TransNamib executives who irregularly paid themselves handsome performance bonuses without evidence to back up their purported stellar display could walk scot-free.
This follows a decision by the Theo Mberirua-led TransNamib board that the findings contained in an Ernst and Young (EY) forensic report warrant no disciplinary action, a leaked document shows.
“The board found no matters from the report that require disciplinary action.
The administrative issues raised in the report are not new to the board and have been receiving the necessary attention of the board,” Mberirua is quoted in a recent presentation to his colleagues earlier this month.
Mberirua and company believe the rail entity is in good hands under the current executive team.
“The board is therefore expressing its full confidence in the CEO [Smith] and his team to lead TNHL for the foreseeable future and undertake to support the CEO and his team according to the board’s mandate,” Mberirua is quoted as saying.
He also directed the TransNamib management to summarise a response as a “team”.
The four executives paid themselves around N$700 000, averaging N$175 000 each.
They are outgoing CEO Johny Smith, property executive Alynsia Platt, human capital boss Webster Gonzo and former engineering executive Ferdinand Ganaseb.
Recently, Smith, who turned down a N$2.4 million offer to remain at the helm of the struggling entity, washed his hands off any wrongdoing during his troubled tenure at the cashstrapped operator.
Smith will instead join Grindrod, a South African-based logistics company, next week.
He described the EY as a mere “witch-hunt”.
“Unfortunately, the way the EY wrote, there’s been a lot of disclaimers. So, one can see there was a witch-hunt towards the executives. I am very comfortable that I have done nothing wrong at TransNamib,” he stated recently.
Among EY’s top recommendations was that the four executives who received performance bonuses, although a performance management system was not in place should pay back the money.
“Public Enterprises and/or the board could consider recovering the ostensibly irregular and unauthorised payment of performance bonuses from the relevant beneficiaries. Public Enterprises (MPE) and/or the board consider conducting a comprehensive employee survey to establish the extent of the fears, distrust and disillusion within the entity and its management,” EY said in no uncertain terms.
Back in 2021, then public enterprises minister, Leon Jooste sanctioned an independent investigation into TransNamib.
TransNamib was one of Jooste’s main problem children.
It is a company in a dire financial straits, where procurement laws were circumvented with impunity, while human capital and pension fund irregularities existed.
“I have reason to be concerned about TransNamib, as they are commercially somewhat distressed,” Jooste said at the time, before commissioning an investigation.
Now, it seems, Jooste’s dream to have executives accused of running one of the country’s most strategic parastatals into the ground, has met its maker.
This report has since been handed over to Shiimi.
Yesterday, Mberirua refused to go into detail about the board’s decision to clear the TransNamib management of any wrongdoing.
“We got the [EY] report, a very detailed report [more than 100 pages]. The response that was provided to the minister is detailed, point-by-point. Anything in that report, we responded to, point-by-point. We did it that way so that there is no back-and-forth,” the seasoned executive said yesterday, upon enquiry.
Instead, he referred all questions to Shiimi.
He, however, hastened to say it is now up to Shiimi to do what he deems fit with the report and their comprehensive response.
“The minister is the one who commissioned the report in the first place. So he’s the right person to talk to. He gave it to us in confidence. We give it to him [in confidence]. What the minister does with it is really up to him,” Mberirua candidly said.
Shiimi was not reachable on his phone and did not reply to a text message left for him.
Meanwhile, Smith and Gonzo are said to have been receiving board fees from GPT, a TransNamib subsidiary, producing railway sleepers.
“Management serving on subsidiaries board should not be paid board fees,” Mberirua is quoted in a missive, seen by New Era.
This is not all.
Members of the GPT board paid themselves bonuses, something the TransNamib board found strange.
“The members of the GPT board should return the 13th cheque that was paid to them by GPT,” Mberirua instructed, adding that the GPT joint venture agreement be reviewed.
TransNamib spokesperson, Abigail Raubenheimer referred detailed questions to GPT CEO, a certain Harsh Roongta, who could not respond, saying he is out of the country.
New Era wanted to establish how much was paid to Smith and Gonzo and the other board members and if they had returned the money paid to them irregularly.