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Engineering council power struggle unfolds

2023-09-01  Aletta Shikololo

Engineering council power struggle unfolds

The suspension of the Engineering Council of Namibia’s registrar has unveiled a raft of allegations of impropriety about the embattled official, as well as how the institution is managed. 

The revelations portray a clash between the two key figures within the council, president Sophie Tekie and the council’s registrar, Charles Mukwaso.

Mukwaso is yet to be called in for his disciplinary hearing. 

The complaints against Tekie include abuse of power, attempts to manipulate processes, and unfair practices in her position at the council.

The claims are detailed in a letter obtained by New Era, authored by a professional within the industry who preferred to remain anonymous.

 “Tekie made well-documented attempts to influence the outcome of an investigation into her potential improper conduct at Roads Authority, where she is employed. That matter was reported to the ECN by one of the registered engineers at the same company, and she tried to impede the registrar’s efforts in conducting a fair and unbiased inquiry. She tried to dissuade both the registrar and the legal affairs’ committee of the ECN from proceeding with the inquiry,” reads the letter.

These allegations have also lifted the lid on the circumstances leading to Mukwaso’s suspension.

In July, the council announced his suspension, citing his misconduct at the council.

Approached for comment, Tekie said the media will get informed once the investigations are over. 

Based on the information available to New Era, Mukwaso lodged a formal complaint against Tekie on 26 April 2023, alleging “serious improper conduct unbecoming of a professional.” 

Mukwaso believes his complaint has led to his suspension, although he was not provided with any reasons for it.

On 14 June, he said he received “an alarming and intimidating” email from Metcalfe and Beukes Attorneys, which threatened him and demanded that he vacates his office immediately. 

The letter, on behalf of the council, accused Mukwaso of fraudulent behaviour by apparently writing a congratulatory letter to himself for being a registered engineer.

“A majority decision was taken to suspend yourself on full pay for a period of six months in order to allow the auditors to provide a forensic report pertaining to your ostensible and alleged fraudulent conduct,” reads the legal document.

The documents cite that Mukwaso was only registered as a professional engineer on 6 June 2019.

However, on 16 November 2021, he remitted correspondence to himself in his capacity as the council registrar, and backdated his registration to 14 January 2014.

“These reeks of fraud and indeed corruption, and will be investigated,” continued the lawyer’s letter.

In his defence, Mukwaso accused Tekie of orchestrating false allegations against him to suspend him during a secret council meeting.

Mukwaso denied writing that letter.

Subsequently, he opened a case of forgery against Tekie.

“My suspension was orchestrated using falsified documents and misrepresented facts to sway the majority of the council. Council members who questioned or disagreed with this illegal process were unjustly purged by further manipulation and falsification, branding them as conflicted and ineligible to participate,” Mukwaso said.

He also accused Tekie of using the council’s resources and funds to retain a lawyer to defend her personally in a criminal case filed against her in her personal capacity.

“Notably, this same lawyer represents an Australian institution providing online engineering programmes, opposing the registrar’s position on recognising 100% online engineering programmes, and have been fighting the registrar’s stance on the matter since early 2022. He is now helping Tekie to fight for the registrar to be removed from the ECN. This in itself is a major case of conflict of interest, and it’s further molesting the integrity of the ECN,” Mukwaso stated.

Tekie had a brief comment. 

“What I know is that the registrar has been suspended on 31 May 2023 due to alleged misconduct. Council is to do investigations, and then only will council get back to the media with facts. These questions cannot be answered now due to the investigations, and not to jeopardise it in any way,” she told this publication.

New Era has also come across screenshots of WhatsApp messages, wherein Tekie purportedly asks Mukwaso to compose a letter to be addressed to Roads Authority CEO Conrad Lutombi. 

Tekie’s message reads, “Kindly please draft a letter to Lutombi, asking him how far the issue of the Adamu is with disciplinary hearing as per public knowledge, as the council would want to plan the way ahead to clearing the name of the president.”

Ties that bind 

On the flip side, Tekie is accused of having exploited her position to push for the registration of an individual solely due to their shared faith, despite the individual’s failure in all assessments, including an interview.

Moreover, additional accusations involve the manipulation of registration procedures, an unfair contract allocation and misappropriation of council resources for her personal interests, among numerous things.

“It is alleged that Tekie orchestrated the award of a bid for the ECN’s strategic plan to her associate at a cost 90% higher than the agreed budget, despite objections from the registrar. She manipulated and controlled the entire procurement process to have her associate get the job, bypassing the registrar’s recommendations and overruling other council members’ views,” the document added.

2023-09-01  Aletta Shikololo

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