IN recent months, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) has garnered significant attention, for all the wrong reasons. The institution has been plagued by controversies surrounding its governance and purported questionable actions by its top leadership.
In the midst of the persisting turmoil, Maurice Garde, former registrar of the university, is also fighting for the conclusion of an alleged investigation against him.
As if this was not enough, the Nust council, under Florette Nakusera’s stewardship, had by yesterday not compiled a detailed response to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on an array of allegations ranging from nepotism, tribalism, abuse of power and outright theft.
On one hand, Nakusera was reluctant in holding a full-blown council meeting, where all representatives would converge to compose a comprehensive report on the allegations.
This week, New Era reported that the ACC is calling for an immediate forensic investigation into a raft of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power allegations facing Nust’s vice chancellor Erold Naomab.
Yesterday, the council was divided on how to respond to the anti-graft agency.
The ACC had given the Nust council until today to respond.
“Currently, I am outside Windhoek. But I haven’t followed up with them. Maybe we can wait until today,” ACC director general Paulus Noa said yesterday.
New Era is further reliably informed that the council has no consolidated response to the ACC. Instead, Nakusera has her own report, while other council members have their own.
In a letter addressed to the council, council member Koneka Iindji expressed apprehensions regarding a multitude of allegations surrounding the institution. Iindji is convinced the allegations prompt calls for council intervention, but notes that they have been met with silence.
Furthermore, he observed that there have been requests from shareholders for a meeting and directives inexplicably disregarded, with the reasons behind this decision known only to council members. He also raised concerns about allegations being made regarding council’s ability to govern.
He stressed that this is particularly troubling for those who have reputations to uphold, and work in institutions which place high importance on ethical and governance issues.
“We must remember our fiduciary responsibilities, and the fact that our lack of action on this matter may have consequences. It is imperative that we take this matter seriously and come together to take appropriate actions towards its resolution, which currently lacks implementation,” he added. In response to Iindji’s concerns, Nakusera as council chairperson acknowledged in email communications seen by this paper that as the current council’s term is nearing its end and a new council is soon to be appointed, they have taken note of the concerns regarding the investigation, and have decided to carry forward any outstanding actions and other related matters to be addressed by the incoming council.
In a letter obtained by New Era, Garde has written to Petrus Nevonga, the General Secretary of the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU), requesting the union’s intervention in his case.
Garde is requesting the closure of an investigation initiated against him in 2020. He believes the investigation has been dragging on for too long, and said it is affecting his employment prospects.
He is also requesting for the full facts of the governance and employee complaints made against him, his suspension, and the report of the investigation. Garde stated that he has been under investigation for almost two years on allegations of abusing the office of the registrar. However, the investigators only made initial contact with him on 30 September 2020, giving him a 36-hour window to present his case, or provide evidence to refute the accusations.
“Nothing else has been communicated to me,” he said.
“I write this in a desperate attempt to move forward in relation to the Nust investigation into me as an employee at the time, which is still ongoing, and is now 648 days since my suspension and confirmation that a law firm was engaged to conduct the investigation”.
“I request closure into the investigation into me, a right to respond and a fair hearing. As you know, even if an employee leaves employment, the investigation must be concluded,” he told Nevonga.
Garde’s estimation is that if the investigation claimed by Nust is indeed ongoing, the university could have spent approximately N$ 15 000 per day on legal fees. This would have accumulated to a total of around N$4.3 million spent on legal fees to date.
He was suspended in July 2020 pending an investigation into allegations he had on numerous occasions abused his office. He resigned a month later.
In his quest for resolution, Garde expressed his frustration, stating; “I was specifically instructed to communicate solely with the legal representatives appointed by the university. However, since reaching out to them in December 2022, I have received no response. Regardless of my employment status, it is crucial that governance issues and formal complaints, as outlined in the Nust Act and Namibian labour law, are addressed accordingly”. He also took action by reporting governance concerns to the Code of Conduct Committee, citing the Nust Council Chair’s alleged blatant violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct.
“The treatment I have endured as an employee flagrantly violates Namibian labour laws. Instances include attempts to appoint someone else to my position while I am currently in the role, as well as the unjust elimination of staff benefits, among other infringements,” he complained.
Contrary to Garde’s claim, university spokesperson John Haufiku said there is currently not an investigation ongoing against the official, as he is no longer an employee.
“Once you resign from an institution, all matters cease. We don’t investigate a person who is not employed,” he reiterated.
Haufiku said Garde resigned from Nust prior to the completion of his disciplinary hearing. Later, Garde decided to pursue the matter in the Labour Court, but his case was dismissed due to his failure to appear in court.
In his defence, he stated that he experienced mistreatment as an employee, which ultimately led to his resignation. He claimed that Nust had suspended him for a duration that exceeded the permitted number of days as per the Nust HR Code.
“Nust created such a hostile work environment and forced my resignation, and my resignation was not voluntary. Following the violation of the Nust HR Code, I knew at that point any emotional and personal abuse would not stop. I was in a fortunate position when resigning immediately following the unlawful suspension that I was not in the physical work environment, but was at home, and did not have to face the constant stream of abuse as an employee. This allowed me to feed and care for my family,” he vented.
In addition to other grievances, Garde expressed concern regarding xenophobic attacks targeting expatriate Nust staff, including himself. He claimed that despite making multiple requests through the council chair, his concerns were ignored, and no action was taken.