Questions continue to linger around the credibility of the international ‘award’ the Namibia University of Science and Technology received from an obscure organisation, but the institution stands by the credibility of the ‘prize’.
According to a report released recently by the Institute for Public Policy Research, Namibian public entities fall for fake awards, where they spend huge amounts of public money to participate. IPPR research associate Frederico Links stated that such cases of public entities procuring vanity awards makes a mockery of claims of belt-tightening, stricter financial controls, and lack of money in government. One such organisation is the European Society for Quality Research (ESQR), which gave NUST an award earlier this
year for the first time.
NUST vice chancellor Erold Naomab received a quality achievement award from the ESQR on behalf of the institution at a ceremony in Barcelona,
Spain in early July 2022.
The impression being created is that NUST, amongst other local organisations, knowingly bought an award for which there were no criteria, and that the award was a wilful and intentional waste of public resources.
A close source to the matter confirmed that NUST spent close to N$70 000 on airfare and accommodation to go and receive the award.
NUST spokesperson John Haufiku responded that the awards are well-established, have taken place for many years, and are attended by equally reputable companies from all over the world.
He said clear criteria were provided to NUST, which made a compelling case for the institution to accept the award.
Haufiku added that Covid-19 has done considerable damage to the workflow in academia and affected all areas, especially research.
“Accepting an award that values the quality of research at NUST was, therefore, an appropriate and fitting way to reassure staff that their work has global significance. NUST’s sum of research output is readily available on a dataset of peer-reviewed journals. They will all indicate that NUST is among the top research output institutions in the country, and therefore deserving of such an award,” he proffered.
In terms of costs, he said there was no payment for the award but only for accommodation, meals and travelling costs, as is the norm with any trip outside of the workplace. Equally, the suggestion that NUST should not have attended the awards ceremony is, therefore, immaterial as there is no national body authorised to dictate which awards are not vain.
“It is left to the domain of institutions to exercise due diligence and make an informed decision,” he stressed.
NUST is not the only or even the first Namibian state-owned entity to receive the ESQR award. The same honour was accorded to the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB), which received a similar ESQR ‘award’ at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December 2021.
Furthermore, NUST welcomes any evidence to the contrary, and is willing to continue engaging in honest and constructive discussions about the award, he added.