The Namibia University of Science and Technology management has cleared itself of any wrongdoing in the face of an avalanche of allegations, including impropriety, tribalism, nepotism and abuse of power. In a leaked dossier presented during last week’s NUST council meeting, seen by New Era, the management responds to allegations against it by the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and some staff members.
Concerns raised by the disgruntled group and the union focused on the blatant disregard of the Labour Act, NUST human resource code and principles of good governance.
Responding to the latest developments, NUST spokesperson Johannes Haufiku was confident that the situation was under control.
“The NUST management has absolute faith in the line ministry and the NUST council’s ability to execute their respective responsibilities judiciously and in the best interest of the institution. The concerns raised will, therefore, be dealt with by the council through a due process,” Haufiku said yesterday.
He will only comment further if “council has sat and resolved a way forward”.
Recently, Napwu also opposed a council decision to allow implicated NUST executives to investigate themselves. Last week, New Era reported a meeting aimed at deliberating issues around a mooted forensic investigation fell apart after council members failed to reach a consensus on whether implicated executives should be allowed to sit in a meeting that was deliberating their fate or should be excused.
Last Friday, higher education minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi also convened a council meeting of her own, to appraise herself with the situation at the university.
“There seems to be an agenda to see the collapse of NUST. How can it happen with the kind of competent council members they have? These people found the institution riddled with issues, in a terrible state, but stabilised it. If there is a mess now, they will stabilise it. Let us give them a chance. Why should I act so soon and fast?” the minister asked over the weekend.
The NUST management under the tutelage of vice chancellor Erold Naomab who has stumbled from one controversy to another since taking over at the university stands accused of flouting the restructuring process.
Naomab has also been accused of using the university’s credit cards at whim, while simultaneously using the university’s cars, petrol cards, and a designated driver, all while he receives a monthly vehicle allowance.
In the leaked document seen by New Era, the management addresses Napwu’s claims, one-by-one. It addresses alleged unlawful restructuring, delayed job grading, abuse of the fixed-term contract labour system, manipulation of policies and procedures and tribalism. The management dismissed claims that Naomab has failed to provide receipts of his spending while on official missions.
According to the document, the VC has submitted all his credit card transactions up to February this year, while supporting documents for the months of May, June and July 2022 which were outstanding will “now be verified and allocated to the correct expense account”.
“This process for all the remaining months in 2022 has been concluded,” reads the report.
On the purported abuse of the university’s credit card, management had this to say: “The vice chancellor indeed receives a subsistence and travel allowance (S & T) when he goes on international trips. However, he may be required to use his credit card to pay for accommodation, taxi/trains and official functions, (including meals) held with international partners whom he is meeting with.” It goes on: “It must be noted that other senior staff members, who may form part of a specific delegation on an international trip, may from time to time need to make use of the vice chancellor’s credit card. The same requirement, to subsequently submit receipts for the spending applies to the affected senior staff members.”
On using the university’s motor cars, again, there is nothing sinister on the part of Naomab, the document reveals.
According to the document, the university has always allocated cars to the office of the VC for official purposes, way before Naomab arrived.
Previously, the VC was allocated cars for office usage, it states.
“The Mercedes that was part of the fleet was involved in an accident before the current vice chancellor’s tenure commenced. As a result, the facilities department allocated the current Toyota Land Cruiser V8 for the use of the office of the vice chancellor. The previous vice chancellor was driven around on official trips and picked up to ensure that the office fulfills its mandate,” it further stated, adding that the usage is limited to official purposes only. “Sometimes, the office has functions beyond official hours necessitating the vice chancellor to be dropped off at his house,” it added. More so, the facilities department vested with the fleet has also come to realise that the university’s transport policy remains unapproved. The draft policy “will be submitted for approval to ensure the framework of fleet management is defined.”
On the suggested unlawful restructuring, the management pointed to the 2021-2025 NUST strategic plan which mandated the realignment of the staff structure, which consequently led to the revision of job profiles for some staff members.
“Prior to the implementation of the revised job profiles, staff members were consulted and the new roles were graded in compliance with the job evaluation policy. The newly-created positions as well as those that were merged were advertised internally to facilitate the progression of the staff members into new roles,” the document reads.
Napwu, however, holds this position: “This process was done in secrecy with no stakeholder engagement to date. HR is oblivious in responding to staff enquiries on the changes. Grievously, for some, the proposed role changes have been implemented. This alteration in employment conditions has brought a lot of discomfort and unhappiness among staff.”
As far as delayed job grading is concerned, the university’s human resources department, in collaboration with all administrative departments, has been engaged in reviewing and updating all existing job descriptions, “whereafter an institution-wide regrading exercise [will follow].”
However, the job grading has since been placed on ice due to the newly-approved strategic plan, as existing required realignment with the NUST council-approved administrative structure, it states.
A job grading report was submitted to the university’s HR director in November last year.
“A further justification on why jobs at the same level were graded differently is still pending. The final report will be deliberated at exco towards the end of April 2023,” it added.
“It should be noted that certain existing positions, particularly in the office of the bursar, satellite campuses and academic development and support could not be validated due to the ongoing process of organisational structure realignment, which may result in significant alterations to the job titles.”
NUST’s top guns then moved to clarify allegations relating to abuse of the fixed-term contract system.
According to them, it is a customary practice to appoint individuals, particularly those in administrative positions, on short-term contracts to address any gaps within departments or instances where the university lacks sufficient funds to employ permanent staff. “While this approach provides cost savings to the university, it is not an ideal practice as it may create the expectation of permanent employment among staff. Hence the HR department is currently undertaking a review of all contract appointments with a view to recommend permanent employment or redeployment, as appropriate,” it was resolved. - firstname.lastname@example.org