing. Other media houses sent journalists to cover the summit. We on the other hand, sent managers to go and do what?” another employee wanted to know.
The trip was neither sanctioned nor endorsed by the board.
“The institution is [being] run into the ground. The staff informed the board that the CEO was absent from office on 7 and 10 July 2023 without leave approvals. And again, he proceeded on an unapproved trip to Russia on a mission only known to himself from 25 July to 31 July 2023.
“The absence from office on two occasions was without board approval. We wrote a letter to him to explain. We are still waiting for his response,” the source continued.
In fact, the board member questioned the CEO’s credentials to lead the news agency.
“When we took over as a new board, the management of Nampa reported that the CEO’s performance was not assessed by the previous board. We think the CEO has no understanding of corporate governance. But we will try our best to remedy this situation at Nampa,” the source continued, further casting doubt over Chata’s reign.
When the allegations were put to Chata yesterday, he elected not to respond.
Instead, he said: “The board received the petition. Let us wait for the board to respond.”
Last year, the company enlisted the services of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a job review and grading exercise.
The report that emanated from the PwC exercise is allegedly gathering dust in the Nampa cabinets.
“This lack of action has created a sense of uncertainty and dissatisfaction among employees as it is disheartening to witness a discrepancy between the results of the review and the current compensation structure in our organisation.
“This is not the first time Nampa has engaged in such a salary review and it is essential to address this matter promptly to maintain employee morale, motivation and trust in the fairness of our company,” the board was told.
Earlier this year, auditor general Junias Kandjeke slapped the agency with a qualified audit opinion for the 2020/21 financial year.
In accounting, a qualified audit opinion means an entity’s financial statements contain material misstatements or omissions.
“In my opinion, except for the possible effects of the matters described in the basis of qualified audit opinion, the financial statement presents fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Namibia Press Agency as of 31 March 2021,” Kandjeke said.