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NUST resorts to independent probe

2023-04-27  Edward Mumbuu

NUST resorts to independent probe

The Namibia University of Science and Technology council has resorted to an independent forensic investigation into alleged irregularities that have engulfed the once-primed university in recent weeks. The decision was made at an emergency council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

On the day, implicated NUST executives were recused from the meeting prior to reaching a consensus.

It comes at a time when the executives are fingered in abuse of power, corruption, nepotism and complete disregard for the country’s labour laws, as well as university policies and procedures. They will no longer be allowed to investigate themselves as was initially resolved. While council members anonymously confirmed the probe, chairperson Florette Nakusera promised to issue a statement.

However, at the time of going to print, that statement had not been received.

The probe will look into an avalanche of serious allegations against the university. The council instructed Kadiva Hamutumwa to come up with the terms of reference for the investigation.

In the meantime, higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi recently told New Era she has confidence in the ability of the council to deal with the issues haunting the institution.

The council will also get a legal opinion on how the university should be run during the period of the investigation should some of the executives be suspended.

The council has, moreover, resolved to let its human resources committee look into a scholarship application submitted to the institution by its top legal brain, Joshua Kaumbi, with a view to reject or approve it.

The scholarship will cost the broke entity at least N$300 000.

Until Tuesday, whether or not Kaumbi was going to secure the funding was at the mercy of NUST vice chancellor Erold Naomab.

However, due to the perceived or real fall-out between the duo, council resolved to handle the matter.

In March, The Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) requested that NUST and the higher education ministry intervene in the affairs of the public university after serious allegations of corruption, abuse of power and nepotism surfaced.

At the time, NAPWU’s general secretary Petrus Nevonga sent a letter to NUST chairperson Nakusera, outlining the concerns of union members that were raised during consultative meetings in February.

The allegations centre on the NUST management, led by vice chancellor Erold Naomab, who is accused of disregarding the Labour Act, NUST human resource code and principles of good governance.

Specifically, Naomab and the management team are accused of flouting the restructuring process, and they have been mired in various controversies since taking over at the university.

“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,” Nevonga was quoted as telling Nakusera.

New Era previously reported that the management at NUST is also accused of delaying a job grading process that goes back to 2019 and has not compensated employees for performing new job duties.

Additionally, there are concerns about the misuse of the fixed-term contract system, which has resulted in administrative staff being exploited with short contracts that are consecutively renewed for up to four years without permanent employment.

What is more, the university is also accused of manipulating policies and procedures, which is said to be a serious violation of the Labour Act, NUST HR policy code and governance principles.

The union then urged the higher education ministry and council to take action and fulfil their fiduciary duties.

More so, Naomab is accused of several serious allegations, including interfering with the institution’s recruitment process and using his position to unfairly promote friends and tribal applicants.

The allegations also include claims of tribalism, favouritism and abuse of the fixed-term contract system, which has resulted in the exploitation of administrative staff.

Furthermore, Naomab is accused of misusing NUST credit cards and travel allowances, as well as failing to provide receipts for expenses.

The university has also been unable to provide audited financial statements or annual reports in recent years.

For now, the NUST management has cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

2023-04-27  Edward Mumbuu

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