Board Meetings Drain NBC Cash

0
48

By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK THE frequency at which the board of the cash-strapped Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) meets following the resignation of its boss who was arrested for theft has stirred allegations that the meetings are merely a ruse by the board to line its pockets. The broadcaster is tottering on the verge of bankruptcy and those in the know say its financial situation, despite a generous subsidy from the Government, has worsened. Several junior and senior NBC employees have questioned the rationale behind the board’s decision to hold so many meetings at payment when the corporation is struggling to finance certain functions deemed crucial to its operations. Sources said the public broadcaster coughs up N$13 500 in sitting allowances for a single board meeting on top of footing the bill for meals and refreshments irrespective of the duration of the ses-sions. Three of the board members are paid N$2 000 per sitting each while Colonel Gallen Kolokwe, who resides outside Windhoek, gets a fatter cheque of N$5 000, including for travel, and the board chairman pockets N$2 500 for each meeting. Over the past several months, the NBC, whose budget deficit runs into tens of millions of dollars, has coughed up around N$100 000 in payment to its board members. Two of the board members also serve on the NBC Audit Committee for which they are paid a collective amount of N$7 000 per sitting. Before the board took over the reins owing to the present crisis, board meetings were held on a quarterly basis but since Munyama’s undignified departure, it meets as it sees fit without imposing any limitations on itself. Ponhele ya France, the board chairman at NBC, assumed the role of the de facto director general (DG) when it came to light that the then DG Gerry Munyama was involved in fraud and theft of N$346 000 from the Executive Account to which he had exclusive access. Concerning the financial crisis, a source acknowledged: “We are in a bad state. There is no improvement, in fact the situation is worsening.” “It just doesn’t add up. Why do they have to meet so regularly? Why can’t they resolve all the issues in one meeting? It just doesn’t make sense,” said another employee. The worker asked for anonymity lest he is “fired” for objecting to the frequent meetings. “They are asking the staff to cut down on costs and at the same time they are doing it the other way around. Are they here to line their pockets or to salvage this corporation?” queried the staff member. But a senior manager who also requested not to be named defended the meetings saying they are essential for the NBC’s operations. Under normal circumstances, board meetings are held to monitor the financial performance of the broadcaster and to issue directives to management and to make decisions on policy matters. When contacted to give the board’s justification for the frequent meetings, Ya France, the board chairman, yesterday said, “I don’t want to speak about the NBC with you.” Yesterday, the board held one of the meetings at which the issue to find a new DG topped the agenda though there were also other issues discussed, according to reliable sources. There was also speculation yesterday that the board discussed the ‘appointment’ of Stanley Simataa, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, as ‘interim’ director general. When he was contacted about the speculation Simataa who is on leave said he was not aware of such an appointment and he referred all inquiries to the board but Ya France refused to speak to New Era. Last week, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah expressed support for Ya France’s takeover of the DG functions and promised to help resolve affairs at the NBC.