The Namibia Public Workers Union has called for an urgent intervention by the Namibia University of Science and Technology and higher education ministry in the affairs of the public university, after damning allegations of corruption, abuse of power and nepotism surfaced.
In a letter addressed to NUST council chairperson Florette Nakusera, Napwu general secretary Petrus Nevonga raises the alarm on a multitude of allegations, which are serious in nature.
His letter, dated 27 March, seen by New Era, emanates from consultative meetings the union held with staff members in February.
Concerns raised by disgruntled employees primarily focus on the blatant disregard of the Labour Act, NUST human resource code and principles of good governance. Chiefly, the NUST management under the stewardship 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.
“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 told Nakusera.
In addition, the management allegedly delayed a job grading process, dating back to 2019 following its transition from a technikon to a full-blown university.
“At present, employees are required to perform in accordance with the new job specifications without recognition or compensation,” Nevonga continued.
The wanton abuse of the fixed-term contract system has also been detected at NUST, Nevonga said.
“Administrative staff are exploited under this agreement through short contracts between three and six months renewed consecutively for periods up to four years without permanent employment,” he said.
What is more, the university has been fingered in the manipulation of policies and procedures.
“This is a serious contravention of the Labour Act, NUST HR policy code and governance principles the minister [of higher education] and council should know and take action as part of their fiduciary duties,” the unionist pleaded.
“This is a council matter and giving us less than 12 hours to respond is really not a fair amount of time,” replied John Haufiku, NUST’s spokesperson, to a request for comment.
Naomab, himself, is furthermore accused of meddling in the institution’s recruitment process.
It appears the academic is both judge and jury in the equation.
“The vice chancellor’s direct involvement in the recruitment of junior staff [he oversees the overall recruitment process (from) shortlisting of candidates, selection of interview panel and chairing of interview panels] is (an) unfair labour practice. The intention of the VC to sit in on all these interviews is known to himself, but speculation among staff is he intended to recruit his friends or tribal applicants,” dropped another bombshell.
Allegations of tribalism at the former mecca of excellence are also rife.
“Some people with exco were appointed into acting capacities to ensure that they are unfairly groomed for permanent positions in the future. Some positions were created for those people and will not provide for a leveled ground for other staff members to apply,” Nevonga charged, before threatening to take unspecified action, if the council or the minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi elect to turn a blind eye.
As if this was not enough, allegations relating to the abuse of NUST credit cards, as well as travel and subsistence (S&T), are of grave concern to the union and employees.
Naomab, in an anonymous letter by staff members, is further accused of milking the entity’s credit cards dry.
“The VC uses his credit card on his international trips and receives S&T. After his trips he must provide receipts for everything he swipes the credit card for. He does not do this. What does he spend the money on and why can he not provide receipts after his trips?” the employees claimed.
While Naomab receives a monthly vehicle allowance, he allegedly also uses a NUST vehicle with a designated company driver, using the university’s petrol card.
“The employees of NUST, who have last received a salary raise in 2019, watch every day how the VC uses the Nust vehicle to go everywhere while receiving a big monthly car allowance. We watch how his driver brings his lunch from the hotel school almost every day, his daily lunches paid for by the university,” the employees said.
Some employees confirmed the content of the letter to be a true reflection of the situation on the ground.
“We, the staff members of NUST, are humbly requesting the honourable minister and council to commission an independent investigation with immediate effect… this should be done in an environment where the staff members are protected from victimisation and labour insecurity,” Nevonga demanded, on behalf of employees.
“Tribalism and favouritism are rife at NUST. One would have hoped that appointments and promotions would happen based on performance and competence but instead ethnicity, political party affiliation and proximity to those at the top of the institution are the determining factors,” said a staff member who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Naomab had not responded to questions sent to him.
Efforts to solicit reactions from Nakusera and Nevonga also hit a brickwall, as their phones went unanswered.
More so, the struggling institution has seemingly been unable to account for public resources entrusted to it in recent years, failing to produce audited financial statements or annual reports.
The last available NUST annual report can be traced back to 2018.