GIPF Trustee Fights Back

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Public Service Commission has removed Maru Tjihumino from the Board of Trustees of the GIPF on the request of the Chief Executive Officer of the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), Primus Hango. Meanwhile, Tjihumino’s legal representative Richard Metcalfe has asked the GIPF to provide the letter from Primus Hango to the Public Service Commission in which he asked that Tjihumino be removed as a trustee. He also asked Hango to furnish reasons and documents pertaining to the removal of Tjihumino. All members of the Public Service Commission except one voted for the removal of Tjihumino. The member who did not concur was Festus Muundjua. In his dissenting view, Muundjua argued that, as per the laws of Namibia, Tjihumino deserved a fair hearing, and, unless proven guilty, he could not be removed. Muundjua said that he did not see the issue of Tjihumino as being as simple as just removing him and nominating another trustee to replace him on unproven allegations. “There are rules laid down in our laws and staff rules in terms of how staff and suspension cases ought to be handled, and, unless the Commission stays within the prescribed parameters, the administrative justice in our laws would not be worth the paper on which they are written, as this would be a travesty of justice and fairness”. The Commissioner noted that if the Commission removed Tjihumino whilst he was on suspension, it would mean that the Commission had already made up its mind that Tjihumino was guilty. The commissioner warned his colleagues not to be rushed into removing Tjihumino as this would infringe on a constitutional right that states that “All persons charged with an offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty”. He added that the investigation report by the law firm Sisa Namandje & Co. on Tjihumino only established a prima facie case about his involvement in what appears to be unethical conduct. “This should warrant a good basis for the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance to lay a charge against him, setting up a disciplinary hearing committee to hear evidence, finding him guilty or otherwise, and a recommendation to the Permanent Secretary concerned of whatever punitive measures commensurate with the offence.” Muundjua said he was confused and puzzled about why the PSC should simply follow the recommendation of the Sisa Namandje law firm for terminating Tjihu-mino’s trusteeship and turn a blind eye to all the laws and rules governing misconducts and suspensions. He added that termination might not solve the issue more effectively than the current state of suspension, as it was a temporary measure which could not be translated into a discharge without a hearing. “To be on suspension does not hamper the rest of the Trustees to do their day-to-day running of the Board of Trustees’ activities since Tjihumino was not even appointed as an ex officio chairperson, and the fact that another acting chairperson has already been appointed.” Muundjua questioned the decisions of his colleagues to even advertise the position of Tjihumino on February 1, 2006 – long before they fired him. “In justice’s name and fair labour practices, how can the Commission go as far as advertising the position?’ The Commissioner stated that in his view, advertising a position with an incumbent in place was no different from firing a person without a trial. “To me, the whole saga of Tjihumino smacks of something like someone somewhere trying to settle old scores of a personal vendetta, even if that should amount to violating the rules laid down by our laws.” Muundjua further warned Hango that his request to replace Tjihumino could be more devastating and embarrassing to the Commission and could tarnish its credibility if Tjihumino wins the case and the court orders that he be reinstated. Contacted for comment yesterday, Hango denied that he made the request for Tjihumino to be replaced despite a letter from the Commission that made reference to his request. Hango said he had no power to appoint trustees since the Public Service Commission appoints them. He added that Monica Hummel, who works for the office of the Auditor General replaced Tjihumino, on April 11. Meanwhile PSC Chairperson Eddie Amukongo claimed that the commission had decided to remove Tjihumino because he had legal issues pending and it was no longer conducive for him to be a trustee. He added that, as the appointing authority, the commission had the right to withdraw any of their appointees at anytime, as it was not a full-time job. Again, this contradicts a letter from the Public Service Commission signed by Muundjua where he made known his dissenting view, and wherein he specifically made mention of a request from Primus Hango for the removal of Tjihumino. Metcalfe also wrote to Hango requesting the letter he wrote on November 10, 2005, in which he recommended the ousting of Tjihumino. Both versions suggest that the idea to fire Tjihumino did not originate from the Public Service Commission but the GIPF. Tjihumino’s suspension case from the Ministry of Finance is pending in the Labour Court and is due this month before court. His lawyer, Richard Metcalfe, has asked for the letter from the GIPF to the Commission wherein Tjihumino’s ousting from the Board of Trustees was proposed, failing which he informed the GIPF that he could institute litigation.